Martinelli: Contador needs to accept suspension
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Martinelli: Contador needs to accept suspension

by Samuel Morrison at 2:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
'Not make the same mistake as Marco Pantani in 1999'

Alberto Contador should accept a one-year suspension and plan his return, according to his former sports director Giuseppe Martinelli.

"Accept the suspension, thinking of when he will return to race," Martinelli told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He's the strongest, and will prove it again."

Spain's Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol at the Tour de France last year. The International Cycling Union (UCI) released the result on September 30, after Contador had won the race and agreed to leave Martinelli at Astana for team Saxo Bank.

Contador faces a possible two-year suspension and the loss of his third Tour title. He maintains his innocence. He blames the result on eating a contaminated steak that his Astana team bought in Irún, Spain.

"The only mistake I have made," said Contador last week, "is to have a piece of meat that I had not analysed before to check if it had Clenbuterol."

Before Contador, Martinelli won five Grand Tours as a director, including the victories of Marco Pantani at the 1998 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. He keeps his faith in Contador, but says the fight is not worth the cost.

"I want to clarify to avoid any misunderstanding: I believe Alberto. He's clean. And knowing full well what effort we had to make to win the Tour, you can imagine what it costs to lose," continued Martinelli.

"There are times when you make a choice: either a bang your head against the rubber wall and have it bounce back, or find the courage to leave. Alberto has to do what is best for him, without being influenced by too many people around them. And not make the same mistake as Marco Pantani in 1999."

Pantani was kicked out of the 1999 Giro d'Italia while leading the race for having a hematocrit value higher than the allowed limit of 50. He suffered from the result and never reached his best again, eventually committing suicide in 2004.

"After the exclusion from the Giro at Madonna di Campiglio, Pantani was supposed to start the Tour, but I could not convince him. With the experience of the last 11 years, I am sure that now I am able to... Going back to the Alberto situation, I'm sure he has not done anything illegal, but as it is, it is not easy to prove. In cycling, the burden of proof is reversed.

"Alberto can start thinking about when to return. A one-year stop that ends in August, think about it, you don't miss that much."

Next week, the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) will rule on Contador's case. It is expected to issue a one-year ban and strip him of his Tour de France win.


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