The long, strange, doping case for Tour and Giro champ Alberto Contador may finally be nearing an end. Earlier today, the Spaniard received a two-year ban from the sport of cycling after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an earlier ruling to pan the rider after he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
When the positive test was first revealed, Contador found himself banned in his home country, although that ruling was quickly over turned. Clenbuterol can be used as a performance enhancing drug because it aids in breathing in intense aerobic activities – such as cycling. Alberto had trace elements of the drug in his system, which he says came from beef that had been tainted with the substance. That defense was enough to reverse his ban from the Spanish Cycling Federation, but the International Cycling Union (UCI) overruled that reversal. Since then, there have been a number of delays, appeals, and legal moves to keep Contador riding, but the CAS ruling seems to put an end to case altogether.
The ban, which is likely to be retroactive to August 6, 2010, will strip Contador of his 2010 Tour de France championship, as well as his 2011 Giro d’Italia. It also means that he won’t be able to compete in this year’s grand events either, although he can resume racing after August 6th of this year.
Because of the small amounts of clenbuterol in his system, it has been tough to decide whether or not Contador has been telling the truth about the tainted meat or if he was using some kind of masking agent. But the UCI and CAS essentially have argued that any amount of a banned substance is grounds for a suspension from the sport. Furthermore, the zero-tolerance approach is for the biggest stars in the sport as well as the rank and file in the Peloton. In my opinion, Contador is lucky they’re back-dating the ban and that it isn’t two years starting today. After all, it isn’t like he hasn’t been riding over the past year and a half since the positive test.
That said, the Tour de France is going to be very different without him riding in it this year and I’ll miss Contador’s presence at the race. Even though he didn’t win in 2011, and really wasn’t in contention much, he still rode strong and tried to get back into the race in the mountains. He showed the heart (and legs!) of a champion, even if it ultimately proved to be a futile gesture. If he isn’t able to ride the TdF in July, it certainly blows the race wide open once again.
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