Bjarne Riis, the director of Saxo Bank, says he has a “plan B” in case Alberto Contador receives a racing ban after testing positive for small levels of clenbuterol.
Contador was Riis’s high-profile acquisition ahead of the 2011 season, but things have gone sideways with the news that Contador tested positive for traces of clenbuterol. Contador insists he’s innocent and says the minute levels of the banned substance come from eating contaminated meat.
Riis is caught in the middle. So far, he’s publicly defending Contador’s presumption of innocence, but he’s also quietly working in the background to come up with something in case Contador receives a racing ban.
“I have to make a ‘Plan B,’” Riis told the Danish daily Sporten. “But I am not going to say here and now what it is.”
There’s some speculation that the UCI will try to resolve the Contador case ahead of the presentation of the route of the 2011 Tour de France, set for Tuesday in Paris.
Based on what’s happened in previous controversial cases, it’s highly unlikely that the Contador situation can be resolved so quickly and cleanly. There could be an appeal by WADA if the UCI delivers a ruling that’s considered inappropriate.
Contador could face a two-year ban and become disqualified
That uncertainty leaves Riis in an awkward situation. His title sponsor, Saxo Bank, stuck around, in part, to back the arrival of three-time Tour champ Contador. So far, Saxo Bank is taking a wait and see posture and is continuing its support of the team.
Riis is already losing a big chunk of his star lineup, with the Schleck brothers bringing along several of the team’s big riders, including Jens Voigt, Stuart O’Grady, Jakob Fulgsang and perhaps Fabian Cancellara. Others leaving include Alex Rasmussen and Matti Breschel.
If Contador is sanctioned, Riis will have a hard time trying to find a replacement rider of the same caliber in today’s high competitive rider market.
Contador, meanwhile, suggested he might retire no matter what happens in his case. The Spanish daily El Mundo quoted a conversation between Contador and the president of the Spanish cycling federation, Carlos Castano.
“I am so discouraged with everything that is happening that I am thinking about leaving cycling,” Contador told the president of the Spanish cycling federation. “I have mixed feelings. What’s clear is that more time passses, things just get worse. There are a lot of interests around this.”