Fränk Schleck from Team CSC Saxo Bank is riding his last 2009 competition on the Caribbean island of Curaçao this week-end. The Amstel Curaçao Race has been a regular season's closing event for the Luxemburger, who did not race the Giro di Lombardia after a link from the rider to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in 2006 was revealed at the World Championships in Varese, Italy.
Schleck, who denied ever having doped or used the services of the doctor in the centre of Operación Puerto, said he had "a clear conscience", which is why coming back to racing was not an issue for him.
"If I had done something wrong, then I would not want to be here," he told reporters of Dutch Telegraaf on Curaçao on Thursday. "Then, I would not want to look people in the eyes. A lot of rubbish was written in the press during this time, for example about CSC suspending me. There was never talk about that. After the Worlds, I should have participated in the Giro di Lombardia, but because of the turmoil we decided it would be better for me to explain myself to the various instances. I also went to Denmark on my own initiative to tell my sponsors the whole story."
Schleck maintained that he had indeed paid a some 7,000 euro into a Swiss bank account in 2006, which allegedly benefited the Spanish doctor. But he said he did not know this or know of the doctor at the time. "I paid for a training programme that I should have received from Switzerland. I was young and naive. I had never heard of the name of Fuentes and have not been in contact with him. I never had anything to do with doping," he continued.
The Luxemburger, who wore the yellow jersey during the Tour de France this year, offered to give anti-doping authorities full insight into his medical files to prove he was clean. "I proposed to [the UCI and the Luxembourg anti-doping agency ALAD] to examine all my blood values since 2005 with modern techniques," Schleck said. "They can test me on everything, since I have nothing to hide. I will collaborate on everything."
Despite the fact that the investigation of Schleck's explanations is still ongoing at the ALAD, the CSC Saxo Bank rider detailed his objectives for the coming season. "I'm already looking forward to the hard classics next year. [Both my brother Andy and I] can win Amstel or Liège at some point. And at the Tour, both of us can reach the top five," he said.
Together with his brother, Schleck had shown impressive performances in this year's Tour de France Alpine stages. Leading the overall classification for three days, the classics specialist sacrificed it for teammate and later Tour winner Carlos Sastre in L'Alpe d'Huez and finally finished sixth in Paris. He said he could imagine winning the Tour next year.
"Yes, after studying the new Tour route I can see myself as a candidate for the victory. Just like I believed that I could win the Tour this summer. On L'Alpe d'Huez, we played the card Sastre, but I was really strong that day, too."