by Ben Atkins, velonation.com, Wednesday, January 26, 2011:
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) has been handed a one-year ban by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC), according to El Pais. The 28-year-old rider tested positive for a trace amount of banned substance clenbuterol on his way to victory in last year’s Tour de France when he was riding for the Astana team.
Contador now has 10 days to appeal the decision before the final verdict is announced on February 9th.
According to El Pais, the federation had hoped to keep the decision quiet until Contador had either appealed or accepted the verdict, but it was leaked almost immediately. He is currently in Mallorca on a training camp with the Saxo Bank-SunGard team; team owner Bjarne Riis has called for a press conference on Friday, but his rider is not expected to be present.
The fact that Contador has been given one year, instead of the statutory two required for a first offence, could be an indication that the RFEC accepts the rider's explanation that the tiny amount of the prohibited substance (50 picograms/millilitre) was due to a contaminated steak that he consumed on the Tour’s rest day.
50 picograms/millilitre is actually 40 times less than a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory is required to be able to detect. Had Contador’s samples been tested by most laboratories in the World the substance might well have gone undetected, but the laboratory in Cologne, Germany has newer and more precise testing equipment than many others. There is no legal threshold for clenbuterol however, which means that any detected amount is classed as a positive test.
UPDATE: According to statements issued by Contador's press office and the Saxo Bank-SunGard team the rider will be present at the Mallorca press conference, alongside Bjarne Riis, on Friday. The team statement also confirms that the reason for the reduced ban is that RFEC accepted Contador's explanation for accidental ingestion of clenbuterol. Read more>>