South African cyclist Daryl Impey has been cleared of doping charges and will return to racing with his Orica-GreenEdge team in Canada in the coming weeks.

In late June Impey was notified by Cycling South Africa that he had returned an “adverse analytical finding” for the banned diuretic Probenicid at an in-competition drug test at the country’s national time trial championships back in February. Impey has always maintained his innocence, saying in a statement on his website in late June that he “had no knowledge of Probenicid nor have I ever taken the substance knowingly in any manner.”

In a hearing in Johannesburg yesterday, Impey was informed that he had been absolved of any wrongdoing after a Durban pharmacist took responsibility for contaminating empty gelatine capsules that Impey had bought.

The Star newspaper in South Africa reports that Impey had visited the chemist to buy empty capsules to fill with bicarbonate of soda for use in the South African road race championships. Impey was reportedly told that the pharmacist had no capsules but later received a call saying that some capsules had been found. Impey went back to the chemist to buy the capsules that afternoon.

According to The Star, the pharmacist had dispensed Probenicid to another customer just before servig Impey, and that “his hands had contaminated Impey’s capsules”. At Thursday’s hearing, the pharmacy produced cash register receipts showing time and purchase information to confirm the story.

“It’s just utter, utter relief that justice has been done,” Impey said on Thursday. “Everything that has happened, all the bad publicity, all the mud that has been thrown at my name, it’s never going to be rectified, but I knew I hadn’t doped and would never dope. We presented the hearing with hard facts, factual proof. This was no ‘maybe’ or ‘could have been’.”

A clause in Impey’s contract with Orica-GreenEdge forced the South African to pay back his salary to the team in the case of a guilty doping verdict.

“The amount of money I have lost is hard to quantify. It’s a huge loss of income. There have been massive repercussions for my family and me. My name has been dragged through the mud.”

Impey and his lawyers are reportedly considering action against the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) after the initial announcement about Impey’s positive test was delayed for more than four months, until just before the Tour de France.

“The delay is inexcusable,” said Impey. I have the right to have my hearing done quickly and expeditiously. It was hugely disappointing missing out on Tour de France, and the Vuelta. This could have been sorted out in May and April, I could have got on with my career.

“We’ll think about things like what other action to take later. I want to get back to do my job. I know SAIDS have to do their job, and it is an important one. We co-operated with them. We had proper facts, hard facts, hard evidence. The delay by SAIDS meant we had to back five months, to retrace our steps. That’s not fair play in sport.”

The Star reports that Impey will return to competition for Orica-GreenEdge in Canada. It it not yet known exactly which races he will take part in, but the is set to ride in the Tour of Alberta from September 2 to 7, and in the GP de Quebec (September 12) and GP de Montreal (September 14).

“We are extremely happy with the fact that Daryl has been 100% cleared to race and we all look forward to having him back riding for us”, Orica-GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan said. “Daryl is a key rider for the team and we very pleased with how he has handled his case and the process around it. We will reinstate Daryl in our racing roster as soon as possible.”