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This morning we’ve woken to the news that Alberto Contador, three times Tour de France winner, has been provisionally suspended by the UCI after testing positive for the banned substance clenbuterol on the 21st July – the second rest day on this years tour which he subsequently went on to win.  Contador is no stranger to doping allegations having been initially linked to the Spanish blood-doping ring Operation Puerto in 2006.  He denied any wrongdoing and was eventually cleared.

Clenbuterol is similar to asthma drug salbutamol and is used to treat breathing disorders, including asthma.  Its primary effects include increased aerobic capacity, central nervous system stimulation, an increase in blood pressure and oxygen transportation.

In an overnight statement Contador stated:

…alleged food contamination as the only possible explanation.  The experts consulted so far have agreed that this is a food contamination case.

Contador will talk about the positive result in a press conference today at 12:00 local time, 1pm GMT.  As the amount detected was 400 times less than what a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lab must be able to detect – it seems likely there will be continued speculation and publicity.  Astana have removed Contador from the team roster as they begin to prepare for Contadors’ move to Saxo Bank, who will no doubt be following the situation very closely!

Chinese cyclist Fuyu Li of Team RadioShack tested positive for the substance in March. He was issued a temporary one month suspension by the UCI and is awaiting a verdict from the Chinese Federation. Food contamination is blamed for this positive testing which, according to a former director of a WADA laboratory, would not provide any tangible performance benefit.

All this comes as the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong deepens.  Yesterday Allen Lim, an exercise physiologist on the Team RadioShack was called to testify.  Lim is accused by Floyd Landis of helping him cheat; an accusation which he strongly denies.

This now leaves Carlos Sastre as the only Tour de France winner this century who has not been implicated in a doping scandal.  It seems unlikely that the negative focus on cycling is going away soon.

What do you think. Is this a case of no smoke without fire for the previously implicated Contador, or is it a genuine mistake?  If it is a genuine mistake, can Contador make a comeback as he starts with Saxo Bank, or is this one doping allegation too many?

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