The early part of Alberto Contador’s contentious return to competition is set to take place exclusively on the Iberian Peninsula, but his spokesman has denied that this is a deliberate attempt on the Saxo Bank Sungard rider’s part to avoid a potentially hostile reception further afield
“That’s not the case,” Jacinto Vidarte told rmc.fr. “This calendar had already been partially drawn up before this whole affair. Alberto had it in mind to work out a preparation that would allow him to take part in two Grand Tours.”
Contador began his season in Portugal last week at the Volta ao Algarve and will now return to home roads in Spain for his next three races. In previous seasons, Paris-Nice has been a fixture in Contador's early build-up, but this time around the Tour of Murcia (March 4-6), the Volta a Catalunya (March 21-27) and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (April 13-17) are next on the agenda. It is understood that Contador may then take part in one of the Ardennes Classics in preparation for the Giro d’Italia.
Contador’s eventual participation in both the Giro and the Tour de France may well be subject to an eventual appeal of the Spanish Federation’s (RFEC) decision to clear him, although neither WADA nor the UCI has yet confirmed that it will appeal the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Spanish riders' union calls for "respect"
Meanwhile, the Spanish professional cyclists’ union ACP (Asociación de Ciclistas Profesionales) has released a statement in defence of its members after what it termed “the latest accusations on doping made by various individuals and institutions at international level against Spanish sport in general and cycling in particular.”
The ACP insisted that its riders are not open to sanction only from the Spanish federation but that “Spanish professional cyclists, the same as all other cyclists, are subject to doping controls all over the world.”
Although Contador returned his positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France and the sample was analysed in a laboratory in Cologne, Germany, the disciplinary proceedings against the rider took place in Spain, under the auspices of the RFEC. He was cleared by his home federation last week.
The ACP also moved to defend the integrity of the Spanish disciplinary proceedings, claiming that “practically all” of the cases handled by the RFEC against Spanish riders “end with sanctions of up to two years imposed and a fine of 70% of the salary the rider should have received that year.
“The powers of the national [sporting] organisation (Consejo Superior de Deportes) in the field of combating doping is marginal, so accusations levelled against this institution should be rejected.”
The statement from the ACP concluded by calling for the fight against doping to be clarified “in order to avoid those ‘grey areas’” and requesting “respect for our cyclists… who have a maximum involvement in the fight against doping.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.