Cycling's governing body says it is appealing Alberto Contador's doping case to protect the sport's integrity.
International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid said he wants the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rule on Contador's case because of suspicions Spanish cycling officials were put under political pressure to overturn the Tour de France winner's proposed one-year ban.
McQuaid said the appeal was "something I feel we had to do" for the good of the sport.
Contador was cleared by the Spanish Cycling Federation after he blamed eating contaminated beef for a positive doping test on July 21, 2010, a rest day during last year's Tour de France.
"The Spanish federation received a huge amount of pressure from outside, including from the prime minister and so forth," McQuaid told The Associated Press at the track cycling world championships. "So it left a great deal of doubt in a lot of people's minds as to whether there was influence or not.
"They said there was no influence but the perception was that there could have been. In order to clear up all of that it was important we give it to an independent ... board such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport."
The UCI announced last September that Contador was provisionally suspended after minute traces of clenbuterol were found in his system, and asked the Spanish federation to investigate.
The Spanish body's disciplinary committee originally proposed a one-year ban for Contador in January. Contador's legal team then offered new evidence and he was cleared to race three weeks later.
Days before the decision to clear Contador, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said "there's no legal reason to justify sanctioning Contador."
The World Anti-Doping Agency, which has three weeks to decide whether to join the UCI appeal, regards clenbuterol, a banned anabolic agent which burns fat and builds muscle, as a zero-tolerance drug. However, its rules allow athletes to escape a sanction if they prove "no fault or negligence" on their part.
It is now up to sport's highest court to decide.
"We will accept whatever decision they make," McQuaid said. "I think from the credibility of the sport's point of view, for the fans of cycling, for the family of cycling and everybody it's important we get a result that everybody believes in."
McQuaid said he hopes CAS can deliver its judgment before the July 2 start of this year's Tour de France, but said that depended on "cooperation from the different parties."
CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said Thursday it would be difficult but "not impossible" to deliver a verdict before the Tour starts. That would allow Contador a chance to defend his title if cleared.
If a CAS panel finds him guilty of doping, Contador faces a two-year ban and loss of his Tour victory.
Contador can continue racing until CAS gives a verdict, and he says he plans to start the May 7-29 Giro d'Italia, which he won in 2008. This week he is riding in the Volta of Catalunya, which finishes Sunday in Barcelona. He held the overall lead going into Friday's stage.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
- Tour de France
- International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid