GENEVA -- Alberto Contador can expect to find out in January if he will keep his 2010 Tour de France victory or be stripped of the title for doping.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday that a verdict is expected in early 2012 after a four-day hearing into the Spanish rider's case next week.
Contador is due to appear at the highest court in world sports in Lausanne, Switzerland, starting next Monday to present his defense that contaminated beef caused his positive test for clenbuterol.
CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said the three-man appeal panel likely will need "six to eight weeks" to publish its ruling.
"It is a normal period of time for a case of this complexity," Reeb told The Associated Press by telephone.
Contador tested positive for clenbuterol in the final days of his third Tour victory.
The International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency appealed to CAS after the Spanish cycling federation cleared Contador of blame in February.
The World Anti-Doping Code classes clenbuterol, an anabolic agent which can help burn fat and build muscle. as a zero-tolerance substance.
However, athletes can be exonerated if they prove how they consumed it and were not at fault. Contador claims he ate Spanish beef contaminated by the drug.
If found guilty, Contador faces a ban of up to two years and losing his 2010 Tour title and 2011 Giro d'Italia victory.
CAS procedural rules allow its arbitration panels to issue fast-track decisions with detailed reasons to follow later, if all parties agree.
"There is no such request. There is no particular need for speed," Reeb said.
Contador's case has twice been delayed after lawyers for both sides asked the court for more time to prepare. Previously scheduled three-day hearings in June and August were postponed.