Team Saxo Bank Owner Bjarne Riis Says Alberto Contador Will be Cleared of Doping Suspicion
Team Saxo Bank owner and manager and former top cyclist Bjarne Riis says he believes Alberto Contador will be cleared of any doping suspicion and denies rumors that former Tour de France yellow jersey holder Michael Rasmussen is signing with the Danish Team Saxo Bank-SunGard for 2011.
Team Saxo Bank owner and manager and former top cyclist Bjarne Riis says he believes Alberto Contador will be cleared of any doping suspicion.
Riis, who has hired the three-time Tour de France champion for next season, came to the defense of Contador, who has been provisionally suspended after a small concentration of the banned substance clenbuterol was found in a urine sample taken in July.
Riis says he believes Contador "is a clean rider" and that he trusted Contador's explanation that the drug came from a contaminated steak.
Contador signed a deal in August to compete for the Saxo Bank-SunGard team in 2011 after deciding to leave Astana.
The Spanish rider is in "good spirits," Riis said in an interview with the Politiken newspaper on Sunday.
"He has started to train again so we'll have something to work with, although the charge has hit hard."
In another interview, Riis unfortunately denied being in talks to sign blacklisted former Tour de France yellow jersey holder Michael Rasmussen of Denmark.
Rasmussen led cycling's showcase race in 2007 until he was kicked off his Dutch Rabobank team for lying about his training whereabouts when he missed pre-race doping tests. He eventually received a two-year ban and is still blacklisted in pro cycling despite having served his sentence and despite never having tested positive for doping. Meanwhile, we are witnessing many formerly doped riders being welcomed back into pro cycling, but still Rasmussen appears unwanted.
Rasmussen, whose main appearance in Denmark in recent months has been in a televised dancing contest, has been linked several times to the team.
"There's been almost no contact [with him] and I will not sign Michael Rasmussen for Saxo Bank-SunGard," Riis told the Ekstra Bladet daily. "I want to reiterate that I hope Michael gets an opportunity to race again."
The interviews were published two days before Riis' official autobiography titled RIIS hits the shelves.
Although team rider Andy Schleck came second in this year's Tour de France behind Contador, Riis suffered a series of setbacks in 2010 with several of his key riders leaving the team.
The Schleck brothers quit to join a new Luxembourg outfit created by Riis' former longtime press assistant, Brian Nygaard, and his then-aide Kim Andersen. Teammates Fabian Cancellara, Jakob Fuglsang, Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady followed suit.
He signed Contador in August only to learn about the doping allegations weeks later.
Riis became a national hero in 1996 after winning the Tour de France.
Since his retirement from racing in 2000, he set up a team with some of cycling's big names: Laurent Jalabert, Carlos Sastre, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso and Voigt, among others.
The Dane admitted in 2007 that he had used the performance-enhancing drug EPO from 1993-1998, including when he won the Tour de France in 1996.
That prompted sponsor Computer Sciences Corp. to end its eight-year relationship after several doping scandals. Danish Internet-based bank and Web trading platform Saxo Bank stepped replaced CSC in 2008.
"The book is telling my story, my truth," Riis was quoted as saying by Politiken.
"Nobody forced me, there were no requirements, I was not put under any pressure," Riis said about taking doping. "It was my own choice."