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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AFP) —Alberto Contador on Monday will fight a bid by cycling’s world governing body to impose a doping ban that could strip him of his 2010 Tour de France victory.
The three-time Tour champion is to plead his case at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which has been charged with deciding whether minute traces of clenbuterol found in a urine sample in 2010 constitute proof that Contador used drugs to enhance his performance.
The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) initially cleared Contador of any wrongdoing after he claimed the contamination stemmed from eating a tainted steak on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour. That ruling allowed Contador to continue competing.
But the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) filed appeals with CAS.
The four-day hearing will take place behind closed doors. The court has said that it will “issue its decision with reasons as soon as possible but probably not sooner than several weeks following the completion of the hearing.”
At the heart of the case are the 50 picograms of clenbuterol found in Contador’s urine on July 21, 2010, during a rest day at Pau.
Although known as a powerful drug used to treat asthma, clenbuterol can also help build lean muscle mass and burn fat.
Contador insists that he has never taken banned drugs, even going as far as to pass a lie-detector test to bolster his claims of innocence. His lawyers argue that the contamination came from a steak consumed the previous evening and which originated from his native Spain.
His defense will say that even if the anabolic agent used to boost cattle growth has been banned in the European Union, there remains the possibility that some beef producers are still using it.
The Spanish federation bought the argument and in February cleared Contador of all charges.
In Spain, where Contador’s supporters include outgoing Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, only beef producers found the argument in bad taste.
The UCI and WADA were equally unconvinced and appealed to CAS.
CAS had planned to rule before the 2011 Tour, but in June, the hearing was pushed to August on Contador’s request.
Later, WADA sought a further extension after Contador’s lawyers sent them 3,000 pages of documents shortly before their scheduled meeting in Lausanne.
WADA and UCI have so far remained tightlipped about the evidence they plan to present. Some media outlets have suggested that Contador may have had a banned blood transfusion, citing a high concentration of plastic residue measured in his urine at the same time as the clenbuterol.
If CAS supports the appeals, Contador faces a competition ban and the loss of his 2010 Tour and Giro d’Italia titles, along with any other victories since July 2010. Contador won a second Giro this year.