Pinto, Spain (AFP) — A visibly indignant two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said on Tuesday he “totally disagreed” with his two-year doping ban but vowed to pursue his career.
Speaking for the first time since the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s sanction handed down on Monday, the 29-year-old Spaniard said he had lived through torment.
“I cannot understand the sanction that has been imposed on me,” the cyclist told a news conference at a hotel in his hometown of Pinto just south of Madrid. “As for the decision, I totally disagree,” he said, wearing a dark jacket and a white shirt unbuttoned at the collar.
“I am going to continue cycling. I am going to continue practicing it cleanly, the way I have my entire life. My mood right now is not the best but I know this will make me stronger in the future.”
Contador said he had committed no crime and yet had been hit with the heaviest penalty of a two year ban. “Anyone who reads the decision will see clearly that I did not take drugs,” he said. He said his lawyers were looking into a possible appeal.
“There have been speculations, leaks, it is been a real torment. But the hardest thing has been to see my family, the suffering they have had, my wife, for what they have accused me of,” Contador said. “And it is for something that goes against everything that has been instilled in me.”
The Spaniard said he even gave evidence under polygraph — popularly known as a lie detector. “That is five hours sitting in a chair answering questions like a real criminal.”
Contador thanked his fans and his sponsor for their support, after Saxo Bank chief Bjarne Riis told the news conference he backed the cyclist “100 percent” because he clearly did not deliberately take drugs. He was repeatedly applauded by the crowd.
Considered the most gifted racer of his generation, Contador was handed a two-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following a positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol.
Backdated to August 2010, when he announced the news of his positive test weeks after his third yellow jersey triumph, the ban means Contador can return to competition on August 6, 2012.
As well as ruling him out of this year’s Tour de France and the Olympic Games in London, he will be stripped, among other wins, of his 2010 yellow jersey which will now be handed to runner-up, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
His determination to carry on means he may compete at the Tour of Spain in September, a race Contador won in 2008 when he also won the Giro d’Italia.
Two months after his positive test, the Spaniard, claiming he was the victim of a contaminated steak eaten during the Tour de France, and had said he would consider quitting if banned.
If he is to find any kind of succour from the CAS decision, it is the fact doping experts believe he did not ingest clenbuterol intentionally. They deemed the Spaniard was likely a victim of a contaminated food supplement.
The loss of Contador could also have huge ramifications for his team. Run by Riis, a former Tour de France winner who owned up to cheating with drugs to win the race in 1996, Contador is the team’s marquee rider in stage races. But more importantly, his WorldTour ranking points are crucial.
Affiliation to the WorldTour series — via a system governed by ranking points, financial viability and sound ethical principles — guarantees entry to cycling’s biggest races. On his own, Contador has racked up a massive amount of the points required by the team for entry to the series — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
The sport’s ruling body was also due to ask its licenses commission on Tuesday to gauge whether Saxo Bank has the right to remain in the UCI WorldTour.