Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said today that he is waiting for the authorities to finish their work before he can make a decision on stripping Alberto Contador of his 2010 Tour title.
Contador, who tested positive for a small quantity of the banned drug Clenbuterol during the Tour's second rest day last July, is subject to a proposed one-year ban by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC). He has 10 days to appeal the recommended suspension and will give a press conference Friday.
After arguing his positive test was the result of contaminated meat, Contador now stands to miss this year's Tour as well as losing last year's title. "He is disillusioned because he is innocent and he feels he is being punished unfairly," his spokesman said today.
Prudhomme spoke out on the case, saying that he hopes a decision will come as soon as possible, but would not say whether or not he agreed with the proposed ban.
"It's not for us to judge," Prudhomme said according to Belga. "It is up to authorities, who have the opportunity to appeal to CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] if they wish.
"Clearly it is a complicated affair since the authorities have been working on it for several months. What is certain is that the proceedings actually work and that the fight against doping in cycling is not a sham."
The Frenchman predicts that Contador will be stripped of his Tour title. "He tested positive for a banned substance. I can't imagine there will be no sanction. If it turned out he failed to prove his innocence, he will be disqualified by the UCI."
Since Prudhomme took over the job as Tour de France director from Jean-Marie Leblanc in 2005, he has seen the 2006 winner, Floyd Landis, stripped of the title; Michael Rasmussen, Alexander Vinokourov and all of Astana and Cofidis exited the 2007 race due to doping; Riccardo Ricco and several others booted in 2008 and Bernhard Kohl retroactively disqualified from his third place that year. He now stands to revise the 2010 champion, but even in face of these unfortunate events, Prudhomme says the Tour is still enormous.
"The credibility of sport is measured in terms of the fight against doping. Regaining that credibility, to restore it is a fight. There is a price to pay and it is steep. But it's the only way forward. Certainly, the authorities, so often criticized in the past, do this job. And for that you can not blame them."
In sharp contrast to 2008, when Prudhomme excluded the Astana from the Tour de France because of the previous year's scandal, the Tour director seemed to indicate he would not punish any team over Contador's positive.
"We're talking about a rider. Everything else is the responsibility of the International Cycling Union or the World Anti-Doping Agency. First, there is a case in progress. Then we'll see in due course. Remember, we are not stronger than the international regulations."