30 May 2011

Contador wins in Italy as doping hangs over him

8:49 am on 30 May 2011

Alberto Contador claimed his sixth successive Grand Tour title in the Giro d'Italia with an assured performance against a backdrop of uncertainty over his sporting future.

The shadow of a doping case stalked the Spaniard during the race as he awaits an appeal by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after his federation cleared him of taking the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.

The 27-year-old Saxo Bank rider returned a positive test for minute traces of the drug in last year's Tour de France with Contador saying it was present after he ate contaminated beef.

The appeal hearing, initially due to be held in June, has been postponed, with July or September the most likely dates.

While the case drags on, Contador continues his unbroken run of success in three-week stage races, which started when he took the Tour de France for the first time in 2007.

The Spaniard's latest Grand Tour success comes after taking the lead and the stage win on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily on stage nine and steadily gaining time on each of the mountain stages that followed.

Contador's next objective is to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year.

However, the issue of Contador's positive test, which could result in him being banned for up to two years, has steadily pursued the Spaniard on one of the toughest editions of the Giro d'Italia.

It may yet prove to be the toughest battle of his career.