Contador provisionally suspended, cycling holds its breath

September 30, 2010

CYCLING-SAXO/CONTADORTour de France winner Alberto Contador returned an “adverse analytical finding” for clenbuterol following an analysis of a urine sample taken during an in-competition test on the second rest day of July’s race, the International Cycling Union said on Thursday. 

The concentration was “400 time(s) less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect,” the UCI said in a statement. 

“In view of this very small concentration and in consultation with WADA, the UCI immediately had the proper results management proceedings conducted including the analysis of B sample that confirmed the first result.” 

Contador, who won his third Tour this year, has been formally and provisionally suspended as is prescribed by the World Anti-Doping Code and the case will require “further scientific investigation before any conclusion could be drawn”.

The Spaniard has blamed food contamination and riders at the road world championships in Australia urged people to reserve judgement until the investigation is completed.

Whatever the outcome, the issue of doping has once again overshadowed action on the road, with this story casting a pall over events in Geelong, where Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara won a record fourth time trial title on Thursday.

Where does cycling go from here?

It has been argued that doping controls are too stringent compared to other sports and some riders are being punished when they made no attempt to cheat and were simply unlucky by consuming something which unbeknown to them included traces of banned substances.

But the UCI has to act tough if it is to be shown to be trying to clean up the sport and an array of riders have knowingly cheated in the past given the pressure and extreme difficulty of road racing for weeks on end.

The Contador case looks very complicated and the UCI has said it will take considerable time to make a final judgement.

Meanwhile, cycling holds its collective breath.

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