|Contador maintains he 'unknowingly' ingested clenbuterol after eating contaminated meat [GALLO/GETTY]
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has said he feels he is being "unfairly punished" by the sport's ruling body, which has suspended him for one year after a positive doping test.
Spanish cycling authorities have accepted Contador's assertion that his positive clenbuterol test resulted from eating contaminated meat, and on Thursday proposed a one-year ban, rather than the standard two-year penalty.
"He's disappointed because he is innocent and feels he is being unfairly punished," said Contador's spokesman Jacinto Vidarte.
"He is not able to train and in this situation it does not make much sense."
If the ban is adopted, Contador would be stripped of the Tour title and miss this year's race, and possibly the Tour of Spain.
He has until February 9 to present further evidence before the Spanish federation's disciplinary committee renders a final verdict. That decision can then be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Contador, the International Cycling Union (UCI) or the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The Saxo Bank rider has vowed to appeal any ban, but faces becoming only the second Tour de France champion to be stripped of his title, after American Floyd Landis in 2006.
The UCI had provisionally suspended Contador in August in advance of a decision on his immediate future by the REFC after trace amounts of clenbuterol, a banned weight loss/muscle-building drug also used to fatten cattle, were found in a urine sample taken during the Tour.
Contador denies any wrongdoing and says he unknowingly ingested the clenbuterol from beef brought from Spain to France during the second rest day of the Tour, just four days before he won his third title on July 25.
Clenbuterol was banned by the European Union in 1996 but it is still administered illicitly by some cattle farmers.
Spanish media said the one-year ban would spare him a financial penalty as a two-year suspension would automatically force him to return 70 per cent of his 2010 salary, or 3.1 million euros.
The UCI said Thursday the proposed ban "cannot in any way be considered as an anticipation of the definitive decision in the case.''
"To date, Alberto Contador has not received a sanction and the UCI still awaits ... to be informed of the decision of the RFEC Disciplinary Commission that should be provided as soon as possible,'' the Swiss-based body said in a statement.
While Contador also won Tour titles in 2007 and 2009, he was forced to sit out the Tour in 2006 and 2008 after his teams were implicated in doping cases.
The 28-year-old Spaniard is only the fifth cyclist to win Tour, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta titles.