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Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador to face probe after positive test during Tour

Local body to initiate doping probe at behest of International Cycling Union

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) in a statement released on its website, yesterday confirmed receipt of the International Cycling Union (UCI)'s petition for the national body to open disciplinary proceedings against Alberto Contador, the 2010 Tour de France winner who tested positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol during this year's race.

"At the end of a long and meticulous inquiry [...] and considering all the information currently in its possession, the UCI has concluded that disciplinary proceedings should be opened against Alberto Contador," the UCI statement read. "It is now the responsibility of [the Spanish federation] to determine whether Alberto Contador has breached UCI Anti-Doping Rules."

"The UCI has passed us the hot potato, but the decision will not be a quick one"

Contador, who also won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, vehemently denies any wrongdoing and attributes the traces of clenbuterol, an anabolic steroid sometimes used in livestock farming, to a piece of contaminated meat he ate during this year's race. The amount of the substance found in Contador's blood was described by both the UCI and the RFEC as "very small," and the rider himself contended that such a tiny trace - 50 picograms, or 50 trillionths of a gram - would be impossible "to administer except via dietary contamination."

Contador, who has been provisionally suspended from racing, faces a further complication in his bid to clear is name after a second test conducted at the Tour revealed the presence of plasticizers in his blood. Rasmus Damsgaard, the former anti-doping chief at Contador's new team, Saxo Bank, said in October that the amount of plasticizers detected in the control would tally with the rider having received a transfusion of his own blood during the Tour, and the traces of clenbuterol found in the previous test could have been residues "extracted months earlier when he was using clenbuterol."

The team director at Saxo Bank, Bjarne Riis, this week published his autobiography in which he lays out in no uncertain terms his own flirtation with doping during the late 1990s, when he was a top rider and winner of the Tour in 1996, a race in which he admits to have been taking the banned performance-enhancing drug EPO.

Riis' revelations come at a sensitive time for Contador, who privately expects the case to be found in his favor but who has also intimated he may retire if he is found guilty of doping. It is almost certain that the issue will ultimately be decided at the CAS Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, as he will appeal if sanctioned by the Spanish federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency will do likewise if Contador is let off. "If all this does not end in a favorable and fair way, I am very reluctant to get back on a bike," Contador told Telecinco last Saturday.

"The UCI has passed us the hot potato," Spanish Federation chief Juan Carlos Castaño said on Monday. "The Competition Committee will meet to study the documentation sent by the UCI. Then we will give Contador his say and listen to the scientific and legal experts he chooses to defend him. Finally, our experts will examine the allegations and the Committee will make its decision. If it believes there has been a violation of anti-doping regulations, the sanction could range from a simple warning to two years' suspension. To the contrary, the matter will be shelved. But it will not be quick. It will require some time." Meanwhile, the UCI stated that Contador will "still benefit from a presumption of innocence."

"Personally, as president of the Federation, I hope that the case is resolved in favor of Contador for many reasons," Castaño added. "Not just because he is a great athlete and it would be good for the sport but because I have known him since he was a junior and he is a rider from Madrid."