Alberto Contador has vowed to “fight to the end” and is considering an appeal against his two-year ban.
The Spaniard was handed the sanction on Monday after an 18-month legal battle following his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
“My lawyers are examining the possibilities and as I have said before we have to fight to the end,” said Contador, who has 30 days to launch an appeal against the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision.
“With the sentence in my hand, the sensation I still feel is that I am innocent. I did not dope myself.”
Contador was initially handed a one-year ban by the Spanish cycling federation but that sanction was dropped after the 29-year-old successfully appealed the decision. That prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI to launch their own appeal to CAS and, following the three-man panel’s verdict, WADA president John Fahey branded Contador “a doping cheat, full stop.”
Contador had argued during the four-day hearing that the clenbuterol had entered his system as a result of contaminated meat, while WADA and the UCI believed that the muscle building and fat burning drug may have come from an illegal drug transfusion.
CAS rejected both hypotheses and subsequently decided the most likely source of the clenbuterol trace was a contaminated food supplement, with Contador punished on account of WADA’s strict liability rule, which leaves every athlete responsible for what enters his or her body.
Contador had threatened to quit the sport if found guilty but announced his intention to return to racing once his backdated ban expires on August 5 this year, after both the Tour de France and Olympic Games.
“I’ll continue riding,” said Contador. “I’ll keep on training, cleanly, as I always have done. Even though my morale is very low now I’ll come back as good as I ever was.”
He continued: “My dreams have collapsed,” he added. “There’s not been one morning that I haven’t asked myself how I got into this situation. It’s been a hard year. I wouldn’t wish a year like this on anyone.
“Everybody has been saying that I’m guilty of something that’s against my own moral standpoint. My feeling of injustice is terrible… Throughout all these months I’ve done everything possible to show that I was innocent. I’ve written it all down, gone through everything, spent hours and hours answering the questions they’ve put to me.
“As I said to CAS at the recent hearing, if there’s anything more I could have said to show that I’m innocent then tell me what it is.
“I do feel a strange satisfaction in that at least it is all over… I feel it is particularly hard on me because the amount of clenbuterol was so small it would never change my performance.”
Contador’s team, SaxoBank, could be stripped of the rider’s WorldTour points accrued during the retroactive ban but the squad’s boss, former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, gave Contador his full support.
“I’d like to say that we as a team, supported by all our sponsors, will continue to fully support Alberto, based on the ruling from CAS,” said Riis, who has previously admitted to doping during his career.
“The ruling states that it’s very unlikely this has anything to do with conscious cheating. The most likely reason is instead accidental intake of a supplement. This is very important for us, so our trust in Alberto is still 100 per cent intact.”