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Spanish federation lifts Contador's doping ban

Spain's cycling federation has reversed its decision to ban three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador for doping. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has one month to decide whether to appeal the decision.

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AFP - Spain's cycling federation cleared three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of knowingly using a banned substance, his spokesman said Tuesday, in a dramatic U-turn in the case.

"Alberto Contador has been officially cleared by the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) and has been authorised to return to competition immediately," the spokesman, Jacinto Vidarte, said in a statement.

"If everything goes well, the rider will take the start, tomorrow, at the Tour of Algarve" in Portugal.

Contador's future has hung in the balance since he announced last August 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 RFEC had decided to clear him based on arguments put forward by the Spaniard himself that he involuntarily ingested the clenbuterol.

The daily El Mundo said the RFEC "accepted the theory of food contamination and the absence of any blame or negligence, based on article 296" of the International Cycling Union's (UCI's) anti-doping regulations.

Article 296 effectively states that if a rider can establish that "he bears no fault or negligence, the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility shall be eliminated."

It adds: "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 (WADA) have one month to decide if they concur with the RFEC decision, or if they want to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

A statement released by the governing body acknowleged the decision, but said: "... the UCI reserves the right to conduct an in-depth study of the reasons behind the decision before expressing its opinion.

"In accordance with the regulations the UCI now awaits the full dossier on the case from the RFEC. Once this documentation has been received, the UCI will issue its decision within 30 days."

After appearing before the federation's competition committee on Tuesday, Contador's lawyer, Andy Ramos, told reporters: "Alberto can race and justice has been done.

"The UCI can appeal, for our part we will not."

The decision marked an about-turn for the RFEC, which last month had recommended a one-year ban for Contador, a ruling that would have stripped him of his 2010 Tour de France title.

The 28-year-old 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, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, has threatened to quit the sport if he is slapped with a ban.

In an interview recorded for Spanish television before the announcement was made public, Contador said he had hoped the RFEC "would make a U-turn.

"Certainly the interview they had with me here, I think it was a very important interview. It was a tough interview in which nothing was hidden," he told VEO7, which released extracts of the interview, to be broadcast late on Tuesday.

"Without doubt my honour, my honour and my credibility, was the thing that was most valuable to me, that they recognise it and that justice be done."

Earlier this month he blasted anti-doping regulations which he said were outdated.

Last Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero got behind him, saying "there is no legal reason to sanction Contador".

Clenbuterol is a banned weight loss/muscle-building drug which is also used to increase lean meat in cattle. The substance was banned by the European Union in 1996 but it is still administered illicitly by some cattle farmers.

 

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