In what could prove to be a landmark decision, the Spanish Cycling Federation has totally cleared three-time Tour de France Champion Alberto Contador of all charges stemming from his positive test for trace amounts of Clenbuterol, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. A total reduction of the two-year period of ineligibility faced by Contador is practically unprecedented under sports jurisprudence and will almost certainly be appealed by either the International Cycling Union or the World Anti-Doping Agency.
American swimmer Jessica Hardy was banned for one-year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) after testing positive for the same substance, Clenbuterol, even though Hardy proved definitively that she did not intend to take a banned substance and that she ingested it by way of a tainted supplement. Hardy was deemed to bear “no significant fault or negligence” under the World Anti-Doping Code and had her period of ineligibility reduced to one year after facing a two-year ban. Such a reduction was only given to Hardy because her case was considered “truly exceptional.”
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, a total reduction of sanction is reserved only for extreme cases, where, for example, one athlete is sabotaged by another athlete. There is nothing to indicate at this point that Contador alleged he was sabotaged by another athlete, which is why the decision to exonerate him completely is so extraordinary.
If the decision holds up, Contador will be free to defend his Tour de France title this summer and compete in the next Olympic Games in London in 2012. Under a current International Olympic Committee rule, any athlete banned for more than six months for an anti-doping violation cannot compete in the next Olympic Games.