(Reuters) - Spain's Juan Jose Cobo has been found guilty of an anti-doping rule violation based on "abnormalities" in his biological passport between 2009 and 2011, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Thursday.
Cycling's world governing body has imposed a three-year suspension on the now retired 38-year-old, with Spanish media reporting that he could also be stripped of his 2011 Vuelta a Espana title.
That would mean Briton Chris Froome, who finished second ahead of Bradley Wiggins in the race, could be awarded the victory for his seventh Grand Tour crown.
"The anti-doping tribunal found (Cobo) guilty of an anti-doping rule violation based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his biological passport and imposed a three-year period of ineligibility on the rider," UCI said in a statement.
"In accordance with the procedural rules of the anti-doping tribunal, the decision will be published on the UCI website in due course."
A biological passport is an electronic record where results of all doping tests by a rider over a period of time are collated and compared.
The UCI said that Cobo had used a prohibited substance but did not state what it was.
Cobo can appeal the decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport within a month.
Froome is currently in intensive care in France following surgery after a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine on Wednesday that ruled him out of next month's Tour de France.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)