Saxo Bank general manager Bjarne Riis reiterated his unflinching support of Alberto Contador following the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to hand him a two-year ban and strip him of the 2010 Tour de France title.
However, the Danish ex-Tour champion stated that because Contador is no longer able to race, the contract between him and the Saxo Bank team will be annulled.
"When Alberto is not able to ... ride for the team, the contract cannot continue. I think that's pretty obvious," Riis said at a press conference in Madrid. Later, he added that he would be happy to work with again Contador in the future.
Contador said in his statements that while the contract is over for now, he would give Saxo Bank the first chance to sign him when he returns to competition on August 5, but that he is now a free agent.
Riis said that while he and the team had hoped for a different outcome of the arbitration, he did not think they could have done anything differently in handling the case.
"We have asked ourselves many times during this case, could we as a team have done things any differently? I really don't think we could have done things differently than what we have done trying to support every one of our riders," Riis said.
Contador had signed a contract with the Saxo Bank team prior to learning of his positive test result for clenbuterol in a sample taken on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour. He was provisionally suspended by the UCI until the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) decided not to punish him for the positive on February 15, 2011.
The CAS announced its decision yesterday, after hearing appeals from the UCI and WADA, to suspend Contador from the time of his notification in August 2011 for two years.
"We inherited this case, and we patiently waited for a decision," Riis said, adding a justification as to why Contador continued to compete despite having the spectre of the UCI and WADA appeals of the decision hanging over him. "All along, we followed the rules and because Alberto was cleared [by the RFEC in early 2011], he was able to ride."
Riis said that, as in the RFEC's decision to allow Contador to race, he and the team have to respect this new decision by the CAS, but vowed to continue to support Contador "one hundred per cent".
He referred to the written CAS decision, saying that the appearance of clenbuterol in Contador's system most likely was the result of a contaminated supplement and "was unlikely to have anything to do with conscious cheating".