GENEVA - Another day, another doping case, another Tour de France result amended.
Cycling revisited its scandal-scarred recent history again Thursday as the Court of Arbitration for Sport found a Tour winner guilty of doping for the second time this week.
Jan Ullrich, the 1997 champion, was stripped of his third-place finish in the 2005 race for "intensive involvement" in blood doping linked to the Operation Puerto case. The 38-year-old German was also banned from the sport for two years.
Because Ullrich retired in disgrace after the Spanish doping probe emerged in 2006, his latest shame lacked the impact of Alberto Contador's defeat at sport's highest court on Monday.
Contador was stripped of his third Tour victory after CAS rejected his explanation that eating contaminated meat caused his positive tests for clenbuterol in the final days of the 2010 race.
The 29-year-old Spaniard's backdated two-year ban will remove the best Tour de France rider since Lance Armstrong from this year's race at the peak of his career.
Both cases represented victories for the International Cycling Union, whose appeals forced the star riders to fight for their reputations in court.
Yet the two often-delayed cases, launched years apart, delivered back-to-back decisions which reinforced the perception that cycling is riven with cheating.
In addition, French great Jeannie Longo became embroiled in scandal Wednesday when her husband was arrested on suspicion of buying the banned performance-enhancer EPO.
The UCI, which described Contador's sanction as "a sad day" for cycling, declined to comment on Ullrich's case before studying the ruling of the CAS panel.
The 24-page document spoke volumes about doping in the peloton almost a decade ago.
Ullrich had been "fully engaged" in the doping program of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes that was exposed in Operation Puerto, the panel wrote.
"In particular, the UCI alleges that Ullrich engaged in blood doping (a prohibited method) and used several prohibited substances, including growth hormones, IGF-1, testosterone patches (PCH), EPO and a masking substance referred to as 'magic powder' that is said to destroy EPO in urine samples," it said. IGF-1 is a hormone similar to insulin.
The panel expressed "surprise" that Ullrich did not challenge the evidence at a hearing held last August. Instead, Ullrich's lawyers focused only on procedural issues, arguing that the case should be heard by an anti-doping tribunal in Switzerland where he held his rider's licence.
The CAS arbitrators also suggested Ullrich's doping started before May 2005, the date from which they annulled all his race results.
"The evidence presented by the UCI shows that Ullrich's intensive involvement with Dr. Fuentes' doping program goes back to at least 2004, and likely substantially earlier," CAS said.
In 2003, Ullrich finished runner-up to seven-time Tour winner Armstrong for the third time in a four-year span.
Thursday's verdict showed how the 2005 Tour, Armstrong's final victory, had been affected by the Puerto doping ring organized by Fuentes from Madrid.
Second-place Ivan Basso of Italy later served a two-year ban based on Puerto links, and Ullrich's sanction will likely move another Puerto suspect, Spanish rider Francisco Mancebo, up to third place.
Armstrong had stood on the podium on the Champs Elysees in Paris that day, flanked by Basso and Ullrich, and praised the integrity of cycling's greatest race.
Aiming his words at "the cynics and the skeptics," Armstrong said he was "sorry you don't believe in miracles. You should believe in these athletes and you should believe in these people."
Ullrich had travelled to Madrid to link up with Fuentes's doping operations "on multiple occasions" and paid C80,000 (US$106,000) for his services, the CAS ruling said.
The rider's DNA was later matched by German authorities to blood bags seized in Spain.
Tour de France organizer ASO declined comment to The Associated Press about having to reorder another race result for the history books.
It is unclear if the CAS panel suspect Ullrich was blood doping when he won an Olympic gold medal in the road race at the 2000 Sydney Games. He also won silver in the time trial, knocking Armstrong into the bronze medal position.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement to The AP that it "would not be appropriate" to comment before studying the judgment.
German Olympic leader Thomas Bach said he hoped the Ullrich and Contador verdicts would deter other athletes from doping.
"It is regrettable that Jan Ullrich didn't take the chance sooner to create clarity himself," Bach, an IOC vice-president, said in a statement.
Ullrich's sentence could have been heavier.
CAS rejected the International Cycling Union's request to impose a life ban and disqualify all of Ullrich's results since May 2002.
CAS said Ullrich's six-month ban for using amphetamines outside of competition in 2002 should not be classed as a doping offence. A second offence can trigger a life ban.
The UCI wanted Ullrich prevented him from ever working again in professional cycling. It had appealed to CAS to challenge a decision by Switzerland's Olympic committee to decline responsibility for prosecuting the former Swiss-based rider.
CAS took jurisdiction for the much-delayed case, and ultimately rendered a damning verdict on cycling's recent history.