Alberto Contador's much anticipated joint press conference with his Saxo Bank Sungard team manager, Bjarne Riis, went much as expected this afternoon with Contador continuing to proclaim his innocence and Riis continuing to proclaim his support on behalf of the team – although not quite his total support. (You can watch excerpts from the press conference below in French).
As widely trailed beforehand Contador said he will appeal the one year cycling ban imposed on him by the Spanish cycling federation (REFEC) earlier this week and also his disqualification as winner of the 2010 Tour de France.
'This is just a proposal and in the next 10 days I am going to work as hard as I can with my lawyers for justice to be done.
'I will appeal in every possible court to defend my innocence," he told the assembled members of the press.
Such a stance can only bring Contador in to further conflict with both the UCI and WADA and even possibly with the Spanish federation which up until now has been viewed by most objective commentators as having done it's utmost to help Spain's star rider.
While press conference offered no real surprises it did give an insight into the psyche of the Spanish rider who told those present suggesting a man totally convinced of the rightness of his case and totally convinced that the system was wrong that total self belief but then elite athletes at the top of their game are never short of belief.
He certainly see's himself as the innocent victim of the entire process, which he described as "shameful" and said that he had not lost all faith in the anti-doping system. Contador continues to maintain that the clenbuterol found in his system got there as a result of eating a Spanish steak. The rider went on to attack World Anti Doping Authority guidelines (which the UCI is signed up to and therefore so is REFEC surely?) which put the responsibility on the athlete for everything that goes in to their bodies, describing them as "obsolete" on the grounds that the rules were formulated before laboratories were capable of finding such tiny amounts of a banned substance in an athlete's bloodstream as the 50 pico grams found in his. This would inevitably lead to false positive Contador claimed. WADA totally rejects this argument when it comes to low levels of clenbuterol a drug that burns fat and promotes lean muscle mass, and which can also boost aerobic capacity.
He also said, "I consider myself an example of fair play", something sure to attract the wrath of those who considered him guilty of anything but fair play in the now notorious "Chaingate" incident at last year's Tour, when took advantage of then race leader Andy Schleck's slipped chain to ride away and establish a 37 second lead - a margin that proved to be enough to win the race. Although many within cycling thought this an entirely reasonable thing to do, others felt it was an unsporting act, Contador at first defended his move but then issued an apology for it on Youtube.
On the question of whether Saxo Bank Sungard would be standing by their new man, Riis confined that they would because the Spanish federation had cleared Contador of intentionally doping – and they would continue to do so as long as the Spanish verdict remained the same. That would seem to suggest that the Saxo Bank would trigger the get out clause in its contract with Contador should his ban be increased to two years – that might be just too long for Riis and his backers to wait to capitalise on their biggest asset.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.