Alberto Contador, currently awaiting notification of the sanction to be imposed on him following his positive test for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France, which he went on to win, has said that the current drugs-testing regime is “stuck in the 60s.”
The Saxo Bank-SunGard rider made the comment on his personal website in a scathing attack on current rules regarding performance enhancing drugs which perhaps is best viewed as being a form of damage limitation should he, as was reported last month, receive a one-year ban from the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, as well as perhaps an opening salvo in a potential appeal against any punishment.
The RFEC is said to be due to announce its definitive ruling in the case towards the end of next week or at the start of the following one, and Contador has stated separately in a radio interview that he plans to appeal any ban and also distanced himself from earlier comments, made shortly after news of his failed test was made public, that he would retire from cycling if he were banned.
The 28-year-old from Pinto, near Madrid, who is the only current rider to have won all three Grand Tours, maintains that the minute quantity of clenbuterol found in his urine had made its way into his body as a result of his having eaten a contaminated steak.
In comments made on his website, Contador drew a comparison between those substances for which a certain threshold must be exceeded for a positive test to be found, and those such as clenbuterol for which there is no minimum level required and therefore, in effect, zero tolerance.
“The rules governing elite sports nowadays detail a list of substances that are taken by some athletes to improve performance, leaving the rest of the competitors at a disadvantage, and one of those substances is clenbuterol,” he said.
"So if clenbuterol were to be detected, or some other substance found in an amount sufficient to improve performance, and could only have appeared in the body if taken voluntarily, it was taken with that end in mind. Therefore, for particular substances there exists a threshold, the surpassing of which constitutes an offense and is punishable on a sporting level,” he continued.
“Today, advances in science are able to detect minute amounts of some banned substances which neither further athletic performance nor can possibly be taken voluntarily, except if they enter our bodies through ingested food; this is my case with clenbuterol.
“But whereas scientific advances have arrived in the year 2011, the rule remains stuck in the 60s, hence my “crime” and possible sanction,” Contador added.
“Only by combining scientific advances with modifications to the anti-doping rules will it be possible to talk about honest and fair sport, as I have always practiced it," he insisted.
Meanwhile, in an interview yesterday on Spanish radio station Cadena SE12’s show El Larguero, Contador gave a clear signal that he intends to appeal any ban imposed on him, saying “My problem is that when you haven’t done anything wrong, it is hard to accept a sanction.”
Last Wednesday, Giuseppe Martinelli, directeur sportif at Astana when Contador won last July’s Tour de France in the colours of the Kazakh team, urged the cyclist to accept any ban imposed on him and start planning for his return to the sport, but Contador told the host of El Larguero, “If I accept the penalty, I accept that I am guilty.”
Should Contador receive a one-year ban from the RFEC, which the Spanish federation said last month was its proposed sanction, world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the World-Anti-doping Agency (WADA) might appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to seek the two-year ban that the offence would appear to attract under current anti-doping rules.
Contador himself believes that he is disadvantaged in his ability to appeal a potential one-year ban, presumably because if he did so, that would impel the UCI and WADA to join the case and push for the longer ban, assuming they had not already lodged their own appeals.
The cyclist drew on a analogy to explain his predicament. “Imagine that they stop you in the street and tell you, ‘we’re going to put you in prison for five years, although okay, you haven’t done anything,’ and they tell you, ‘since you’re speaking out, we’ll give you ten years.’ That’s how you could sum it up.’
Despite those reservations, Contador, who five years ago was implicated in the Operacion Puerto investigation but subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, insists that he is determined to fight any ban imposed on him and added that, contrary to his reaction immediately following news of his failed test last September, he does not plan to retire from the sport should he be sanctioned.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.