Spanish anti-doping authorities have tightened their controls on five cyclists, a government official said Thursday, a week after three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was suspended.
“There are five Spanish cyclists who are facing a higher degree of controls than the others because of a series of unusual parameters,” Albert Soler, the Director General of the Spanish Sports Council, said at a conference on doping.
“We have five Spanish cyclists who we suspect may be in a dangerous situation,” he added.
Soler did not name the cyclists but he stressed that Contador was not among the five.
Contador was provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on September 30 after a small amount of the muscle-building drug clenbuterol was found in a blood sample taken during this year’s Tour de France race which he won for the third time.
The 27-year-old Spanish rider, who has signed a two-year deal with Saxo Bank for the 2011 season, insists he is the victim of contaminated meat brought in from Spain which he ate.
The UCI has provisionally suspended four other cyclists in recent weeks — Margarita Fullana, Ezequiel Mosquera, David Garcia and Oscar Sevilla — after they tested positive for banned substances.
Spain’s secretary of state for sports, Jaime Lissavetzky, said despite this recent wave of suspensions, the country’s doping problem was “not greater or smaller than in the rest of the world”.
“It is a global problem,” he told the conference. “There is a political will, a real desire to continue the fight against doping (in Spain).”
UCI president Pat McQuaid said on Saturday that the Spanish government should be doing more to tackle the doping problems tarnishing the image of its cyclists.
“The government needs to first of all recognize there is a problem and I don’t know that they’ve actually recognised it as a problem,” he said at the World Road Race Championships in Australia.