There was still no word by 2:30 p.m. European time from the Spanish cycling federation on a ruling in the Alberto Contador doping case.
According to a report in the Spanish daily AS, officials are still working to finalize the wording of the highly anticipated ruling and expect to release it later Tuesday afternoon.
RFEC president Juan Carlos Castano told journalists Tuesday: “We are assuming that he will be acquitted but I have not seen the latest changes in the documents.”
Contador’s future has hung in the balance since he announced last August he had tested positive for minute traces of the banned substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour de France.
He has repeatedly denied knowingly taking any banned substances, blaming the result on a steak he says was contaminated with traces of the drug.
Spanish news reports said the federation, the RFEC, had decided to clear him based on arguments put forward by the Spaniard himself that he involuntarily ingested the clenbuterol.
The daily El Mundo said the RFEC “accepted the theory of food contamination and the absence of any blame or negligence, based on article 296” of the International Cycling Union’s (UCI’s) anti-doping regulations.
The UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) would have one month to decide if they agree with whatever decision the RFEC hands down, or if they want to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In a preliminary decision last month, the RFEC recommended a one-year ban for Contador, less than the two years stipulated under international regulations for such a doping offence.
“Cleared!” was the headline on the story Tuesday in the sports newspaper AS.
“The federation will inform Contador today that he will not be sanctioned,” it said. “Contador will thus be free of sanctions, will not lose his third Tour de France victory, recover his licence and would be able to compete tomorrow in the Tour of Algarve (in Portugal).”
Spain’s leading daily El Pais said “Spain exonerates Contador.” The Barcelona-based sports daily El Mundo Deportivo said “the committee will rule in favor of Alberto Contador”.
However, Spanish public television said on its website Tuesday that Contador’s lawyers had not yet received the summons from the RFEC and the cyclist and his entourage were “surprised by the delay”.
The 28-year-old has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he unknowingly ingested the clenbuterol from beef brought from Spain to France during the second rest day of the Tour, just four days before he won his third title on July 25.
The rider, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, has threatened to quit the sport if he is slapped with a ban.
Earlier this month he blasted anti-doping regulations which he said were outdated.
“Today, advances in science are able to detect minute amounts of some banned substances which neither further athletic performance nor can possibly be taken voluntarily, except if they enter our bodies through ingested food. This is my case with clenbuterol,” the Spanish rider said in a statement on his website. “But whereas scientific advances have arrived in the year 2011, the rule remains stuck in the 60s, hence my ‘crime’ and possible sanction.”
Last Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero got behind him, saying “there is no legal reason to sanction Contador.”
Clenbuterol is a banned weight loss/muscle-building drug which is also used to increase lean meat in cattle. Contador claims he ate a steak that was contaminated by the drug.
The substance was banned by the European Union in 1996 but it is still administered illicitly by some cattle farmers.
AFP contributed to this report