- Court of Arbitration for Sport overturns ruling by the Spanish Cycling Federation
- Appeal body says Alberto Contador likely consumed contaminated food supplement
- The Spaniard has been banned retroactively for two years, ending in August 2012
- He has also been stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and all his 2011 victories
Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title and retroactively banned from cycling for two years following Monday's ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
He could also face a fine of more than $3 million, but this will be decided at a later CAS hearing.
The Spaniard tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid clenbuterol during the sport's premier race in July 2010, and the results were revealed in September that year.
He was initially suspended for one year by the Spanish Cycling Federation after claiming that he had eaten contaminated meat, which left small amounts of the drug in his urine sample, and was then acquitted on appeal in February 2011.
However, the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Ant-Doping Agency (WADA) both contested the ruling, and appealed to CAS. The UCI also asked that Contador be fined at least €2.485 million.
The court's decision means that the 29-year-old will lose his race victories during 2011, including the Giro d'Italia. His ban will end on August 5 this year.
CAS said the ban started retroactively on January 25, 2011 -- the start date of his original ban -- but was reduced by the time he had already been suspended of five months and 19 days.
The UCI confirmed the decision on its website, but called it "the end of a long-running affair that has been extremely painful for cycling."
"This is a sad day for our sport. Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case," UCI president Pat McQuaid said.
"There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping: every case, irrespective of its characteristics, is always a case too many."
The case had dragged on after the first two hearings were canceled before a third was finally held in November last year.
The UCI and WADA both submitted that it was more likely that Contador had either had a blood transfusion or eaten a contaminated food supplement rather than the meat scenario.
CAS agreed in its ruling, stating: "Unlike certain other countries, notably outside Europe, Spain is not known to have a contamination problem with clenbuterol in meat. Furthermore, no other cases of athletes having tested positive to clenbuterol allegedly in connection with the consumption of Spanish meat are known.
"The panel concluded that both the meat contamination scenario and the blood transfusion scenario were, in theory, possible explanations for the adverse analytical findings but were however equally unlikely.
"In the panel's opinion, on the basis of the evidence adduced, presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement."
Past cases of positive clenbuterol tests have had different outcomes.
Last year more than 100 footballers at the under-17 World Cup were cleared by FIFA due to a "serious health problem with regards to meat contaminated with clenbuterol" in host nation Mexico. Five members of that country's senior team also escaped punishment after testing positive at the CONCACAF Gold Cup later that year.
Two Chinese swimmers were banned for three years in 1999 after eating contaminated pig livers, but in 2010 a German table tennis player was cleared following a hair test after his positive result during a competition in China.
Andy Schleck, who was runner-up at the 2010 Tour de France, said he would not be happy to be installed as the new winner.
"First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on," the rider from Luxembourg said.
"I trust that the CAS judges took all things into consideration after reading a 4,000-page file. If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost.
"My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory."