Contador suspended, stripped of Tour and Giro titles

Nearly 19 months after his rest-day urine sample showed trace amounts of the banned bronchodilator clenbuterol, the International Court of Arbitration for Sport has stripped Alberto Contador of his titles at the 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia and suspended him until August of this year.

In a 98-page decision issued on Monday, a three-member CAS panel ruled in favor of an appeal from the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency challenging last year’s ruling by the Spanish Cycling Federation that Contador had accidentally ingested contaminated beef during a dinner in Pau, France.

The panel found no factual basis in Contador’s claim that the low levels of clenbuterol in his urine and subsequent blood samples were the result of the illegal use of clenbuterol by Spanish cattle producers. Conversely, the panel did not accept the Appellants’ claim that the presence of plasticizers in Contador’s blood was an indication that he had been engaged in blood doping, using blood stored from earlier in the season when he could have been using clenbuterol for its performance-enhancing qualities.

“Mr. Contador did not prove but should prove that he did ingest the specific meat he refers to for the meat contamination and that such meat contained the banned substance,” the panel noted. “In this respect, the UCI refers to reports concerning to the specific meat Mr. Contador considers as contaminated, which concluded that no contamination with clenbuterol is involved.”

Based on those findings, the panel reversed a February 14, 2011, ruling by the Spanish Cycling Federation that had cleared Contador and ruled in favor of challenges subsequently filed by the UCI and WADA.

Crediting Contador with time served during a provisional suspension, his two-year ban from the sport officially began on January 25, 2011. The suspension will total two years, but with credit applied for the time he served in the months immediately after he received notice of the test, he will be eligible to ride on August 5 of this year, meaning he could opt to compete in this year’s Vuelta. The decision means that Contador’s win at the 2010 Tour de France has been negated, giving the victory to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.

For his part, Schleck said he had no reason to celebrate.

“There is no reason to be happy now”, commented Schleck in a release issued by his team. “First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.”

“I trust that the CAS judges took all things into consideration after reading a 4,000 page file. If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”

Contador will also be stripped of any results and prizes he earned after the January 25, 2011, suspension went into effect, including his apparent victory in the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Michele Scarponi, who finished second in last year’s Giro, will be named the official winner of that race.

Contador, who has been competing in the annual Majorca Challenge, has not issued a statement in response to Monday’s CAS ruling. In the past, the 29-year-old Spanish cycling star has suggested that he might retire if he loses the case. Contador’s brother and manager, Fran Contador, told reporters on Monday that the rider has no plans to retire and will serve out his suspension and be ready to compete later this year. The route for the 2012 Vuelta features an exceptionally mountainous profile and some have suggested that it was designed with Contador’s talents in mind.

Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank general manager, Bjarne Riis, have scheduled a Tuesday press conference to discuss the ruling and the rider’s future plans.

The decision noted that the same panel will issue a separate ruling on a UCI request that it be allowed to fine Contador at least 2,485,000 euros in the case.

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  1. andrew

    Glad he’s been banned, but don’t get the reasoning. Supplements? Why isn’t there more positives, both from within the team, and elsewhere, if it was due to contaminated supplements?

    I think it was a cop out, the steak defence wasn’t and couldn’t be proved, the plasticisers couldn’t be admitted as evidence. he obviously had clen in his system, so it must have come from food supplements.

    I suppose it is the most plausible theory.

  2. Jesus from Cancun

    I am surprised. I thought he would be cleared, as dozens of soccer players have been.

    Well, it was easy to judge from this keyboard. Now I have to believe that the scientists at WADA and CAS know a lot better than I do. Or anyone else.
    Whatever we say or think, they were the ones with the proof on their hands.

    This will be a different season than I had expected. Cadel and Wiggo must be smiling. Bjarne must be in tears.

    So now there will be a lot of headlines about this ruling. And the Armstrong case quickly fading away…

  3. John

    The article on this over at Velonation mentions something weird:

    “The Panel concluded that both the meat contamination scenario and the blood transfusion scenario were, in theory, possible explanations for the adverse analytical findings, but were however equally unlikely. In the Panel’s opinion, on the basis of the evidence adduced, the presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement,”

    It’s as if CAS didn’t buy either Contador’s story nor the UCI’s, so they decided for themselves what made more sense. I, for one, could really use The Explainer’s take on this one.

    Read more:

  4. Pingback: Spanish cattle applaud Contador decision « Mad Blog Media

  5. sophrosune

    I can only hope that this dismal decision brings on a wave of criticism of WADA, the UCI and CAS. Let’s fight doping in sport by first getting rid of these increasingly decrepit institutions.

  6. gmknobl

    One thing is certain in this life, the guilty party, if rich or beloved of the rich, always muddy the water. Unless you have direct knowledge of what actually happened, it’s impossible to know then who really did do what. I think it mostly likely he did dope and didn’t do it accidentally. But can I know? No.

    And to me, one who was brought up in a world of supposed “innocent until proven guilty,” this verdict seems incorrect, especially when the decision says, we don’t think this happened the way either side says but we have our own idea and here it is.

    Ultimately, cycling needs a revamp. To me, the riders are not treated fairly but are pawns. They have few rights unless they end up at the top of the sport and become rich. And the teams are also given the short end of the stick in too many circumstances leaving their fate, and therefore the fate of their employees, including riders, management and support personnel to the whim of the winds. Frequently the whole thing ends in an unprofessional mess regardless of how professional the teams and its employees are, witness the HTC debacle.

    But certainly, we cannot allow doping to continue and that may have been behind the decision. He signed a waiver saying he was responsible for what went into his body, whether he put it in there on purpose, by accident or by sabotage. Did he have a choice not to sign? No, not if he wanted to play the game. Unfair? Yes. But does any rider have a choice? Yes, but only if they all stand together. Because, regardless of guilt or innocence, if they do not hang together they will all hang separately.

    So, as in so many areas of life, I think this shows there is a need for a true riders union with the real power to strike. Also, there should be a separate organization to safeguard the rights of the teams, much like what Jonathan Vaughters has proposed. It’s well past time to move away from the dictatorial UCI and Olympic based systems.

    I think this also proves that there must be better testing, not necessarily more testing, that will show more accurately, what is happening in the body of a rider. Actually, I think things are going that way. But in the end, I suspect where there are large sums of money up for grabs, there will always be people who take a shortcut or do the wrong thing just to make more of it and the heck with anyone else, whether they are a person, team, management, cyclist or bureaucrat.

  7. Simon

    So if the plasticizer theory’s been found wanting, and the tainted beef explanation’s not been proved, this seems to just come down to strict liability – there’s no alternative explanation attempted for why this stuff was in AC’d bloodstream. I can’t say I’m surprised – one always got the impression that at the end of the day the legal beagles would hide behind this wall. Whether or not he doped – right now I really don’t care: if the case has been decided on the bare fact that yes, he had a tiny amount of clen in his system, whether or not anyone knew how it got there – the collateral damage to cycling – to the TDF, the giro – is out of all proportion to those bare facts. Sad, sad day, but only too predictable. The sport deserves an awful lot better by those paid plenty to administer it.

  8. skfitz

    @Simon: I think your analysis misses the point. The code doesn’t test whether an athlete intended to dope, it tests whether he did. Don’t forget: the code was originally intended to be a strict liability code.

    The clen was there, so the code treats it as a presumptive fail. Under the current code, AC could try to explain how it got there, but that’s ordinarily going to be an impossible task, as it was for AC. I think a better argument is that the levels of clen detected in AC’s blood couldn’t have given him a competitive advantage, but that option isn’t available under the code.

  9. Paul I.

    “My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”

    Well said, Andy Schleck.

  10. CAT4Fodder


    We need to take a little bit more expansive point of view on doping. There is in-competition (what you are referencing) and out-of-competition doping. Clen is not going to give you any direct benefit on a given race, but if you need to cut weight in the off-season, and do so without sacrificing your power output (ask any amateur racer this balancing act, and they will tell you, very difficult), and you can see how Clen is a huge benefit to a pro cyclist for preparing for the off-season.

  11. Simon

    @skfitz – but a 2-year sanction, 2 stripped grand tour titles, etc – same sanction as for someone whose blood was found in a freezer, while sidestepping the question of intent to cheat. Like you say, impossible for AC to prove how it got there, if it was inadvertent.

    Wada was talking not so long ago about introducing a minimum threshold for clen, but likely not doing so until after this case. It will be interesting to see if they do now change the rules, (and what they set it at.)

  12. Rod Diaz

    What a mess… I wish they simply had applied the strict liability code at the time, and had AC off the races on the penalty box instead of influencing (and winning) races everywhere. Ugh.

    Also, I so hope that the application of the rules was consistent:

    1. Strict liability with zero tolerance for a known environmental contaminant is worrisome.
    2. Applying such liability inconsistently (see junior world cup players, ping-pong, etc. exonerated) is a massive can of worms
    3. Extending these inconsistencies to selectively sending some samples for “ultra” low level detection is worrisome, too.

    Yaargh, I so abhor the anti-doping system that currently exists. Maybe make clenbuterol and similar known pollutants (heck, maybe even plasticizers since the test isn’t fully applied yet)a threshold doping agent instead of a zero-tolerance substance. Preferably below the therapeutic effect level, so you can’t get a benefit from environmental exposure.

  13. Saddlebag

    The politics aside, the money aside, the white noise aside, the question is how does one justify, in their mind, 20 years later the fact that they cheated? They cheated on themselves, they cheated on their fellow teammates they cheated the fans. Under those circumstances it is never a true test of endurance either of the human spirit or the physical body and those who cheat will always have that doubt–never knowing if they really could have been the best.

  14. Pingback: Caso Contador | Run, Run, Run, Run, Run, Cycle, Cycle Too

  15. dstan58

    AC is stripped of titles. Does he have to give back the money? SInce typically the money is distributed amongst the team, I like to picture AC going up to a masseur, to whom the TdF money represented a pretty significant bonus, and begging for the cash back.

  16. Bill

    Will the riders strike sometime in the next decade? I like the idea of the rider union. And tv revenue shared with teams and riders. (ASO needs to share) I have a feeling something big might change in cycling over the next several years. There are too many entities competing out of sync.The UCI seems disconnected, along with all of the national federations. For the first time I actually feel sorry for Contador. As for Armstrong he was able to afford his justice. He was smarter. But I have to thank him for over 20 years of entertainment.

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