UCI says 'respect Contador at the Tour de France'
Alberto Contador on podium, Giro d'Italia 2011, stage 13
Cycle sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has issued a statement asking fans, media and riders to treat Alberto Contador "like every other rider who takes to the start of the Tour de France".
The UCI's statement comes after Contador announced his intention to participate in the 2011 Tour de France in July.
Contador is currently awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) relating to a positive test for clenbuterol during last year's Tour de France, which the Spaniard won.
Contador was cleared of doping charges by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC), resumed competing and won the Giro d'Italia in May. However, the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) both filed appeals with CAS against RFEC's decision to clear Contador.
Many have expressed concerns that Contador should not be currently riding with a doping appeal pending, and the UCI has set out to clarify the issue.
Contador has maintained throughout that clenbuterol entered his system via the consumption of a tainted steak brought to France from Spain by a friend during the Tour. He denies doping.
"Although it is undeniably regrettable that Alberto Contador's participation in the Tour de France should be in circumstances of such uncertainty, it is nevertheless vital that we make an effort to understand if we are to deal rationally with the situation," reads the UCI statement.
"As a consequence of his acquittal by the Disciplinary Commission of the Spanish Cycling Federation, Alberto Contador has the statutory right to take part in any competition insofar as he has not been found guilty by the CAS."
"The UCI Management Committee asks that every sportsman and woman set aside their personal opinions, however valid they may be, and accept this framework, which is the result of a long and rigorous procedure."
"The UCI, which has always persevered in seeking out the truth, is ready to accept its responsibilities and is also keen to see the swiftest possible conclusion to the matter."
"Until that time, the UCI Management Committee asks that we respect Alberto Contador's right to be treated like every other rider who takes the start of the Tour de France."
The UCI statement concludes with the line "The prestige of the event warrants it, and the dignity of all athletes demands it".
On Tuesday, it was reported that WADA science director Olivier Rabin mooted the possibility of setting a testing threshold for clenbuterol. On Wednesday, WADA issued a statement saying "at present there is no plan to introduce a threshold level for clenbuterol". However, WADA did acknowledge that "it is possible that under certain circumstances the presence of a low level of clenbuterol in an athlete sample can be the result of food contamination".
Currently, any amount of clenbuterol found in an athlete's sample triggers a positive test. Clenbuterol is not a naturally occurring substance in the human body unlike, for example, testosterone. Clenbuterol can be used to decrease body fat and increase muscle mass.