PUIGPUNYENT, Spain (VN) — An angry Alberto Contador on Friday vowed to fight a proposed one-year doping ban and reasserted his claims of innocence against charges that he doped to win the 2010 Tour de France.
Speaking publicly for the first time since news broke Wednesday that he’s facing a one-year ban and disqualification of his 2010 Tour victory after traces of clenbuterol turned up in a doping control, Contador promised to fight “until the end” to clear his name.
“I will fight to prove my innocence until the end, no matter how long it takes,” Contador said at a press conference. “I am innocent. I have never doped in my career. I say that loud and clear, with my head held high. I am an example of cleanliness in this sport.”
A defiant and angry Contador opened the hour-long press conference with an emotional tirade when he lashed out at media reports that he says slandered his reputation and suggested that the anti-doping rules are corrupt and unfair.
“I feel like a victim of a system that doesn’t allow you to defend yourself and that allows false positives to be punished as if they were cheaters,” Contador said. “It’s incredible and embarrassing all the things that have happened these past few months. It’s been like a public lynching, a political fight, a war between the UCI and WADA. It’s has left me disillusioned and embittered.
“I’ve been amazing to read and hear people say things that were completely false, but for respect for the process, I have preferred to stay on the sidelines, to stay quiet, to do my work on the bike and let the process unfold,” he continued. “As you all know, the day before yesterday I received the proposed ban of a possible one-year ban, but it’s an absolute disgrace that after waiting all these months that I learned about it from the media than from the appropriate authorities. … I used to believe in the anti-doping system and that it worked. Now I do not believe that anymore.”
Contador’s angriest comments came in veiled reference to media reports that the clenbuterol might have entered his system through a blood transfusion. Contador did not directly comment on other media reports that say samples of his blood also revealed traces of plastic residue that could indicate blood transfusions. Experts, however, are working on a new testing protocol that might allow anti-doping officials to eventually detect blood transfusions, but the technology has not been vetted and approved, and does not apply to the ongoing Contador case.
Contador’s legal team has another week to respond to Spanish cycling authorities before the proposed ban if finalized and passed to the UCI. All parties — the UCI, WADA and Contador — will then have 30 days to possibly appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
When asked if it would be more pragmatic to simply accept a one-year ban and perhaps be back to racing as soon as this summer, Contador replied with an emphatic no.
“That would something truly difficult. I am going to all the necessary steps that my legal team suggests and fight all the way to the end,” he said. “It’s not a question of money, or a race, it’s a question of honor. I have to defend my innocence.”
With his commitment to fight his ban, it seems more and more likely that Contador will not be at the 2011 Tour de France, something that Contador seems to be resigning himself to.
“Right now I am only thinking about finding a solution of this case,” he said. “To be at the start of the next Tour motivates me a lot, but right now that’s not the most important thing for me.”
Contador said the long waiting game and slow procedures involving his case that started with notification by the UCI on August 24 have left him embittered about the way anti-doping rules are written and enforced.
“I have done more than 500 controls in my career — that’s a lot. And many of them were surprise controls, when I had to interrupt family meals at my home, birthday celebrations, I’ve had to leave movies, all because I believed in the anti-doping system,” he said. “It’s difficult to sit quietly while I watch my name and reputation be defamed when the only error I committed was to eat some meat that I didn’t test before to see if it had clenbuterol in it.”
Contador also cooled on earlier claims that he would retire from cycling if he was handed down a ban.
“A few times over these past few months I was at the point of exploding, of crashing down, I simply couldn’t take it anymore,” Contador said. “Now I have changed my mind, a lot of time has passed, my emotions have tempered. Now I know I have felt the support of my team, above all from the support of the fans, who ask me not to give up, to keep fighting.”