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Pointing to the measures taken in recent years to fight drug use in sport, Alberto Contador has asserted that top-level cycling has reached a point where it is not possible to take banned substances.
“With the system of anti-doping control we now have and the quantity of those tests for the top riders, it is impossible to cheat,” he told the Guardian.
“If you do it’s like a suicide. I’ve no doubt this is why it’s clean at the very highest level.”
Contador’s words will be welcomed by some, questioned by others. There is still no test for autologous blood transfusions and while the biological passport can help to keep tabs on riders, it is not accepted as foolproof.
However the Spaniard insists that things have changed for the better and that those racing at the top level are doing so in the right way.
He also insists that his Clenbuterol positive during the 2010 Tour de France was not as a result of him willingly breaking rules.
“For me in that moment I cannot believe it. I never thought this could happen to me,” he said, talking about his reaction to hearing the news in August of that year. “My parents taught me to do things in a clean and honest way. I was so frustrated [but] I don’t want to speak more about that now – it’s in the past.”
The official ruling on the case came in February 2012 and concluded that his ingestion of clenbuterol was accidental. While he was stripped of the 2010 Tour title and also the following year’s Giro d’Italia, he continues to regard those victories as legitimate.
“Without doubt I’ve won nine [Grand Tours]. Look at the jersey of the Tour 2010 and the Giro 2011. I won both those races in a clean and honest way. Only with work and sacrifice.”
The Spaniard has seen victory in the 2013 and 2015 Tours de France go to his British rival Chris Froome. In doing so, the Sky rider has replaced Contador at the top of the sport.
While he was able to beat Froome in the 2014 Vuelta a España, riding and winning the 2015 Giro d’Italia meant that Contador was below par in this year’s Tour. He finished fifth, almost ten minutes behind Froome.
The latter faced questions during the race due to his dominance. He released a limited amount of data and pledged to do more after the race ended. Froome recently said that the information from lab tests carried out this year and back in 2007 would be made public in early December.
Asked if he felt if this would be enough to dispel doubts, Contador said he didn’t believe so.
“It won’t give too much to resolve this problem,” he answered. “Maybe it’s more important that people can see you being more open in the way you work. I think that’s more useful than just giving out lots of data.”
He expressed sympathy for Froome, describing it as ‘sad’ that some spectators disturbed the race by yelling and spitting at Froome. One even threw urine at him.
He believes that part of the distrust may be because of how Froome’s team is perceived.
“Some people like Team Sky and Froome. Others dislike him. Maybe his system of work is hermetic,” he stated.
“It’s not open. Maybe [Team Sky] work in different ways to other teams and maybe people dislike this way of working. But we all have that. Every rider and every team has critics and fans.”