Contador returns to cycling after winning doping appeal
Contador (centre) was all smiles on the start line outside Faro
Alberto Contador made his return to competitive cycling in the Tour of Algarve on Wednesday after winning his appeal against a one-year drug ban.
He was handed the provisional ban after testing positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, but it was overturned on Tuesday.
"I am happy to be here," said Contador as he took his place at the start.
"Above all, it is a huge satisfaction not just for me but also for the team and the sponsors."
Contador, 28, has always protested his innocence, claiming contaminated meat was responsible for his failed test.
This whole situation is not good at all for cycling - it would have been good for it all not to have happened
The Royal Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC), which had imposed the punishment, subsequently cleared him of knowingly using a banned drug.
"I think this whole situation is not good at all for cycling and, in truth, it would have been good for it all not to have happened," Contador added.
"Now we have to plan the season with the [team] director in the next weeks and we will see what the goals are."
The Saxo Bank rider has won the Tour de France three times - but did not confirm whether he would defend his title this year.
The international Cycling Union (UCI), the sport's world governing body, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) can appeal against the latest ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
"It's up to the athlete to prove that whatever product got into his system - in this case clenbuterol - got in without his knowledge," said UCI president Pat McQuaid.
"In this case, my understanding is that Contador has not proven that, but until such time as we see the full dossier we can't really comment on it."
UCI and Wada are currently working their way through the document before they decide on the appropriate course of action.
"We got another 35 pages on the case on Tuesday from the Spanish federation, we'll then discuss this with Wada, and we've got to get the whole case file before we reach a decision [on whether to appeal] within the next 30 days," McQuaid continued.
"Let's wait for the final outcome. It's possible we may not appeal. We have to see the full dossier and get it translated.
"I would hope and be fairly confident it will all be sorted out before the next Tour de France in July."
Meanwhile, McQuaid has criticised Spanish politicians for supporting Contador in his battle against the doping ban
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was one of several politicians to publicly back Contador's appeal, previously stating on the Spanish government's Twitter feed that there was no legal basis to punish the rider.
"It's up to sport to police itself and sport should be allowed to do that," added McQuaid.
"I don't think [the process] should be interfered with by politicians when they don't know the full facts."
McQuaid was asked on Wednesday whether he was disappointed by the political pressure.
It's gone on for far too long and we'd like to reach that final point
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme
He replied: "Yes, it's unwarranted. It doesn't help the image of Spain either.
"It shows they're biased towards supporting their own regardless of what the facts of the case might be."
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme is keen for the matter to be definitely resolved as soon as possible.
"It's gone on for far too long and we'd like to reach that final point," Prudhomme commented.
"Nobody can say if this is the end of the story or not. I'm very glad, though, that the UCI and WADA are working together on this case."
Contador's lawyer Andy Ramos said he did not believe there were any grounds to appeal.
"Justice has been done," Ramos stated. "The UCI will study the decision and for our part there is nothing to appeal. We hope the UCI don't appeal."
A "very small concentration" of clenbuterol, a muscle-building and fat-burning drug, was found in Contador's urine sample on 21 July 2010, by an accredited laboratory in Germany.
The amount was 40 times less than the 50 picograms which the anti-doping laboratories accredited by Wada must be able to detect.
Contador said he ate meat contaminated with the substance during one of the Tour's rest days.
The Spaniard, the yellow jersey winner in Paris, first in 2007 and then in 2009, could have been be stripped of the 2010 Tour title. The only previous Tour winner to suffer that fate was American Floyd Landis in 2006.
Contador won last year's Tour de France by 39 seconds from Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.
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