Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who is accused of doping, has received support from a surprising source. Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday pronounced, via his Moncloa office's Twitter feed (twitter.com/desdelamoncloa), that "There is no legal reason to sanction Contador."
The unequivocal defense comes as the Spanish Cycling Federation prepares its definitive verdict on Contador's case, after he and his lawyers presented their final arguments last week. The Federation was due to reach a decision on Thursday, but the announcement has now been put back until at least Monday, say organization sources.
Contador, who tested positive for 50 picograms of the banned anabolic steroid clenbuterol during last year's Tour de France, has already been handed a provisional one-year suspension.
Zapatero's comment goes against one of the basic principles of the World Anti-Doping Code, which was approved by the Spanish government in 2007. The principle of objective responsibility rules that the proof of doping is the appearance of a banned substance in the body. "It is the job of each sportsman to assure that no prohibited substance is introduced into the body," says the law.
Contador has continued to proclaim his innocence and has blamed the positive result on cycling's "obsolete" controls. The Tour de France champion says the clenbuterol came from contaminated meat he ate during the race.
"I have reached who I am in cycling, after many years, with effort and the desire for self-improvement," he told Efe news agency on Thursday. "I'm not thinking about what might happen with my sporting career, but rather that justice is done."
The delaying of the decision was likely to be related to the presence of the International Cycling Union's press chief in Madrid on Thursday. "We don't want this visit, which is purely coincidental, to be interpreted as a form of tutelage, control or investigation towards the Spanish federation," said forces close to the decision.