20th December, 2010
The scourge of doping blighted cycling once more in 2010, where the most gripping Tour de France duel in years was marred by the subsequent revelation that winner Alberto Contador had failed a drugs test.
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 the Tour de France, the International Cycling Union said on September 30, 2010.
Astana team rider Alberto Contador of Spain celebrates on the Champs Elysees in Paris after winning the 97th Tour de France cycling race in this July 25, 2010 file photo. 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 the Tour de France, the International Cycling Union said on September 30, 2010.
Contador and Luxembourgâ€™s Andy Schleck took centre stage in an epic battle over a gruelling Tour itinerary so punishing it threatened to end the hopes of dozens of riders barely a week into the race.
But the afterglow of Contadorâ€™s third yellow jersey triumph, however, was short-lived when the Spaniard tearfully announced in September he had tested positive for a banned substance.
Contador, who has vehemently protested his innocence, could now face a two-year ban from the sport.
The case overshadowed the controversy which surrounds seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, who was subject to far more serious doping allegations by disgraced former teammate Floyd Landis.
Armstrongâ€™s career has been blighted by unfounded claims of doping, but now it has trangressed the arena of sport. Landisâ€™s claims have prompted a federal investigation in the United States.
Armstrong denies taking banned substances, and has called Landis â€” who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping â€” a liar.
But if the Texan is snared, Contadorâ€™s troubles will pale into insignificance.
The Spaniardâ€™s positive test for tiny amounts of clenbuterol â€” a weight loss drug which can also be used to build muscle â€” has given the sportâ€™s ruling body one of its biggest dilemmas in years.
He says it was down to contaminated meat, although some experts claim he may have inadvertantly re-injected clenbuterol during an illegal, performance-enhancing blood transfusion.
Banning Contador would certainly deprive cycling of one of its few, rare stars. The 28-year-old, who won both the Tours of Spain and Italy in 2008, was also yellow jersey champion in 2007 and 2009 and was set for a potentially long reign.
International Cycling Union chief Pat McQuaid, who has rejected accusations that the UCI has helped â€™protectâ€™ big name stars, has now put the Spaniardâ€™s fate into the hands of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).
â€œThis is a very important case and we have to be completely sure…. if and when the decision is taken where exactly weâ€™re going,â€ McQuaid said in October.
â€œItâ€™s quite complicated. WADA are doing work with scientists and specialists in this area and weâ€™re waiting for the results to come back.â€
Perhaps the most bizarre story of 2010 though involved Fabian Cancellara, who recorded stunning victories in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as well as a record fourth world championship time trial victory.
But the Swiss â€™Spartacusâ€™ spent the best part of the spring rejecting allegations he had used a hidden engine in his bike to power his way to both classic victories.
â€œItâ€™s a sad and really outrageous story. Believe me, my feats are the result of hard work,â€ he countered.