Tour de France - Contador appeals ban, slams system

Fri, 28 Jan 19:24:00 2011

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador abandoned threats to quit and vowed to fight a one-year ban which he angrily blamed on cycling's "obsolete" anti-doping controls.

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The 28-year-old three-times Tour champion, the outstanding rider of his generation, has 10 days to appeal against the Spanish federation's preliminary decision to suspend him, handed to the rider on Wednesday, before a final verdict is reached.

Contador, who blamed the positive reading for a small amount of the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol in contaminated meat, also faces being stripped of his 2010 Tour title.

The Spaniard's decision to fight the suspension could be risky, with the RFEC warning on Friday that an appeal from the rider could result in an increase in his ban.

Contador, accompanied at a news conference by his Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis, a former Tour winner himself who has admitted doping, said he no longer trusted cycling's anti-doping system.

"I have given everything to this sport - it's my life," Contador said. "I have had 500 anti-doping controls in my career, many of which were surprise controls.

"I have had to leave birthday parties, get out of a cinema midway through a film, leave family and friends in restaurants to do those controls and all because I believed in the anti-doping system. But now I don't."

He added: "The rules are completely obsolete. All scientists know it's not up to date with current anti-doping norms. I feel like a victim of the system and that will not change until they modify these rules.

"If that doesn't happen there will be more false positives."

There was no immediate reaction from the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union.

Contador looked close to choking up at the start of the news conference at the luxury Mallorca hotel where the team have their training base.

However, his denial that he had deliberately cheated and his pledge to use all the legal means at his disposal to prove his innocence appeared to imbue him with fresh confidence and he ultimately put on a confident performance in front of scores of microphones and television cameras.

"I do not agree with the (RFEC's preliminary) resolution at all," he said. "You have to remember this is just a proposal and I will work as hard as I can to change it.

"But if that does not happen I'll appeal wherever I need to to defend my innocence to the last."

Contador has been suspended provisionally since August after testing positive during last year's Tour.

Asked whether he planned to follow through on a previously stated threat to quit, Contador said the situation had changed.

"Now it's pretty different," he said. "A lot of time has passed. My emotions have changed and I have felt the huge support of my team.

"But more than anything I have also felt the great support of the fans who have told me not to give up cycling. Now I have changed my mind."

Riis reiterated Saxo Bank's backing for Contador, which he said was supported by the team's sponsors, who as well as the investment bank include carmaker Skoda and software and IT services company SunGard.

He noted that the one-year ban was shorter than the two-year suspension typically given to first-time offenders.

"To me this indicated a ban that will punish Alberto for having the substance in his body but at the same time also supports his explanation about having ingested the substance by accident," Riis added.

Contador said he was not thinking about this year's Tour and was focusing on trying to clear his name.

"For now I am only thinking about finding a solution to this case," he said.

Contador to appeal ban

Reuters

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