Emotional Contador defends himself

By Ciaran Giles and John Leicester
Associated Press / October 1, 2010

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PINTO, Spain — Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador blamed contaminated steak for his positive doping test, vowing yesterday to clear his name so that cycling’s latest drug scandal doesn’t “destroy everything that I have done.’’

The Spanish rider was provisionally suspended after a World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Germany found a “very small concentration’’ of the banned substance clenbuterol in his urine sample July 21 at the Tour, according to the International Cycling Union.

“It is a clear case of food contamination,’’ Contador said at a news conference in his hometown near Madrid, during which he appeared close to tears several times. “I am sad and disappointed but hold my head high.’’

The ICU said the amount of clenbuterol in Contador’s sample was “400 time[s] less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect.’’

Both Contador’s A and B samples tested positive, and the cyclist has been “formally and provisionally suspended,’’ the ICU said.

“I think this is going to be resolved in a clear way,’’ he added. “With the truth behind you, you can speak loud and clear, and I am confident justice will prevail.’’

Contador said the beef was brought across the border from Spain to France by a Spanish cycling organizer, Jose Luis Lopez Cerron, during a Tour rest day and at the request of the team’s chef. Cerron said earlier in the day on Spanish radio that he was a friend of the chef, who had complained of poor-quality meat at the hotel where the team was staying.

Lopez Cerron said he bought filet mignon for the team in the Spanish border town of Irun on his way to Pau, France.

Contador said he ate the meat on July 20 and again on July 21. He called his suspension by the ICU “a true mistake.’’

Clenbuterol is sometimes given to cows, pigs, and other animals to increase their growth rate.

“The idea of anyone questioning my Tour victory does not worry me,’’ Contador said. “I am not going to let something like this destroy everything I have done.’’

Contador beat Andy Schleck of Luxembourg by 39 seconds this summer in winning his third Tour in four years.

The ICU statement gave no indication of whether Contador will be stripped of his latest Tour title or be banned.

If Tour officials strip Contador of his title, he would be just the second cyclist so punished. The first was American Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title after a positive test.

For years, Landis denied doping but admitted this spring that he used performance-enhancing drugs.