Alberto Contador plans to make sure his two-year doping ban does not mark the end of his career.
Contador on Tuesday vowed to return to the pinnacle of cycling, maintaining his innocence in the face of a verdict by sport’s highest court that stripped the Spanish star of his 2010 Tour de France title and blotted his illustrious career with a big doping stain. He said his lawyers are still considering whether to appeal his two-year ban — which is retroactive and will expire in August — and he insisted that even if the punishment stands, he will return to challenge for more Tour titles.
“I’m sure of one thing, I want to come back to ride the best races,” Contador said at a press conference, making in his first comments since Monday’s verdict ended an 18-month doping investigation that again highlighted cycling’s long-standing problem with banned substances.
Contador had previously hinted that he might quit if banned for testing positive for clenbuterol on his way to winning a third Tour title in 2010.
The Spaniard had based his defense on a bad steak, saying he must have digested the clenbuterol — a banned anabolic agent — by eating contaminated meat that his team imported from Spain during the Tour.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport did not accept that excuse, saying it was more likely that it came from a food supplement.
“Something doesn’t work with the system,” Contador said at a crowded press conference in his native Pinto, on the outskirts of Madrid. “My lawyers and I will fight as far as we need to demonstrate my innocence.”
Contador said his legal team are examining whether to appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court, which is the only body he can still turn to in hopes of being exonerated.
“I’ve tried everything to understand this ruling, but I cannot. I cannot understand this ban they have handed me,” said Contador, who underwent a lie-detector test during the doping investigation. “If there is anything else I can do to prove my innocence, I’d like to know.”
“The only satisfaction I feel is that whatever decision was reached, the ruling never says I doped,” Contador said during a 50-minute press conference that was often interrupted by rounds of applause and yells of “Contador” from supportive locals. “There was never an intention on my part.”
Contador would not comment on his financial situation, with the International Cycling Union (UCI) looking to fine him 2.4 million euros (US$3.25 million). His Saxo Bank-SunGard team boss Bjarne Riis said on Tuesday that Contador would not be paid if he is not racing.
Contador, who tested positive during a rest day at the 2010 Tour, will be stripped of all results from races in which he participated since Jan. 25, last year. That includes his Giro d’Italia victory last season.
“They can take those two years and fine me, but they can never take away my victories,” a defiant, yet soft-spoken Contador said.
Contador is banned from riding until Aug. 6 and he will miss this year’s Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Olympics in London.
AP, LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND
WADA on Tuesday urged US federal authorities to quickly hand over evidence collected in their lengthy probe into retired seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and doping in US cycling.
WADA president John Fahey said federal agencies in the US gathered “significant evidence” in the criminal investigation that was closed last week with no charges filed and no explanation given.
Fahey said it would be “very, very helpful if that information was handed over” to the US Anti-Doping Agency. That agency has said it will continue its own probe into doping in cycling.
Federal prosecutors dropped the investigation into Armstrong on Friday, ending a nearly two-year effort aimed at determining whether the world’s most famous cyclist and his teammates joined in a doping program during his greatest years.
“There has been significant evidence taken on anti-doping areas, on what may have occurred in the way of doping. It would be very, very helpful if that information was handed over,” Fahey said of the US probe that was led by federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who also investigated baseball players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.