A “disgusted” Alberto Contador hit out at the Spanish cycling federation, which he accused of “caving in” to pressure from anti-doping authorities after it proposed he serve a one-year ban from cycling.
The future of the three-time Tour de France champion has hung in the balance since he announced last August he had tested positive for traces of the banned substance clenbuterol during last July’s race.
Despite repeatedly denying taking any banned substances, blaming the result on food contamination, it increasingly looks like stage racing’s biggest talent will be banned for at least a year.
The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) made a proposal last month to ban Contador for a year, an offer which was seen by experts as a compromise deal.
However Contador immediately vowed to appeal the ban as he had done nothing wrong.
He now believes the RFEC was pressured into making the proposal by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and feels “let down” by his federation’s failure to clear him.
“The UCI and WADA exerted a lot of pressure before that proposal” from the RFEC was made on January 26,” the Spaniard said in an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE on Thursday.
“The RFEC knows I’ve always advocated an anti-doping stance. Everyone knows what’s going on, but now I’m in a position where I’m facing a ban. It really makes you lose confidence” in the system.
“I’m disgusted … I feel really let down by the attitude of the federation. This case has become way too politicized and it has prejudiced my case.”
He added: “The federation has our entire dossier. It is a long and comprehensive work which clears everything up.
“They could have consulted an article which proves my innocence, but they haven’t and for that I am disappointed,” he told EFE.
Support from on high
Contador got some encouragement from Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who spoke up in the rider’s defense.
“Zapatero says ‘there is no legal reason to sanction Contador,'” his office
said in a statement released on Twitter, @desdelamoncloa.
A defiant Contador said he would fight any future ban all the way: “I’m ready for whichever battle comes up.”
The RFEC is soon expected to confirm the length of Contador’s sanction.
If however the Spanish cycling authorities fail to ban Contador, the UCI, which is understood to want to apply the anti-doping rules to the letter, would likely appeal to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a bid to ban the Spaniard.
The 28-year-old, also a former winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, would then lose his 2010 Tour de France victory.
Clenbuterol is a banned bronchodilator, which offers weight-loss/muscle-building advantages and is illicitly used in cattle. Contador claims he ate a steak that was contaminated by the drug. The substance was banned by the European Union in 1996 but some studies have shown it is still illegally administered by some cattle farmers.