|Nearly three months after he tested positive for clenbuterol, Alberto Contador's case is now moving forward again [GALLO/GETTY]
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is facing the possibility of a two-year ban and being stripped of his title after the International Cycling Union (UCI) asked the Spanish federation to open disciplinary proceedings against the cyclist.
The 27-year-old three-time Tour winner, who has been provisionally suspended, tested positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol on the second rest day of this year's Tour, where he beat Luxembourg's
Andy Schleck by 39 seconds to claim the title.
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 the Spaniard 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 UCI said in a statement.
The head of the Spanish cycling federation was hopeful that Contador would be cleared of doping in what is expected to be a drawn-out investigation.
"Personally, as the president of the cycling federation, I hope it's resolved in favour of the athlete. Not only for the benefit of the cyclist, but it would be good for cycling,'' Juan Carlos Castano told Spanish national radio late on Monday night.
"I've know him sine he was very young ... and I can't help but feel this empathy with Alberto Contador.''
Castano said the UCI's delay in providing documents had created doubts over the "complicated'' case.
"What's clear is this will be a complicated case due to all the documents we've received from the UCI,'' Castano said.
"Usually once the results are known in the laboratory they are immediately sent to the Spanish federation's committee to open the case. This has taken three months and has created a lot of doubts in all senses.''
The Spanish federation can decide whether to ban Contador, or to clear him. If the federation opts 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).
If the federation fail to resolve the case within the three-month limit, it would automatically be handed on to Spain's anti-doping commission.
The rider, one of five to have won the three big Tours (France, Italy and Spain) and whose B-sample analysis confirmed the result of the first test, has threatened to quit the sport if he is banned.