Alberto Contador held a press conference in Pinto, Spain, today in an attempt to begin clearing his name in wake of the Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI) announcement that he has tested positive for clenbuterol.
“I am the victim of this situation,” Contador said, “and I will continue to hold my head high whether people believe in me or not.”
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The 2010 Tour de France winner was tested on July 21, the second rest day of the Tour, and his urine sample was found to have minute traces of the banned substance.
Contador claimed that the positive had come about after eating beef brought to France by a friend, Tour of Castille and Leon race organiser Jose Luis Lopez Cerron. The problem, Contador said, was that the beef contained the substance because it had been used to artificially increase the body mass of the animal it had come from.
Contador then ate the meat in two sittings, one before the second rest day and one during it. The only reason he had eaten it, he said, was because he felt morally obliged to Lopez Cerron after the Spaniard had brought it all the way to him in France.
As race leader, Contador was the only rider from his team to eat the beef and then be tested on the rest day. On August 24 he was told he had tested positive, in both ‘A’ and B’ samples’, for the banned substance.
Contador’s defence is essentially that both the quantities taken are so small as to make no difference to his physical perfomance, that he did not knowingly take it and that only four laboratories in the world can actually detect such small quantities of clenbuterol. By a series of bizarre coincidences, he was the only rider from Astana to eat the contaminated meat and then be tested.
“The system is very questionable and it has to be changed,” Contador insisted. “It’s such a small quantity that it’s impossible to take any other way apart from through food, and at performance level it does absolutely nothing for you.”
“My legal defence is as follows: look at the results: that day it was minimal, the next day there was even less, and the day after it’s completely disappeared.”
“I can’t understand what is happening, I think this is going to be resolved and with the truth in hand we can get some kind of justice for me. It’s a real mistake.”
Perhaps burying his head in the sand, Contador said he refused to consider the possibility that he could face a penalisation for his error.
“I can’t believe that would happen, it wouldn’t be right,” he claimed. However, apparently the Spanish president of the Cycling Federation has said that Contador “can count on him.” Whatever happens, it is highly likely that this case will not be resolved quickly.
The three time Tour winner highlighted the amount that was found, estimated at 50 picograms (or 0.000,000,000,05 grams per ml). “I gave another sample one day after and they didn’t find anything. It was a very, very small amount found in my urine and the next day it was gone. It was detected in the laboratory in Cologne, if it was sent to any other laboratory they wouldn’t have found it as the amount is so small.”
Clenbuterol is widely used in asthma medicines around the world due to its bronchodilating properties. However, it is also a powerful metabolism accelerator and can be used to build muscle.
The drug is approved for use in the European Union for cattle and horse use but is banned in pig feed.