The 29-year-old, who also won the Tour in 2007 and ’09, tested positive for clenbuterol during a Tour rest day in July 2010. His ban was backdated to Jan. 25, 2011, making him eligible to return until 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 considered likely to challenge Lance Armstrong’s record of seven career Tour victories. Instead, he joins Floyd Landis as the only riders stripped of their Tour titles after testing positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs. Andy Schleck, of Luxembourg, is now in line to take Contador’s 2010 title.
Cycling’s governing body, which had joined the World Anti-Doping Agency in forcing Contador into court, said it took no satisfaction from the verdict.
“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 defense against a UCI-WADA argument that the drug was present in his system because he had used banned blood transfusions.
Yet a three-man CAS panel seemed to reach its own conclusion, finding that the presence of clenbuterol, which is sometimes used by farmers to fatten livestock, was more likely caused by a contaminated food supplement.
Contador, one of only five cyclists to win the three Grand Tours, had no immediate comment. He is scheduled to hold a news conference today. He could appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.