Spanish cyclist free to defend Tour title after Court of Arbitration for Sport delays doping case hearing until August.
|Contador has confirmed he will be racing in this year’s Tour in a bid to ‘do the double’ and become the first rider in 13 years to win both Giro d’Italia and Tour in the same season [GALLO/GETTY]|
Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has ended speculation that he might withdraw from this year’s race by confirming on Saturday that he will defend his title in July, despite ongoing doping allegations.
“I’ll be at the Tour de France,” Contador, who is awaiting a decision in August by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over a failed dope test last July, said after participating in a local race near his home town of Pinto outside Madrid.
The Spaniard, who won the Tour in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and is one of only five men with titles in all three grand tours, confirmed he is seeking to complete the first Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
“It’s a challenge,” he said, adding that he had thought long and hard about the decision, which had been made in consultation with his SaxoBank-Sungard team and manager Bjarne Riis.
Contador tested positive for a trace amount of the banned substance clenbuterol during last year’s Tour.
The Spanish Cycling Federation initially banned him but then reversed that decision, accepting his claim that he had unknowingly consumed drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent.
Until CAS gives its verdict, Contador is allowed to race.
“There is no doubt that for the team, and for the sponsors, it is fundamental that I am there [at the Tour] and the number of people showing their support is also an important factor,” he said.
“It would be easier for me to prepare for the Vuelta, I have more time, it would allow me to recover better,” he added.
“But you have to remember that the Tour is the best race, with the best riders, and that is what motivates me.
“Always bearing in mind that it has been almost 15 years since anyone has won the Giro and the Tour in the same year.
“I will go there to do it and we’ll see what happens.”
According to UCI regulations, Tour de France organisers can ban a rider from entering the race if they feel he may tarnish the event’s image, but Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) said earlier this month they would not try and stop Contador racing.
In 2009, ASO tried to bar former world champion Tom Boonen from entering after the Belgian tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test. Boonen appealed the decision before CAS, who overruled ASO’s decision following an emergency hearing.
If found guilty, Contador, who has denied wrongdoing, faces a possible two-year ban and will be stripped of his 2010 Tour title.
A poll released in France on Friday showed that two-thirds of French cycling fans would rather Contador does not race in this year’s Tour de France.
The Tour de France starts on July 2.