PUIGPUNYENT, Balearic Islands — Alberto Contador intends to fight a proposed doping suspension, saying he is a victim of a flawed system and insists it’s a “question of honor” to prove he did not cheat to win the Tour de France.
An emotional Contador promised to defend his innocence “until the end” as he spoke publicly for the time since learning of the proposed one-year ban from the Spanish cycling federation for a positive clenbuterol test that could cost him his Tour title.
“In the next 10 days I’m going to work and do all I can to receive justice. It’s a question of honor, defending your pride and your innocence,” said the 28-year-old Spaniard, whose watery eyes were replaced by a rebellious glare at the end of the hour-long news conference in Mallorca. “This is about honor.”
Contador blames his positive result on eating contaminated meat, and he characterized the Spanish federation’s decision Wednesday to accept his defense yet still sanction him as “shameful.” The reduced ban, instead of the standard two-year penalty, would still leave Contador stripped of the 2010 Tour title and off the starting line of this year’s race.
“They are recognizing that I’m innocent and then they give me a one-year ban,” the three-time Tour winner said. “I can’t explain that. I can’t defend that. I can’t do anything more.”
“Of course I feel like a victim — a victim of the system,” he said.
Contador has until Feb. 9 to present more evidence before the Spanish authority’s disciplinary committee renders a final verdict. That decision can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Contador, the International Cycling Union or the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Contador’s voice filled the room as he spoke about an anti-doping system that had dragged him from places such as movie theaters, family dinners and birthday parties more than 500 times without incident.
“What hurts the most is that all of the scientists know I’m innocent,” said Contador, who vowed to do all he can to see that the rule on clenbuterol is changed. “And this hurts me. This is sad. Very sad.”
“To lose everything I’ve achieved until now — now I don’t believe in the anti-doping system.”
Contador appeared at the news conference along with Bjarne Riis, head of his Saxo Bank-SunGard team. Riis said the team and its sponsors were sticking by Contador.
“It is extremely important we can distinguish between those who try to cheat on purpose and those who take something by accident,” Riis said.
If Contador is stripped of the Tour victory, the title would go to runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. A one-year ban means Contador would not have to surrender 70 percent of his salary, unlike a two-year ban.
Contador would not only miss this year’s Tour if the ban is upheld, he would also miss out on participating in the Spanish Vuelta by three days because the one-year ban would end on Aug. 23. The ban would be retroactive to Aug. 24 of last year — the day he was informed of the positive control.
“To be at the next Tour motivates me even more,” said Contador, who also won Tour titles in 2007 and 2009.
Contador says he ate meat contaminated with clenbuterol on a rest day during the tour in July.
The case highlights a growing concern that clenbuterol can be consumed unwittingly by eating meat from animals who were fed the drug, which helps burn fat and build muscle. It is on WADA’s zero-tolerance list.
Italian cyclist Alessandro Colo received a one-year ban from Italian authorities after testing positive for clenbuterol from meat consumed in Mexico last year. WADA is not appealing the case while the UCI must decide by Monday whether it goes for a two-year ban.
“The rules have to change,” Contador said. “I don’t know when, but this can’t happen to me and to any athlete in a similar situation to me.”
Contador is one of only five cyclists to win the Tour, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta.
“How can this affect my career any more?” he said. “My career has already been so affected by everything. The (Spanish) committee has to understand that the proposed resolution is not just.”