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MORBEGNO, Italy (Reuters) - Alberto Contador's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing next month over a failed dope test has been postponed, officials said on Thursday.
The decision means the triple Tour de France champion may now be able to ride in this year's race.
"Following the agreement between the appellants and the respondents, the CAS has accepted to postpone the hearing...in order to give to all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare for such hearing and to guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts," CAS said in a statement.
"Accordingly, the CAS Panel has decided to cancel the hearing initially scheduled for 6-7-8 June 2011. New hearing dates will be fixed as soon as possible."
Tour de France organisers were surprised, but still hopeful that the matter would be settled before the race starts on July 2.
"We are surprised, especially since a very precise date had been set," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters.
"But we still hope that it will be resolved before the Tour, and that's still a possibility."
Contador, who tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during last year's Tour, has been cleared by the Spanish cycling federation. The International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency have both appealed against the decision.
Contador is allowed to race until the appeal process is over and currently leads the Giro d'Italia.
The 28-year-old Spaniard, who said before the Italian event that he wanted to win both the Giro and the Tour this year, has denied any wrongdoing, blaming contaminated meat for the positive test.
If eventually found guilty, Contador would lose his 2010 Tour title and face a possible two-year ban from the sport, meaning that the Saxo Bank-Sungard rider would also lose his likely Giro victory.
Contador has been hailed as one of the best grands tours riders ever and is one of only five men with titles in the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta.
Additional reporting by Julien Pretot in Paris; editing by Clare Fallon and John Mehaffey