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Contador stripped of Tour title

Spanish rider gets 2-year ban

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GENEVA -- Three days after Lance Armstrong claimed victory in his long-running doping battle, another Tour de France champion was on the losing end of a high-profile drug scandal that has tainted cycling's image.

About 18 months after Alberto Contador failed a doping test while winning the 2010 Tour de France, the Spanish rider was stripped of his title Monday and banned for two years after sport's highest court rejected his claim that contaminated meat caused his positive test.

The 29-year-old Contador, who also won the Tour in 2007 and '09, tested positive for clenbuterol during a Tour rest day in July 2010. Contador's ban was backdated to Jan. 25, 2011 -- making him eligible to return on Aug. 6.

"Unlike certain other countries, notably outside Europe, Spain is not known to have a contamination problem with clenbuterol in meat," the Court of Arbitration for Sport said in its ruling. "Furthermore, no other cases of athletes having tested positive to clenbuterol allegedly in connection with the consumption of Spanish meat are known."

Contador had been thought likely to challenge Armstrong's record of seven career Tour titles. Instead, he joins Floyd Landis as the only riders stripped of victory after testing positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs. Andy Schleck of Luxembourg is now in line to take Contador's 2010 title.

The CAS verdict in Lausanne, Switzerland, was delivered 566 days after Contador cycled triumphantly along the Champs d'Elysees in Paris.

The ruling came only three days after Armstrong's own lengthy legal battle ended in victory, when U.S. federal authorities dropped an investigation into alleged doping involving his Tour teams.

Cycling's governing body, which had joined the World Anti-Doping Agency in forcing Contador into court, said it took no satisfaction from upholding its fight against drug cheats.

"This is a sad day for our sport," International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid said in a statement. "Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case. There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping: every case, irrespective of its characteristics, is always a case too many."

The case had been expected to pit Contador's meat contamination defence against a UCI-WADA argument that he used banned blood transfusions.

Yet a three-man CAS panel found that the presence of clenbuterol, which is sometimes used by farmers to fatten their livestock, was more likely caused by a contaminated food supplement.

While appearing not to endorse their main argument, the CAS panel upheld appeals by the UCI and WADA, which challenged a Spanish cycling tribunal's decision last year to exonerate Contador.

To avoid a doping ban, Contador had needed to prove how the anabolic drug entered his body and convince the arbitrators he was not to blame.

Spain's national association of cattle farmers said it had been vindicated by the CAS ruling after having "come under scrutiny following false accusations."

Contador, one of only five riders cyclists to win the three Grand Tours, had no immediate comment. He is scheduled to hold a news conference today in his home town of Pinto, near Madrid.

He could yet appeal to Switzerland's supreme court.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2012 C4

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