Contador got popped. His performance in 2009 certainly suggested that he was being powered by more than just spaghetti and water. But this year he looked more human. Which suggested he just might be clean. I’m not alone in hoping that he was.
The levels of clenbuterol detected were too low to be performance-enhancing. That much is certain. It was a secondary effect of something else. Just what, precisely, it was a secondary effect of remains to be seen.
Contador’s camp is claiming it was tainted meat. It’s possible. Clenbuterol increases muscle mass and decreases fat. Farmers have been known to (illegally) give it to their livestock. That doesn’t change the fact that athletes are held accountable for everything they ingest, whether it knowingly contains PEDs or not.
Another possible explanation is that Contador took the clenbuterol previously, it remained in his system when his blood was drawn and stored, and then he transfused that blood during Le Tour. [Update: It appears there may be some evidence other chemical agents indicative of a transfusion were also detected.] Cyclists, like livestock, are worth the most when their lean muscle to fat ratios are optimized. Getting body composition dialed—perhaps with the help of clenbuterol—is something that would happen earlier in the season, not during competition. If clenbuterol remains in the blood (anyone with a pharmacology background know whether this is the case?), transfusion may explain why such a low level was present when it was not detected in previous doping controls.
My opinion? Wait and see. I don’t believe Contador won the 2009 Tour clean. But he didn’t get nailed in 2009. I don’t know if he was on the juice or not this year. Time may tell. But I don’t really trust the UCI to seek justice. They’ll do what they’ve always done: regardless of the facts, they’ll watch out for number one.