Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis said today that Alberto Contador's participation in the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Turin on Saturday, is justified despite an ongoing doping case.
Other teams in the same position, such as BMC and Movistar, have ordered their riders under investigation to stay home.
"We know where his case is right now," Riis told Cycling Weekly. "For those who are not doing the Giro, it's a different story, but what exactly it is, I don't know because I have not followed it. All I know is that it's a different story."
Four Italians were due to participate in the three-week Giro d'Italia, but will have to watch on television. Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio (both BMC Racing) and Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) are linked to an investigation in Mantova and, in the case of Ballan and Bruseghin, are accused of using blood booster EPO. Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini) is linked to the Padova investigation of Michele Ferrari.
Contador may be forced to stop racing as he tested positive for the 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).
CAS said that it will meet in June to rule on the case. If found guilty, Contador faces a one- to two-year ban and the loss of his third Tour title. Also, a possible win in the Giro d'Italia this month may be annulled.
"I don't know the situation of the others riders that you mentioned," said Contador today in a press conference. "Anyway, though, my situation is absolutely different because I have been cleared. I hope CAS will rule the same. However, you can't make any comparisons between their cases and mine."
"We know what we have to deal with and, right now, he's cleared," Riis explained to Cycling Weekly. "There's an appeal and everyone knows what that means, but we don't know what the outcome will be. We don't know [if the UCI will win], so ask [UCI President Pat] McQuaid."
Contador maintains his innocence and claims the positive result came from eating a contaminated steak bought just over the border from France in Irún, Spain. Clenbuterol may be purposely used to aid weight loss and breathing. There are also reports that it may have entered Contador's system via a blood transfusion.
The separate cases and investigations may leave many fans wondering, if Ballan, Santambrogio and Bruseghin are staying home, then why is Contador racing? And, for that matter, why are Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Morris Possoni (Sky) and Evgeni Petrov (Astana) - all linked to the Padova investigation - still racing?
"I've been thinking about your question," Riis said. "Maybe you [journalists] are confusing the fans. You are the guys who are writing. We're not trying to confuse them, but if you're not explaining to them the differences in Contador's case to the Italian ones then perhaps you are."
Riis is correct - there are differences. CAS has scheduled a date for Contador's case, while the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has yet to announce if it will rule on the findings of the Padova and Mantova investigators.
The other difference is that Movistar and BMC pulled their star riders out of the Giro. Saxo Bank, though, is still racing Contador.
Giro d'Italia 2011: Related links
Giro d'Italia 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list
Contador clenbuterol case: CAS selects hearing panel
CAS to make Contador decision before Tour de France
WADA appeals against Contador acquittal
UCI to appeal to CAS in Contador case
Contador now cleared of clenbuterol charges
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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
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