UCI says Contador has right to defend Tour title

By the Associated Press | June 16, 2011 | 7:44 PM EDT

Three-times Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, of Spain, pedals during a training session in the Alpe d'Huez, French Alps, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The International Cycling Union says Alberto Contador has the right to defend his Tour de France title while it is appealing the Spanish cycling federation's decision to clear him of doping at last year's Tour.

The UCI said in a statement Thursday that the three-time Tour winner "has the statutory right to take part in any competition insofar as he has not been found guilty" by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency have appealed the Spanish federation's decision to the CAS, which will hear it from Aug. 1-3, a week after the Tour. It was originally set for early June, but the CAS delayed it to give both sides more time to prepare.

The UCI management committee was meeting in Maastricht and said it was aware the proceedings could be considered "excessively long," and understood observers' "incomprehension," but it was looking forward to justice being "administered properly."

Contador tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol while winning his third Tour title last year, but the Spanish federation accepted his explanation that he unknowingly ingested it in tainted meat.

With CAS and WADA challenging the Spanish federation's decision to the CAS, Contador risks a ban and losing all of his results since the positive test, including his Giro d'Italia victory last month.

In the meantime, the UCI says Contador has the right to race.

"The UCI management committee asks that we respect Alberto Contador's right to be treated like every other rider who takes the start of the Tour de France," the statement said.

"The prestige of the event warrants it, and the dignity of all athletes demands it."

The Tour starts on July 2.