Alberto Contador has reiterated his intention to take his fight to the courts and rejected arguments that he should accept the shortened, one-year ban offered by the Spanish cycling federation.
Interviewed on Spanish radio, Contador insisted that he’s innocent of claims that he doped en route to winning last year’s Tour de France after traces of clenbuterol were detected in his system on a rest-day control.
“If I accept a sanction is would be to admit that I have done something and I will not admit to anything,” he said on La Larguero. “When you’ve done something, you can study it and look for a way out, but when you’ve absolutely done nothing, it’s difficult to try to think like that.”
The Spanish cycling federation has proposed a one-year ban for Contador, something he rejects on principle, claiming that the clenbuterol entered his system after he ate contaminated steaks brought to France from Spain during the Tour’s second rest day.
Some suggest, including his ex-manager at Astana, Giuseppe Martinelli, that Contador should accept the shortened ban because he’ll risk getting an even longer ban if he challenges the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Martinelli suggested that Contador take a reduced ban and get back to racing as quickly as possible. Contador could return to racing in August if WADA and UCI do not exercise their right to appeal the ruling.
“He should accept his ban and start thinking when he can ride again,” Martinelli was quoted by La Gazzetta. “I want to stress that I think Alberto is clean … I am convinced he did nothing illegal, but it’s not easy to prove. There are times when you must choose.”
Contador countered that it’s not easy to accept a ban when one believes in his innocence.
“If you start thinking about what’s practical, maybe it’s the best thing to do, but it’s difficult to accept something like that. I am in this position because people just shut up and take it. Right now, I simply cannot accept that,” Contador said.
“It’s as if someone picks you up on the street and they say, ‘OK, we’re going to throw you in jail for five years,’ but of course, you’ve done nothing. And then they say, ‘If you speak out, we’ll put you in jail for 10 years.’ It’s just like that.”
Contador also held out hope that the Spanish cycling federation could yet still change its mind. The one-year ban is still a proposal; the ruling will not be finalized until the coming days. Contador said his legal team will present more documentation in his favor.
“We are working very hard, strengthening some arguments and introducing some interesting new ones that can have a big influence for a possible change in the ruling and perhaps change the direction of this case,” Contador said. “We have to be prudent.”
Spanish cycling federation officials told VeloNews that a final decision should be taken February 10-15.
Contador also backtracked on earlier comments that he would retire from cycling if banned.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Contador said. “I cannot think of leaving the bike due to the amount of encouragement I get and I feel good despite everything that’s going on. If there’s a ban, I will do whatever it takes to defend myself. I will never accept a pact.”