Alberto Contador savours his first career Tour de France victory Sunday in Paris. ((Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images))

Alberto Contador became the first Spaniard to capture the Tour de France in more than a decade as the scandal-ridden competition wrapped up Sunday in Paris.

Contador finished the 3,500-kilometre event 23 seconds ahead of Australia's Cadel Evans, giving Spain its first title since Miguel Indurain won the last of his five Tour victories in 1995.

American Levi Leipheimer,ateammate of Contador,finished 31 seconds behind to takethird.

"I think we've seen the future of Spanish cycling and perhaps international cycling," proclaimed seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Riding for the American Discovery Channel team, the 24-year-old Contador becomes the youngest champion since Germany's Jan Ullrich claimed the crown in 1997.

"It's an extraordinary joy … a dream," said Contador.

The victory is especially sweet for Contador, who suffered a massive blood clot in his brain three years ago.

While in hospital, Contador said he drew inspiration from readinga book by Armstrong, a survivor oftesticular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.

"It really marked me for life," Contador said, "but allowed me to better savour this moment.

"This year, I hoped to win the white jersey," he said of the award given to the best rideraged 25 or younger. "I did not know that with the white jersey, the yellow one would come, too."

However, the Spaniard needed some breaks in order to cycle through Paris's Champs Eylsée during the 20th and final stage as the winner.

The 104-year-old Tour de France has been ravaged by positive doping tests and other controversiesin the past week.

Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, who held the yellow leader's jersey for virtually the entire event, was kicked out by his Rabobank team following Wednesday's 16th stage for lying about his whereabouts during pre-race training.

Rasmussen was already riding under a cloud of suspicion after missing doping tests in the weeks leading up to the Tour de France.

Prior to Rasmussen's expulsion, two riders, including pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, were expelled from the competition because of positive drug tests.

Vinokourov tested positive for a banned blood transfusion, but maintains his innocence. Cristian Moreni of Italy was ousted for an abnormal testosterone level following the 11th stage on July 19.

The doping problems have also drawn the ire ofseveral members of the International Olympic Committee, who said Friday that they want to see the sport cleaned up or be excluded from future Games.

With files from the Associated Press