The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s governing body, has provisionally suspended Tour de France winner Alberto Contador today after an anti-doping test taken at this year’s race revealed traces of the banned drug clenbuterol.

The Spanish cyclist of team Astana tested positive from an UCI anti-doping control submitted on July 21, the second rest day of this year’s Tour de France. He went on to win the race, his third overall victory, four days later on July 25 by 39 seconds ahead of Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.

Clenbuterol helps people with breathing disorders, such as asthma. An athlete could use the drug to help increase oxygen transportation and so the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as a banned substance.

“The concentration found by the laboratory was estimated at 50 picograms (or 0.000 000 000 05 grams per ml),” said the UCI in today’s press release, “which is 400 times less than what the anti-doping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect.”

The UCI has confirmed the result with Contador’s back up B sample and is working with the WADA to “analyse all the elements that are relevant to the case.”

Contador announced in a press statement overnight that the UCI first communicated the findings to him on August 24, one month after the Tour de France ended in Paris.

“From the time of the first communication … Alberto Contador alleged food contamination as the only possible explanation,” read a press release by Contador.

“The experts consulted so far have agreed also that this is a food contamination case, especially considering the number of tests passed by Alberto Contador during the Tour de France.”

Contador will talk about the positive result at a press conference in Pinto (near Madrid) today at 12:00 local time.

Chinese cyclist Fuyu Li of team RadioShack tested positive for a similar low level of clenbuterol (50 to 100 picograms, or 0.05 to 0.10 nanograms, ng) on March 23 at a Belgian race. The UCI provisionally suspended him one month later and the Chinese federation may suspend him for two years, though it is not clear if it has issued a ban.

Dutchman Douwe de Boer spoke on Li’s behalf in May. The biochemist heads team Vacansoleil’s anti-doping programme and is a former director of the WADA-approved laboratory in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Laboratories must be able to find 1.00 ng/mL, while a normal threshold value is considered to be 2.00 ng/mL,” he said. “The value of 0.05-0.10 ng/mL that was found in Fuyu Li’s body points clearly in the direction of a contamination. On top of that, such a low dose would not help his performance in any way.”

De Boer added that clenbuterol contaminates can be found in food supplements and in meat.

Contador has won the Tour de France three times (2007, 2009, 2010) and had recently agreed a high-profile transfer from Astana to Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank team.

Related links

Mosquera and Garcia positive at Vuelta

Alberto Contador: Rider Profile

  • Joe Feeney

    This is a rediculous witch hunt by the ******* at WADA!!! Doesn’t Pound and his bunch of STAPO agents have something better to do than try to drag down anyone who has had a good result? Contador is far form my favorite rider at this time, and personally, i would have prefered to see Andy Schlecht win the Tour. That being said, Contador deserves far more respect than for his reputation to be trampled under absurd inuendo due to what is realistically a rediculously miniscule amount of 5 one hundred BILLIONTHS of a grain of sand. In effeect he had incredibly small number of molecules of an asthma medicine in his body. How low are tests supposed to go?

  • Bikez

    Brings to mind a “Panorama” program of a few years ago whereby Mothers milk was being contaminated by cleaning products. Although I would have thought that during the “tour” one’s dietary intake would be scrutinised to the nth degree.

  • peter

    leave the guy alone this product is used in cattle ,and as dose is so small it makes no difference.
    get out and ride yer bikes and stop bickering and get a life

  • The Bolton Bullet

    Lots of questions…Surely all Pro tour teams have dietery management? If his defence is to be believed then why oh why did he eat the damned stuff? At the top level surely EVERYTHING a rider puts into his system is checked or at least monitored. Why did his ‘friend’ bring the meat all the way from Spain… I go back to what I said before – all sports people are responsible for what the put into their bodies. Baxter got a ban cos he used the wrong type of Vick but it WAS up to HIM to check the contents. Likewise with Contador – He should not have eaten the meat when he didn’t know the source, that’s if his defence is to be believed and the jury is quite literally still out on that! Why has it taken since 24th August for the news to come out? Were the UCI hoping to brush it under the carpet? The amount of clenbuterol [which is not even a prescribed drug in this country-try finding it in the BNF if you can] was very small- do the UCI have other information they are not revealing? Maybe a minimum five year ban for a first offence would make riders a lot lot more careful? Plenty of riders ride clean and get results, they must be tearing their hair out with every case that surfaces.

  • borderfox

    lets just think who was he once team mates with……….. oh yer lance, just another former team mate caught after parting company with the texan, strange isnt it

  • Paul G

    I agree with BMXBandit. Why is this news taking a massive precedence over Emma Pooley’s win in the British press? More positives, (no pun intended) and less negative news… might be good.

  • Neil Duerden

    David Millar’s comments regarding this are the most measured I have heard not the hyperbolic sham on BBC News&daft comments on various message boards

    I just hope this is nothing more than a “scare”.Alberto Contador appeared sincere in his press conference today plus the report above vindicates my view that this is not quite the scandal some wish it to be.

  • BMX bandit

    Such a small amount, maybe he breathed it in from the surrounding riders?

    What is so upsetting is that my work mates hear about this but not that Emma Pooley won the World Time Trial Championship!

  • The Bolton Bullet

    ” I will take my revenge, in the next days…” Andy Schleck

    Maybe Alberto “never looked back” to see what was in his food…
    Seriously tho – and it IS serious, I agree with some of the comments above. Typical BBC as James said but .- all athletes are responsible for what they put into their bodies . That is the Golden Rule I believe….i have no doubt that the powers that be will be squirming like mad to try and find a way out of THIS one, and this one will run and run and run…. but hopefully won’t be able to hide…..

  • Eltonious

    I agree with SPS. TBH I had my suspicions long before the Tour started and I didn’t want him to win and was pushing for Andy the whole time despite his unfortunate ‘unshipping’. Andy was the only guy that could touch Contador in the mountains and IMO deserves the win. So yes, lots of protracted legal cases now and months of speculation. Time will tell if the apparent ‘food contamination’ is just another ridiculous cover up for a high profile rider….

  • james smith

    Shocker!! This is the first cycling story that the BBC has run all year… Cycling gets unfairly treated by the major media organisations. This is a tiny amount and as said would not have helped his performance in any case. When the ban is lifted will the BBC be so quick to run the storY?

  • Silly Pistol Salute

    Cue months and months of legal argument. No doubt the UCI are very keen to sweep it under the carpet seeing as McQuaid’s modus operandi these days seems to be to protect cycling’s image without question.

    Regardless of the final outcome there will always be doubt,if they didn’t exist already. And lets not forget he was implicated in Puerto although that too seems to have been swept under the carpet.