Spain’s cycling federation yesterday cleared three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of knowingly using a banned substance, his lawyer said yesterday , in a dramatic U-turn in the case.
“We can confirm the dropping (of the case),” lawyer Andy Ramos said. “At this time, he can race and justice has been done.”
“The International Cycling Union (UCI) can appeal, but for our part we will not,” Ramos said after appearing before the cycling federation’s competition committee.
Contador’s future has hung in the balance since he announced last August that he had tested positive for minute traces of the banned substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour de France.
The Spaniard has repeatedly denied knowingly taking any banned drugs, blaming the result on a steak he says was contaminated with traces of the clenbuterol.
Spanish news reports said earlier the cycling federation had decided to clear Contador based on arguments put forward by the Spaniard himself that he involuntarily ingested the clenbuterol. The daily El Mundo said the cycling federation “accepted the theory of food contamination and the absence of any blame or negligence, based on article 296” of the International Cycling Union’s anti- doping regulations.
Article 296 states effectively that if a rider can establish that “he bears no fault or negligence, the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility shall be eliminated”.
“When a prohibited substance or its markers or metabolites is detected in a rider’s sample … the rider must also establish how the prohibited substance entered his system in order to have the period of ineligibility eliminated.”
The UCI and the World Doping Agency have one month to decide whether they concur with the Spanish Cycling Federation decision, or whether they want to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport .
The announcement yesterday marked an about-turn for the Spanish federation , which last month recommended a one-year ban for Contador, less than the two years stipulated under international regulations for such a doping offence.
Contador has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he unknowingly ingested the clenbuterol from beef brought from Spain to France during the second rest day of the Tour, just four days before he won his third title on July 25.
The rider had threatened to quit the sport if he was slapped with a ban. Sapa-AFP