While the cycling world awaits the finalization of a proposed one-year ban for Alberto Contador following his positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France, his new Saxo Bank-SunGard team has been assured that it will not lose its place in the sport's top tier even if Contador is stripped of his Tour title.
"The ProTeam points will stay the same," UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "The points were calculated in October and even if Contador was sanctioned and lost his Tour de France victory, the points would stay the same. I know some teams might be angry about this but I don't think we left ourselves open to a legal challenge."
After hiring Contador to fill the gap left by Andy Schleck, the Saxo Bank team was ranked tenth in the UCI sporting hierarchy used to establish which teams obtained ProTeam licences for 2011, and consequently automatic invitations to the World Tour calendar races. The UCI has refused to reveal the details of the points system, so it is not known if Saxo Bank would have secured ProTeam status without Contador's Tour de France points.
The UCI issued a statement today clarifying that Contador has not yet been banned, despite reports that the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) had recommended a one-year suspension. The UCI confirmed it received a document from the RFEC but said it is still awaiting the final decision of the federation's disciplinary commission.
"The document that was forwarded to the UCI this afternoon by the RFEC only represents one element of the disciplinary proceedings undertaken by the Spanish Federation – and upon which the rider may express an opinion before being subject to the ruling," a UCI statement said.
McQuaid refused to say if he agreed with the proposed one-year verdict, and indicated it was too soon to say if the UCI would appeal any decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"I've just arrived in St Wendel for the cyclo-cross world championships, but the office has told me that the Spanish have sent us a six-page document. It arrived this afternoon." McQuaid told Cyclingnews.
"I can't comment in detail because the case is still on-going. The RFEC has recommended a one-year ban but that's not a final verdict. We won't decide about appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport until we have their final. Although this document will help us understand the case."
McQuaid also refused to comment on reports from Spain that the RFEC accepted Contador's defence of eating contaminated meat or that a one-year ban would mean Contador would avoid having to pay 70% of his 2010 salary.
Meanwhile, Contador, who was training with his Saxo Bank-SunGard team in Mallorca, is reported to have holed up in his hotel room awaiting Friday's scheduled press conference.
"He is disillusioned because he is innocent and he feels he is being punished unfairly," said Contador's spokesman Jacinto Vidarte to Reuters. "He is feeling down after being informed of the sanction and now he is just waiting for the news conference tomorrow."