MONACO (AFP) – Embattled Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was wiped from the record when his former Astana team staged its 2011 launch on Friday.
Contador, who was provisionally suspended after failing a drugs test on the 2010 Tour, did not feature in Astana’s video presentation to showcase the 27-strong team for the new season.
Neither was he mentioned by name despite having been responsible for Astana’s leading triumphs last year before leaving to race for the Saxo team.
“We decided to do it like this because it’s a new season that is about to begin,” said team leader Alexander Vinokourov, who also took the opportunity to announce his retirement from cycling at the end of 2011.
But despite Contador’s mounting problems, which have seen him facing a one-year ban handed out by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC), Vinokourov is standing by his former teammate.
“No decision has been taken. Contador is still the winner of the Tour de France,” he said.
Earlier Friday, Contador, on the edge of tears, denied taking performance enhancing drugs and vowed to appeal a ban.
“I will appeal wherever necessary to defend my innocence to the end,” he told a news conference at his Saxo’s team hotel on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca.
The RFEC on Wednesday informed Contador of its recommendation of a one-year suspension for his positive drugs test from the 2010 Tour de France.
But it left it to the discretion of the three-time Tour de France champion as to whether he made it public.
The 28-year-old rider has 10 days to appeal, but faces becoming only the second Tour de France champion to be stripped of his title, after American Floyd Landis in 2006.
The rider denies any wrongdoing and says he unknowingly ingested trace elements of clenbuterol from beef brought from Spain to France during the second rest day of the Tour.