Spain’s Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) widened his advantage over his Giro d’Italia rivals today in the mountain-top stage to Grossglockner, Austria. He finished behind stage winner Jose Rujano, but a minute and a half over his classification rivals.

The leader’s pink jersey looks likely to be his in Milan next Sunday if he continues in the same manner. However, a doping case hangs over his head and will be ruled upon next month. His colleagues, including Sky’s Thomas Lofkvist, have questioned if he should really be racing and winning in Italy giving a potential doping suspension.

“I’ve already talked to him [Lofkvist], and he’s explained the situation to me,” Contador responded to Cycling Weekly in a press conference today. “There’s different way to interpert those words.”

Lofkvist told the Swedish news agency TT that Contador “has the right to be here and compete as the rules now stand. But it is so annoying that if, in three weeks, they rule that he must be suspended. It’s wrong.”

He added that the rules should be re-written to avoid such situations.

Contador tested positive for banned drug, clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France. The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) acquitted him on February 15, but the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

He signed a contract to race with Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank-SunGard this year and next. He maintains his innocence and claims the positive result came from eating a contaminated steak bought in Irún, Spain.

Athletes use clenbuterol to lose weight and breathe easier. There are also reports that the drug may have entered Contador’s system via a blood transfusion.

Contador faces two more hard mountain stages, Monte Zoncolan tomorrow and Gardeccia on Sunday, and another week’s racing. Today, he attacked his rivals with 8.4 kilometres to race on Austria’s highest mountain, Grossglockner.

Rivals Roman Kreuziger, Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali finished sixth to eighth, but 1’36” back. With time bonuses, Contador gained 1’48” and now leads the overall by 3’09” over Nibali.

“Maybe now it’s only a race for second or third,” Kreuziger’s sports director at Astana told Cycling Weekly. “We need less mountains to beat Contador.”

CAS’s rules are not clear, but if it finds Contador guilty, it may strip him of his potential Giro win in addition to his win last year at the Tour de France.

  • Jon

    The tragedy for me is that he is a great, inspirational rider – and based on the available evidence, also a doping cheat. As Cathy says, the man is awesome. I would love to be able to bury my head in the sand and disregard the evidence because to lose Contador from the peloton would reduce the competition to ‘best of the rest’. But to have him dope and keep riding is worse. It’s a lose-lose situation.

    Thanks CW for your courage in reporting honestly on doping and not sweeping it under the carpet as some of your detractors would wish. Now big George has testified against Armstrong and McQuaid wants to prevent ex-dopers from becoming team officials I have renewed hope for a future where doping is not a viable option for professional cyclists.

  • Orlando

    Letting him race is an indication that he’ll be cleared… Stripping the recently crowned Giro Champion would be a PR disaster!

  • adam

    This mess of rules needs clearing up. As Lofkvist says, if he rides – whether he wins or not – and then is banned his presence will have affected the whole course of the race. It’s no good just knocking off Contador’s result and bumping everyone up a spot. That’s not how racing works is it?

  • Joe Paige

    Contaminated steak?!!!
    Really can’t imagine a cow using an inhaler, lack of opposable thumbs and all… sounds more like “bull” to me.

  • Cathy

    The simple answer to this is yes. The man is awesome. The lure to fans all over the world, is to see this man climb. He was born to do it, and does it with such style, elegance, and sheer grit, that it is captivating to watch. I do not believe for one moment that he guilty.

  • Steven Hastings

    Gosh, how much do you want Contador to be banned!! The dismissive tone running behind your comments are becoming tiresome. If you want the main agenda of your magazine to be anti-doping then carry on (and drop readers in the way that The Indipendent did when it became the single editorial policy Environmental newspaper) Otherwise, lose the baggage, enjoy the cycling and stop sneering from the high ground.