Frenchman believes Philippe Gilbert can play a bigger role at the Tour
Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault has weighed into the controversy surrounding Alberto Contador's positive test for Clenbuterol by saying a decision in the case is taking too long. The Frenchman also called for consistent penalties for athletes who test positive, citing examples of prominent French athletes in other sports.
Hinault's comments came after the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) confirmed earlier this week that they had tested meat from the abattoir and butcher in Irun, northern Spain, which had supplied meat to a representative of the Astana team. Contador has suggested that the meat had been the source of the Clenbuterol found in his system, however WADA said they found no traces of the substance at either site.
"Why drag the Contador case on so long? It is quite simple: yes or no," Hinault told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "What is the point of WADA buying a steak to see whether or not it contains clenbuterol. The animal which was eaten by Contador has been dead much longer."
If found guilty of doping, Contador faces a two-year ban from competition. Regardless of the outcome of the case, Hinault called for anti-doping authorities to institute consistent bans on athletes across all sports. He cited the example of tennis player Richard Gasquet and swimmer Frederick Bousquet. Last year Gasquet's two-year ban for cocaine was reduced to two months after authorities accepted his defence that a kiss with a girl in Miami had caused his positive, while this year Bousquet was given a two-month ban after he tested positive for the banned stimulant Heptaminol.
"I hope every athlete is treated equally by WADA," said Hinault. "Richard Gasquet, the French tennis player, tests positive and gets away with it because he kissed a girl. The French world class swimmer Frederick Bousquet is positive and comes away with two months. Come on."
Gilbert a Tour contender?
Away from the controversy swirling around the winner of this year's Tour de France, Hinault has given his endorsement to Belgium's Philippe Gilbert by suggesting that the Walloon rider is yet to reach his full potential and could play a bigger role at the Tour de France in the future.
"If he decides to go to the Tour, he can play much more than one supporting part. Not one stage, not two, but much more," said Hinault. "He is a superb rider. He has time to achieve his goals. In 2012, the first stage into Liege in front of his fellow Walloons is definitely for him. That is, if he wants to race the Tour. But I think he definitely has something to look at."
In recent years Gilbert has found considerable success by focussing his season around the Spring and Autumn Classics, rather than the Tour. During his own career Hinault, too, was a perennial favourite for the major one-day races. The two share a similar aggressive riding style, however Hinault's ability to climb and time trial also allowed him to chase overall success at the Grand Tours. The Frenchman feels this may be the sticking point for any general classification hope Gilbert might hold for the future.
"Gilbert would have to be part of an escape that gains at least ten minutes or so. This isn't easy and his competitors won't let him ride away like that. And in the mountains, he will inevitably battle against the pure climbers, the lightweights, guys like Contador and [Andy] Schleck."
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