Alberto Contador is hunkering down this weekend to celebrate the Christmas holidays with family and friends in Spain as he faces a far from certain future.
With the possibility of a two-year ban after traces of clenbuterol were detected in his system, the beleaguered three-time Tour de France champion is trying to maintain a façade of normalcy as the decision looms from the Spanish cycling federation.
“Alberto is with his family and wants to enjoy some quiet days,” Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte told VeloNews. “Of course, Alberto is very affected by this situation. He’s trying to not let it get to it him, but it’s not easy.”
Vidarte said that the Contador camp has no idea when the four-member competition committee of the Spanish cycling federation will make a decision about the clenbuterol case. The president of the Spanish cycling federation said last week that a decision likely won’t come until at least mid-January.
Until then, Contador can only try to keep his focus on training and remain close to his family and friends in his hometown of Pinto, a small community south of Madrid.
Vidarte said Contador is sticking to his training schedule and preparing for the 2011 season despite not knowing if he’ll be cleared of charges or enter into what would likely be a drawn-out legal process that could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if WADA, the UCI or Contador exercise their right to appeal.
“Alberto is maintaining his full training schedule, but right now, it’s very light,” Vidarte said. “There’s no pressure, he had always planned to come into the 2011 season a little easier than he’s done the past few years anyway.”
Contador has largely avoided the public eye since an emotional press conference in late September, when he denied knowingly taking clenbuterol and made the claim that the banned substance found its way into his system after eating contaminated steaks brought into France from Spain.
On Christmas eve, Contador posted a message on his Twitter account for the first time in nearly three weeks. His three posted messages seemed to capture his mood, defiant yet quietly optimistic.
“Hello, long time – this will not be my best Christmas or the quietest. I hope that in 2011, coherence, ethics and truth will prevail to do justice,” Contador wrote. Also thanking his teammates at Saxo Bank-Sungard, he wrote: “Next year will be HISTORIC. Querer es poder (where there’s a will, there’s a way), Merry Christmas.”
Vidarte said Contador enjoyed the two-week training camp with his new Saxo Bank-Sungard team in mid-December. Though banned from competition, the UCI ruled that Contador could train with his new team while waiting for the legal process to unfold.
Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis said he believes in his new team captain, who left Astana to pen a deal with Riis just weeks before the clenbuterol story broke. That confidence is important to Contador, Vidarte said.
“The first contact with the team in Fuerteventura was very positive. He was able to forget a little bit about the problems surrounding him and came back in good spirits after two weeks together with his new teammates,” Vidarte said. “They really supported him, from the team to his teammates. He’s fully integrated into the team. “
Whether Contador and his legal team can beat back the clenbuterol charges remains to be seen. Contador claims that the minute traces of clenbuterol entered his system after eating tainted meat laced with the banned product, something that’s raised the ire among Spanish beef producers who say that their meat is uncontaminated and where the drug has been banned by the European Union since the mid-1990s.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, however, has been consistent in interpreting WADA rules and recently filed motions to appeal a decision to by the German table tennis association to not ban Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who also claims he triggered a false clenbuterol positive after eating meat on a trip to China.
Contador and his supporters remain cautiously optimistic that Contador will be fighting his battles on the bike and not in the courtroom come 2011.
“We haven’t spoken yet about (a racing schedule yet). It’s foolish to plan too far in advance for anything until we know what the decision will be. That will change everything,” Vidarte said. “We are still optimistic that the legal defense of Alberto will be able to clearly demonstrate that this was a case of contamination and we’re hoping for the best.”