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Alberto Contador's fight to clear his name of a doping offence faced another challenge when the UCI appealed against the Spanish federation's decision to exonerate the triple Tour de France champion.

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"The International Cycling Union (UCI) today decided - within the time frame stipulated by the Regulations - to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne against the Spanish Cycling Federation's (RFEC) finding in the case of Alberto Contador," the UCI said in a statement.

"He was acquitted after testing positive for clenbuterol during an in-competition test carried out on 21st July 2010. The decision to appeal comes after an in-depth study of the file received from the RFEC."

Contador, 28, failed a dope test for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during last year's Tour but has denied any wrongdoing and said it came from contaminated meat.

"I've learnt about what happened (the UCI appeal) when I crossed the finish line. I wish the situation was different," Contador told a news conference after the fourth stage of the Tour of Catalunya which he is leading.

"I fully trust my defence and maybe, going to CAS, my innocence will become clearer."

Saxo Bank rider Contador, who had been provisionally suspended in August, appealed against the Spanish federation's (RFEC) initial proposed one-year ban and was cleared by the RFEC last month.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has 21 days to join the appeal and challenge the RFEC's decision.

Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis said he hoped for a quick resolution to the matter.

"UCI has decided to do so in the case concerning Alberto Contador, and naturally we respect this. Now my hope is, that we can have a final ruling as quickly as possible," he said in statement.

"I would like to remind everybody, that this is still Alberto Contador's case. As a team we can't do much but to wait for CAS to reach a decision.

"But I would also like to remind everybody, that Alberto Contador was acquitted in the first place and therefore is innocent of any deliberate wrongdoing until a ruling says something else," he added. "And as long as this is a case of accidental intake of a forbidden substance, we will continue to support Alberto Contador. In our opinion it would be unfair to do anything else."

Contador's lawyer Andy Ramos told Reuters: "We will do everything that's necessary to show that Alberto is innocent."

"We're sure we will win at CAS but if that isn't the case, we'll go wherever we have to to prove his innocence."

Asked if that included taking his case to the regular Swiss courts, Ramos said: "If it was necessary, we would."

The RFEC said it respected the UCI's decision and would wait for the ruling body to present the reasons behind it to CAS.

"In this process, the RFEC will defend the resolution (to exonerate Contador) deploying all the necessary means to maintain the innocence of the cyclist," the RFEC said in a statement on its website (www.rfec.com).

Until CAS makes its ruling, which could be issued before the Tour de France starts on July 2 if neither side tries to stall the process, Contador, who won the Tour of Murcia this year, will be allowed to race.

CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb, however, was "pessimistic" about the chances of the highest sports court making a quick decision.

"From what I heard from one of his lawyers, we are heading for a fierce defence. I am pessimistic (that in these conditions) we can make a ruling before the end of June," Reeb told Reuters.

Ramos agreed, saying: "It will take months, not weeks (for a verdict). The entire dossier is 2,000 pages long, including 600 pages we've contributed..."

If eventually found guilty, Contador would be stripped of his 2010 Tour title.

Reuters

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