Merckx says he hopes he can trust Contador

Belgian confused by delay in announcing result of doping control

Eddy Merckx has refused to make a definitive pronouncement on Alberto Contador’s recent adverse analytical finding for Clenbuterol but said that he hopes he can trust in the Spaniard’s innocence.

“I hope I can trust him,” Merckx told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It would be very serious for cycling if Contador did not show himself worthy of this faith.”

The five-time Tour de France winner measured his words carefully when discussing the matter but did admit that he was confused by the timeline of the case.

“The control was in July, the test was found to be positive in August, then the news came out at the end of September, over two months after the control. It seems very strange to me,” Merckx said.

“I’m not a doctor, I don’t understand. You’d need to be a specialist to pass judgement on the matter.”

During his own career, Merckx tested positive for the stimulant Reactivan at the 1969 Giro d'Italia and was excluded from the race while in the overall lead.

Merckx was also critical of Italian anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri’s recent pronouncement that doping was rife in cycling. “Cyclists have made a lot of mistakes and there’ll always be somebody who makes mistakes, but it’s a fact that we’ve started to follow the righteous path,” he said. “It seems to me like Torri’s words are generalizations, indiscriminate accusations levelled at the easiest target, cycling.”

Meanwhile, Merckx said that he was not pleased by Oscar Freire’s (Rabobank) failure to land a fourth rainbow jersey in Geelong, even though it means that Merckx continues to hold the record for world titles won, an honour he shares with Freire, Rik Van Steenbergen and Alfredo Binda.

“In any case, on Sunday Oscar recovered by winning Paris-Tours,” Merckx noted. “So he beat me there, because I never won it…”

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