Merckx: Contador verdict another blow for cycling
MADRID (AP) - The decision to strip Alberto Contador of his Tour de France title and ban him for two years for doping is another blow to the sport, cycling great Eddy Merckx said.
Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour title Monday when the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected his claim that his positive doping test was caused by eating contaminated meat. The Spaniard, who also won cycling's premier race in 2007 and 2009, joined Floyd Landis as the only riders to lose a Tour title.
"It's very bad for cycling. It's bad for everybody. It's like someone wants to kill cycling,'' Merckx told The Associated Press at the Tour of Qatar. "I'm very surprised, very surprised. It's bad for the sponsors. It's bad for the Tour (de France). It's bad for cycling.''
Contador tested positive for clenbuterol from what he claimed was contaminated beef eaten on a Tour rest day in July 2010. CAS called the claim "unlikely,'' saying the positive result "was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement.''
"Cycling always receives a bad name. It's always cycling that's attacked and other sports are never attacked. In other sports they don't go so far,'' Merckx said. "If you go zero-zero-zero-zero-zero (tolerance) you can always find something in everyone.''
Contador has been banned from racing until Aug. 6 and his results since Jan. 25, 2011, have been erased, including his Giro d'Italia victory last May. He is ineligible for this year's Tour, Giro and the London Olympics.
Andy Schleck, who finished 39 seconds behind Contador in the 2010 Tour, is now in line to become that year's champion. But the rider from Luxembourg said that "will not make me happy.''
"I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling,'' Schleck said. "The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.''
Oscar Pereiro, who was elevated to 2006 champion after Landis was stripped, called the verdict "disgraceful.''
"He's innocent, I know him,'' Pereiro said on Twitter. "Alberto has put his life on the line in descents and sprints over the past two years, so what if something would have happened to him? (I'm) at a loss for words.''
The Spanish cycling federation also was surprised CAS decided to overrule its decision to allow Contador to escape without a ban after the cyclist had successfully appealed the federation's initial one-year suspension.
"We feel a lot of sympathy for the athlete,'' federation president Juan Carlos Castano told the AP. "It's a sad day for Spanish sport and cycling.''
Spain's national association of cattle farmers felt vindicated.
"This shows that our system of traceability and food safety is one of the best around and is homogeneous with all other EU countries,'' the organization, which goes by the acronym ASOPROVAC, said in a statement. "This decision that puts an end to (our) work ... in defending our food safety system, which has come under scrutiny following false accusations.''
AP Sports Writers Michael Casey in Doha, Qatar, and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: https://www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP
Michael Casey can be reached at: https://twitter.com/mcasey1