Asked in a lengthy interview in sports daily MARCA if he thought it was right that Armstrong should lose his Tour wins, Contador replied “If he has been judged and the verdict was guilty, then I think it stands to reason that he should lose them.”
As for the wisdom of leaving the Tour winnerless from 1999 to 2005, Contador said, “it’s complicated to give an answer, but given cycling’s current predicament, and it’s obvious that we are going through a bad moment, then perhaps there was no other solution.”
When it was pointed out to him that many people did not understand the degree of support Contador gave to Armstrong during the 2013 Tour presentation, calling it a ‘lynching’, Contador said “what’s come out [about the Armstrong case] has been disappointing, because he was a rider who I looked up to when I started this [racing professionally].”
Armstrong was also an example for Contador after the Spaniard suffered a stroke in May 2004, “because he had, had cancer. Now he’s been judged and banned in a way which sets an example [of what can happen] for all of this, but with this [Armstrong’s] suspension we don’t solve all of cycling’s problems.”
Contador told MARCA he believed that the current generation of riders were paying for errors committed by those in the past, but that “thank goodness we are advancing fast in the fight against doping. In my opinion, we need an agreement between all parties - the UCI, organisers, teams and riders - to make decisions and see these things don’t happen again. We all need to move in the right direction to eradicate this stain [of doping] and regain credibility.”
Contador also says that there has been an important change in his generation, that they have understood that professional racing is possible without what he calls “external help.” - ie, doping. “However, there’s a long road ahead.”
He continues to insist too, that he has won seven Grand Tours, not five - CAS stripped him of two titles, the Giro 2011 and Tour 2010 because of his two year suspension - because he “won them clean” without any kind of “help...only through self-sacrifice and hard work. I will always consider them mine.”
Contador’s first training camp of the season is on November 12th with his Saxo Bank-Tinkokff in the Canary Islands, but he has nothing decided yet about next season, with the first step “finding out if we are going to be in or out of the WorldTour.”
“I don’t know if we will be because the classification system isn’t very clear, but what I can say is that I’m very happy with the team for next year because what I need is a powerful squad and that can guarantee me the support I need to fight for the win,” he told MARCA.
“I prefer to have a squad without enough points for the WorldTour but with enough strength to support me than the other way round.”
What is definitely decided is that a junior category team made up largely of Spanish riders, backed by Specialized and supported through the Contador Foundation, will start in 2013. Created partly because Spain’s dire economic situation is seeing one amateur squad after another disappear from racing, Contador aims to create an U-23 team in 2014.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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