Alberto Contador, stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title in a doping case, will be welcome back on the Saxo Bank team when he returns from a ban in August because he didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs on purpose, team manager Bjarne Riis said.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Feb. 6 rejected Contador’s argument he tested positive for clenbuterol because he ate a contaminated steak. The panel said it was more likely the stimulant detected in his body during the race came from a tainted food supplement.
Contador, 29, got a two-year suspension from the Lausanne, Switzerland-based tribunal, the world’s top sports court. The ban was backdated and he can race beginning Aug. 5, near the end of the season that is getting under way.
“The ruling states it’s very unlikely this has anything to do with conscious cheating, the most likely reason is accidental intake of a substance,” Riis told a news conference last night with Contador in the Madrid suburb of Pinto. “Our trust in Alberto is still 100 percent intact.”
While Contador’s current contract is no longer valid because of his suspension, “if he wishes to continue with the team, our intention is the same,” Riis said.
“We’ll sit down and talk,” Riis said. “August is a long time away.”
Fran Contador, the rider’s brother and manager, told Television Espanola “our priority is Saxo Bank” and he will “definitely” stay with the team, citing the support they had received from officials and sponsors.
The court said submissions by the sport’s ruling body, the International Cycling Union, and the World Anti-Doping Agency that Contador might have re-infused his own blood to boost performance, leaving traces of clenbuterol, were as unlikely as his tainted-steak claim.
The tribunal handed down the sanction because under WADA rules athletes are responsible for what they ingest. The ruling ended an 18-month inquiry.
“It has been real agony,” Contador told the news conference in a hotel near his house. “It’s been a year and a half that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. There has been speculation, leaks. Even though I am feeling low, I will be stronger in the future.”
Contador, who was cheered and applauded by fans during the news conference, said he had done everything to try to prove his innocence, including a five-hour lie-detector session. His lawyers are exploring an appeal to a civil court, Contador added.
“We are going to carry on fighting until the end,” Contador said.
Saxo Bank A/S, a Danish online trader and money manager, said it was also standing by Contador and the team it has sponsored since 2008, according to e-mailed comments by Chief Executive Officer Lars Seier Christensen.
“I personally sympathize with Alberto because I’m sure he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Christensen said.
John Fahey, president of Montreal-based WADA, said he welcomed the penalty for Contador.
“It demonstrates clearly the robust nature of our code,” Fahey told reporters in Lausanne. “The onus is on athletes to ensure they do not take” banned substances, Fahey said.
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