June 29, 2011 – Spanish rider Alberto Contador says he has stopped eating meat since testing positive for clenbuterol on last year’s Tour de France, a result he blamed on contaminated steak.
The 28-year-old favourite to win this year’s Tour, which gets underway on Saturday, also said in an interview published on Wednesday that his Saxo Bank team will have its own cook this year.
“No, I have not eaten meat again,” he told sports daily Marca when asked if he had eaten meat since traces of clenbuterol were discovered in a test on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour, which he won.
This year the team is taking preventative measures, Contador said.
“In the team everything from the vegetables to the pasta to the bread will be prepared by the team’s own cook. Everything, absolutely everything, at least on the major races. That way we can guarantee the food is fresh and has quality.”
Contador’s claim that he ingested the banned substance while eating a contaminated steak brought to France from Spain was accepted by the Spanish authorities, but did not wash with the International Cycling Union (UCI) nor the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Both bodies appealed the decision to clear the Spaniard to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which will not make a final decision until August.
The UCI also says it will treat Contador with respect, although that pledge will have little value if the CAS finds the Spaniard guilty and he has to hand back all the wins he pocketed since and including last July.
Some of Contador’s critics suggest he may have inadvertently put clenbuterol – a weight-loss and muscle-building drug – back into his system via an illicit and performance-enhancing blood transfusion.
“Like everything in life, there will be people who believe me and others who don’t, but at this point everyone knows there can be food contamination,” said Contador.
WADA lists clenbuterol as an anabolic agent that is prohibited for use by athletes at all times, both in and out of competition.
American swimmer Jessica Hardy tested positive for the substance at the US trials in July 2008 and served a one-year suspension.
But the CAS later accepted her explanation that she had unknowingly taken it in a contaminated food supplement.
The psychological burden borne by Contador did not stop him winning an immensely difficult Giro d’Italia last month.
But despite being on course for a rare Giro-Tour double, not seen since the late Marco Pantani’s feat in 1998, it remains to be seen whether Contador has enough fuel in the tank, both physically and mentally, to go the distance.
Contador, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, said he had recovered mentally from the Giro but was not sure if he had managed to completely recovery physically from the race.
“At a mental level I think I am fully recovered and that is very important. But at the physical level I still have to see how I am,” he told the newspaper.
“I think the first days will not be the best for me,” added Contador, who joined Saxo Bank from Astana shortly after winning last year’s Tour.