PARIS: Disgraced former 2010 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was braced Tuesday to piece together his future as a professional cyclist a day after being handed a two-year doping ban.
Considered the most gifted racer of his generation, the Spaniard was handed a two-year ban Monday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following a positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol.
Backdated to August 2010, when the cyclist announced the news of his positive test weeks after his third yellow jersey triumph, the ban means Contador can return to competition on Aug. 6, 2012.
As well as ruling him out of this year’s Tour de France, the 29-year-old from Pinto will also be stripped, among other wins, of his 2010 yellow jersey which will now be handed to runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
Despite the possible lure of competing at the Tour of Spain in September, a race Contador won in 2008 when he also won the Giro d’Italia, it is not yet known what plans the cyclist has for his future.
Two months after his positive test, the Spaniard, claiming he was the victim of a contaminated steak eaten during the Tour de France, said he would consider quitting if banned.
“If this is not resolved favorably and in just fashion then I would have to consider whether I would ever get back on a bike,” Contador told Spanish broadcaster Telecinco in October 2010.
If he is to find any kind of succor from the CAS decision, it is the fact that doping experts believe he did not ingest clenbuterol intentionally.
They deemed that the Spaniard had likely been a victim of a contaminated food supplement.
Reports from Spain late Monday, citing his brother and manager Fran, suggested Contador would return to the sport – a possibility that can only boost the hopes of his Saxo Bank team.
Run by Bjarne Riis, a former Tour de France winner who owned up to cheating with drugs to win the race in 1996, Contador is the team’s marquee rider in stage races.
But more importantly, his WorldTour ranking points are crucial.
Affiliation to the WorldTour series – via a system governed by ranking points, financial viability and sound ethical principles – guarantees entry to cycling’s biggest races.
On his own, Contador has racked up a massive amount of the points required by the team for entry to the series – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
“If we do not take into account the points contributed by Contador, amounting to around 68 percent of his team’s total points, Saxo Bank no longer appear to satisfy the sporting conditions to remain part of the WorldTour,” the UCI said Monday.
While Contador outlines his future plans later Tuesday, the sport’s ruling body will simultaneously be asking its licences commission to gauge whether Saxo Bank has the right to remain in the UCI WorldTour.