Spain's cycling federation last month proposed a one-year suspension of Mr. Contador, which would have stripped him of his 2010 Tour title.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) will have one month to appeal the unexpected decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will have two months.
The Spanish cycling federation's decision comes after Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero last week tweeted “there is no legal reason” to justify a suspension of Contador, which many criticized as undue pressure on federation officials. Contador has accused international associations of making him a scapegoat.
Minute traces of clenbuterol were found in his blood during a rest day in the last Tour de France. The agent is used to improve leanness in cattle and humans.
The beloved Spanish cyclist has said the traces came from a contaminated steak a friend brought for him. The European Union has banned the drug for use in animals for years, but a recent Spanish investigation found illicit use of clenbuterol in cattle on the Canary Islands, reported the cycling website VeloNews.
The decision, which could trigger a revamp of international anti-doping standards that many defend as imperative, is sure to be controversial, especially for those who see favoritism toward Contador following multiple suspensions of other cyclists for using clenbuterol.