February 05, 2012

Nearing a verdict on his Tour de France doping case after a 17-month wait, Alberto Contador finished 98th in the Mallorca Challenge on Sunday.

The Spaniard was set to return to Madrid following the race. The Court of Arbitration for Sport rules Monday on whether Contador will be banned after returning a positive drug test in winning the 2010 Tour.

Contador, a three-time Tour champion, faces a two-year ban for testing positive for clenbuterol. He blames the result on eating contaminated beef during the race.

The International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency challenged a Spanish cycling federation decision to exonerate Contador.

Contador was in Mallorca for the day for the 72-mile race. He finished 15 seconds behind winner Andrew Fenn of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

"Without the public's support, all of this would have been much harder to endure," said Contador, who rides for Saxo Bank-SunGuard.

He could escape suspension or be banned from six months to two years after his positive test on the 2010 Tour's final rest day. He has continued racing and stands to lose all his results if banned for more than a year, including winning the Giro d'Italia last season.

The 29-year-old cyclist says steaks bought from a Basque producer and provided by a colleague explain his high reading of clenbuterol, a steroid sometimes used by farmers to increase the mass of their livestock.

The case has hung over Contador since he learned of the test finding in August 2010. It has since stumbled along, with the Spanish cycling federation initially banning Contador for a year before the punishment was voided after he won his appeal.

The UCI and WADA appealed that decision last March, and the case was delayed a number of times before finally being heard by the Lausanne court in November.

Contador is one of only five cyclists to win the three Grand Tours -- the Tour de France, Giro and Spanish Vuelta. He won the Tour in 2007 and 2009 and was prevented from defending his first title in 2008 because his Astana team was banned for doping offenses at the previous year's race. He won the Giro and Vuelta instead that season.

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