Alberto Contador says he may quit cycling if banned for doping

UPDATED: A defiant Alberto Contador hints he may leave cycling if he draws a ban and loses his third Tour victory.

Alberto Contador says he may retire from cycling if he’s handed down a racing ban and disqualified from the 2010 Tour de France after he tested positive for traces of clenbuterol en route to winning July’s Tour.

Speaking to Spanish television TeleCinco on primetime over the weekend, the beleaguered Contador hinted he may walk away for good from cycling if anti-doping officials deliver a racing ban and take away his 2010 Tour victory.

“If this is not resolved favorably and in a just fashion, then I would have to reconsider or not I would ever come back to the bike,” Contador said on La Noria. “I am very optimistic and I think things will be resolved favorably.”

Contador tested positive for clenbuterol on a rest-day control a day ahead of the decisive Tourmalet climbing stage en route to his narrow, hard-fought third Tour victory just ahead of Andy Schleck.

The Spanish rider made a big media push over the weekend, speaking on various national television stations to promote his version of events. A poll found that nearly 80 percent of all Spaniards believe Contador’s account.

Contador is defiant in claiming traces of the banned product came from contaminated steaks that were purchased in nearby Spain in the coastal town of Irun. He says they were brought into France by the organizer of the Vuelta a Castilla y León and eaten during a rest-day dinner “to not be rude.”

Contador’s claims have caused quite a stir in the Spanish beef industry, however, which insists the drug is also banned for use in cattle and has not been used in years.

Spanish officials closely regulate the origin of beef, in part to combat an outbreak of mad cow disease 10 years ago, so there is some effort under way to try to find out where the animals were raised in an attempt to discover if they were fed products that might contain clenbuterol.

Skeptics, however, have suggested that Contador may have transfused his own blood and that the traces of clenbuterol could have come from tainted blood extracted earlier in the season.

The French sports daily L’Equipe also reported that the same lab in Cologne, Germany, has found other residue in Contador’s blood sample that could suggest an auto-transfusion of blood. The paper reported that the lab has detected evidence of DEHP, which some say is released into blood stored in plastic bags.

Contador strongly denied transfusing blood.

“If they want to analyze every sample that I gave during the Tour in as many labs as they want or if they prefer, they can freeze them and test them again in three or five years with whatever future methods of testing they might have,” Contador said. “They can do what they want. I have nothing to hide.”

Contador’s cycling future certainly hangs in the balance. He could face up to a two-year ban and be disqualified from the 2010 Tour.

The UCI seems to be giving Contador the benefit of the doubt and has said that the case warranted “further scientific investigation” because the Cologne laboratory which detected the clenbuterol is known to be able to detect the tiniest traces of drugs.

“The concentration found by the laboratory was estimated at 50 picograms which is 40 (sic) times less than what the anti-doping laboratories accredited by WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) must be able to detect,” the UCI said Friday, adding that analysis of a B sample “confirmed the first.”