Paris: Alberto Contador was facing the possibility of a two-year ban and losing this year`s Tour de France title after the UCI asked the Spanish federation to open proceedings against him for failing a drugs test.
The 27-year-old Spaniard tested positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol on the second rest day of this year`s Tour which he won for the third time, beating Luxembourg`s Andy Schleck by 39 seconds.
Contador said traces of the substance were found in his system after he ate contaminated meat, prompting the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate further.
"At the end of a long and meticulous enquiry entrusted to highly qualified, WADA-accredited experts, and considering all the information currently in its possession, the UCI has concluded that disciplinary proceedings should be opened against Alberto Contador," the International Cycling Union (UCI) said in a statement.
"The UCI has today sent its request to the Spanish Federation that has competence in this regard. It is now the responsibility of this Federation to determine whether Alberto Contador has breached the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.”
"In the meantime, until the end of the proceedings and despite his provisional suspension, Alberto Contador still benefits from a presumption of innocence."
The Spanish federation (RFEC) can decide whether to ban Contador, who has been provisionally suspended by the UCI, or to clear him.
If the federation decides not to sanction the world`s top rider, the UCI and WADA will have the opportunity to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The RFEC confirmed in a statement on its website (www.rfec.com) that it had received the UCI request.
"The RFEC will, immediately and according to international sporting rules, take ... all the action necessary to clear up and resolve the questions deriving from the anti-doping test conducted on the rider (Contador), following the established regulatory procedures," the statement said.
There was no indication as to how long the disciplinary proceedings would take.
Contador`s B-sample analysis confirmed the result of the first test.
The rider, one of five to have won the three big Tours (France, Italy and Spain), has threatened to quit the sport if he is banned.
Contador signed with the Saxo Bank team in August, after deciding not to renew his contract with Astana.
Saxo Bank have said they will continue to stay on as title sponsors of the team in 2011 even if Contador is suspended.
In a rocky year for cycling, Tour of Spain runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera tested positive for the banned plasma substitute hydroxyethyl starch.