Contador rejects ban

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MADRID, February 7 – Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who is facing a one-year ban for taking performance enhancing drugs, on Monday rejected calls that he accept the ban instead of fighting it.

Last week Astana cycling team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said the Spanish rider, who was provisionally suspended from the team after failing a drugs test on the 2010 Tour said Contador "must accept the ban and start again".

"There are times when you have to make a choice. Either you bash yourself against a rubber wall, or you find the courage to start again," he told the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Martinelli stressed that he believes the 28-year-old is "clean" but he pointed out that the year-long ban would expire at the end of August and said: "That’s not too long".

Last month the Spanish cycling federation proposed Contador get a one-year ban for his positive test for the banned muscle-building and fat-burning drug clenbuterol which he has vowed to appeal.

The rider denies any wrongdoing and says he unknowingly ingested trace elements of clenbuterol from beef brought from Spain to France during the second rest day of the Tour.

Asked about Martinelli’s comments during an interview with Spanish public radio on Monday, Condador said: "Why should I accept a one-year ban if I did absolutely nothing? It sincerely does not seem like the right step."

The reduced ban, instead of the standard two-year penalty, would still leave Contador stripped of the 2010 Tour title, which would make him only the second Tour de France champion to be stripped of his title, after American Floyd Landis in 2006.

It would also keep him off the starting line of this year’s race as well as the Spanish Vuelta.

Contador, who joined Bjarne Riis’s Team Saxo Bank on a two-year deal after leaving the Astana team just after the 2010 Tour, had said he would retire if he was slapped with a ban.

But he said he no longer feels this way.

"The passage of time and the support people have shown me have caused me to reconsider this idea. I want to fight," he told the radio station.

Contador said he formally presented his arguments on Monday to the cycling federation.

He had until Wednesday to present more evidence before the federation’s disciplinary committee renders a final verdict.

The rider can appeal the federation’s verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the International Cycling Union or the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Clenbuterol, which can have short-term stimulant effects such as increasing aerobic capacity, was banned by the European Union in 1996 but it is still administered illicitly by some cattle farmers.

The World Anti-Doping Agency lists it as an anabolic agent that is prohibited for use by athletes at all times, both in and out of competition.

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