Contador vows to pursue career despite doping ban

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PINTO, Spain, Feb 8 – An indignant two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said on Tuesday he “totally disagreed” with his two-year doping ban and vowed to pursue his career at the highest level.

“I am going to continue cycling. I am going to continue practicing it cleanly, the way I have my entire life,” he told a news conference at a hotel in his hometown of Pinto just south of Madrid.

“My mood right now is not the best but I know this will make me stronger in the future,” he added in his first public comments since the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down its sanction on Monday.

“I cannot understand the sanction that has been imposed on me. As for the decision, I totally disagree.”

Contador, 29, said his lawyers were looking into a possible appeal, which must be lodged within 30 days.

“My lawyers are looking into all the possibilities. We will continue to fight until the end,” he said, wearing a dark jacket and a white shirt unbuttoned at the collar.

Considered the most gifted racer of his generation, Contador was handed the ban following a positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol.

Backdated to August 2010, when he announced the news of his positive test weeks after his third yellow jersey triumph, the ban means Contador can return to competition on August 6, 2012.

As well as ruling him out of this year’s Tour de France and the Olympic Games in London, he will be stripped of several wins including his 2010 yellow jersey which will now be handed to runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

Contador’s determination to carry on means he may compete at the Tour of Spain which starts on August 18, a race he won in 2008.

Contador said he has not yet decided if he will take part in this year’s race and his “priority” is to stay with his current team, Saxo Bank.

“I still don’t know what my programme will be after my suspension. I have to organise my future but that does not depend only on me. What I know for sure is that I want to continue to win the biggest races,” he said.

Contador is one of only five men to have won all three major cycling races.

Two months after his positive test, the Spaniard, claiming he was the victim of a contaminated steak eaten during the Tour de France, had said he would consider quitting if banned.

If he is to find any kind of succour from the CAS decision, it is that doping experts believe he did not ingest clenbuterol intentionally. They deemed the Spaniard was likely a victim of a contaminated food supplement.

Contador said he had committed no crime and yet had been hit with the heaviest penalty of a two-year ban.

The Spaniard said he even gave evidence with a polygraph, or lie detector.

“That is five hours sitting in a chair answering questions like a real criminal,” he said.

“There have been speculations, leaks, it has been a real torment. But the hardest thing has been to see my family, the suffering they have had, my wife, for what they have accused me of.”

Contador was repeatedly applauded by supporters who chanted his name at the end of the press conference.

He thanked his fans and his sponsor for their support, after Saxo Bank chief Bjarne Riis told the news conference he backed the cyclist “100 percent” because he clearly did not deliberately take drugs.

“We as a team, supported by all our sponsors, continue to support Alberto. Our trust in Alberto is still 100 percent intact,” said Riis.

The loss of Contador could have huge ramifications for his team.

Run by Riis, a former Tour de France winner who owned up to cheating with drugs to win the race in 1996, Contador is the team’s marquee rider in stage races.

But more importantly, his WorldTour ranking points are crucial.

Affiliation to the WorldTour series — via a system governed by ranking points, financial viability and sound ethical principles — guarantees entry to cycling’s biggest races.

On his own, Contador has racked up a massive amount of the points required by the team for entry to the series.

The sport’s ruling body, the International Cycling Union, was due to ask its licences commission on Tuesday to gauge whether Saxo Bank has the right to remain in the UCI WorldTour.

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