Spaniards believe Alberto Contador’s beef explanation

VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood reports that most Spaniards support their Tour champion

Alberto Contador news conference, Sept. 20, 2010
Contador at Thursday's news conference

In what’s not a surprise, an online poll conducted by the Spanish sports daily Marca reveals that more than three-quarters of those polled believe Alberto Contador’s beef tale.

Contador claims that contaminated Spanish beef was the root of his failed doping test taken during the Tour de France on July 21 that revealed minute levels of the banned substance Clenbuterol.

According to the poll from more than 30,000 users, 78.5 percent backed Contador’s claims. 21.5 percent said they did not believe their compatriot.

An emotional Contador held a press conference Thursday to give his account of how the banned substance found its way into his body.

“It all happened on July 20. The organizer of the Vuelta a Castilla y León was coming to the Tour. The cook asked him if he could bring a good cut of meat. This person bought this meat on the way to France and they cooked the meat that same afternoon,” Contador said. “There were four riders who went down earlier to have supper and they ate the meat of the hotel. I remember Vinokourov was complaining that their meat was awful and ours wasn’t. The next day I was calmly woke up, went training with my teammates and later we ate the same meat again, though it’s rare that we eat meat on a rest day.”

Contador explained that he was awoken early on the morning of July 21 for a blood control and “three hours after eating” underwent a urine control.

A tense and emotional Contador faced dozens of journalists and photographers and denied he took doping products.

“The UCI understands perfectly what has happened and that this is case is different in being a clear case of contamination, not the same as any other case of Clenbuterol,” Contador continued. “In being the leader, I passed dozens of controls and that’s something that’s in my favour. The day after the 21st, the level went down, and the next day, it was gone. It’s such a small level, that it’s impossible that it came from anything else than food contamination. It wouldn’t do anything to help my performance, something that any expert can confirm.”

Contador said he was notified by the UCI on August 24 and organized a meeting with some trusted allies on August 26 to investigate the claims. He did not tell anyone, including his family, and said, “I haven’t slept well for six weeks. I didn’t want to tell anyone and suffered alone knowing this story was not true.”

The three-time Tour champ is now facing a two-year ban and losing his 2010 Tour victory, something he said is “intolerable.”

“I could not stand it if there’s a ban. It’s intolerable,” he said. “I don’t care if people doubt my results in the Tour. I know what I did. I will not allow something like this to crash down to earth all my work. My defense are the controls, before and after, both the blood and urine samples. That is my defense and the truth.”

Contador said he is hopeful that he will be able to avoid a ban and race with Saxo Bank next season.

“I am hopeful and confident, despite this difficult situation, that Saxo Bank continues to support me,” he continued. “I am very excited about the Saxo Bank project. I spoke with Riis. I explained the case to him and he understood it perfectly. I feel supported by those close to me.”

Despite his optimism and strong public face, Contador will face a very complicated road ahead if he expects to avoid a ban.