Contador maintains innocence

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador blames food poisoning for his positive dope test result, which risks his title.

    Contador celebrates his third Tour de France win in Paris in July after beating Andy Schleck [GALLO/GETTY] 

    A grim-faced Alberto Contador has said food poisoning was to blame for his positive dope test result, which could threaten his title. The three-times Tour de France winner could "hold his head high" and should not face sanctions.

    The Spaniard has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a "very small concentration" of banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during this year's race, cycling's governing body (UCI) revealed on Thursday.

    Speaking at a packed press conference in a hotel on the outskirts of his home town of Pinto, Contador told reporters his failed test came as a result of eating contaminated meat.

    "It is a clear case of food poisoning," Contador said.

    "UCI is in touch with the International Doping Agency to try to not commit a scientific mistake due to the singularity of this case. This case cannot be compared to any other case of clenbuterol because - as I was the leader of Tour de France - I passed a test before July 21. Before July 20, I passed a test and the day before."

    Contador, who won his third tour this year, was tested during the second rest day of the race and the second B test had confirmed the presence of clenbuterol, the UCI said in a statement.

    Contador, who is leaving Astana to join Bjarne Riis's Saxo Bank team next season, said he would not allow the positive test ruin his cycling career.

    "I am not going to let a thing like this to ruin everything. Sincerely. My life is more than settled, I
    don´t need to prove anything. But I cannot permit this. I cannot throw everything in the bin and not fight and stop doing what I love to do. I don´t think it is going to be easy, but I don´t expect it to affect me," Contador said.

    Clenbuterol can be abused by athletes to strip fat and enhance muscle size and can have short-term stimulant effects including increasing aerobic capacity, blood pressure and alertness.

    It has led to bans for cyclists in the past.

    'Further scientific investigations'

    The concentration in Contador's A test was "400 time(s) less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by (World Anti-Doping Agency) WADA must be able to detect," the UCI said in a statement.

    The case would require "further scientific investigation" before any conclusion could be drawn, and that
    could take some time, the statement added, providing no further details.

    The finding puts 27-year-old Contador's Tour de France victory with Kazakh-funded Astana in July under a cloud of suspicion and threatens to leave an indelible stain on the Spaniard, who also won the 2007 and 2009 Tours. Contador is regarded one of the greatest cyclists of the modern era.

    "I trust and I believe in the UCI and the International Doping Agency, in their professionally and
    their experts to clear all this thing out. And, referring to my name being questioned, it's always complicated when cases like this one show up," Contador said.

    The Contador finding is another blow for elite cycling, which has struggled to shake off its image as a sport riddled with drug cheats.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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