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10 August 2007
MADRID (AP) - Tour de France winner Alberto Contador said on Friday he has always competed clean, rejecting doping accusations stemming from his alleged links to a Spanish drugs investigation.
''I've never committed a doping offence. I've never been involved in any act of doping,'' Contador said. ''My promise against doping is absolute.''
In a public statement read to the media, Contador said he intends to do all he can to aid investigators in the fight against doping.
''I am available to all competent authorities in the matter of doping, and will answer any questions, including providing my DNA,'' he said.
Flanked by Discovery Channel Team boss Johann Bruyneel and Spanish Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetzky, Contador said what should have been a celebration after his Tour victory had turned sour because of the constant accusations and news coverage, even forcing him to have police protection.
''I have passed all controls ... surprise and scheduled, in my house and at competitions, during racing and when not, of blood and urine,'' Contador said.
The Spaniard won this year's Tour de France by 23 seconds over Australia's Cadel Evans after race leader Michael Rasmussen was removed by his team after evidence that he lied about his whereabouts during training to evade drug testing.
German authorities said last week they received information from doping expert Werner Franke in which he claims shows Contador was involved in doping.
Franke said he has documents from the Spanish Operation Puerto probe last year showing that Contador had taken a testosterone booster and an asthma drug. He also turned over the documents to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
But Contador had said he was mistakenly named in the Puerto investigation, which was set off last May when Spain's Civil Guard raided a Madrid clinic that allegedly provided doping services to more than 50 cyclists. Police seized up to 200 bags of blood, blood transfusion equipment and steroids.
''I don't know what else I can say,'' Contador said Friday. ''I, Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour, want to bring credibility ... to the new generation of cycling.''
No questions were allowed from reporters, and Contador left swiftly after finishing his statement.
Hours afterwards, Tailwind Sports, which owns and operates the Discovery Channel team that Contador rode for, announced it will cease operations at the end of this season. The team had struggled to find a replacement sponsor.
Tailwind's statement also suggested boss Bruyneel will retire. It said ''his departure from the sport was not an easy choice.''
''When I came to direct this team in 1999 I never would have imagined that we could achieve this level of success. It was an amazing time in my life and the lives of all the staff and riders associated with this team,'' Bruyneel said.
''I'm going to miss the staff, riders and the excitement of the races, but not all the infighting between the teams. This team has become my family and it is very sad to think that we will not be together next season.''
Through Contador and Lance Armstrong, Bruyneel oversaw wins in eight of the last nine Tours.
But it also was an era of repeat doping scandals that have pushed the sport into crisis and made sponsors jittery - a factor that Armstrong, a co-owner of the team, alluded to in Tailwind's statement.
''I do not think you have seen the last of this organisation in the sport but clearly things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling,'' Armstrong said.
Tailwind said it was stopping its search for a title sponsor to replace the Discovery Channel.
''This was a difficult decision, not made any easier by our recent Tour de France success,'' general manager Bill Stapleton said. ''We were in talks with a number of companies about the opportunity and were confident a new sponsor was imminent. We have chosen, however, to end those discussions.''
The team said it would still ride in this year's Tour of Spain and the Tour of Missouri.
(Copyright AP with Exaptica 2007)
Subject: Spanish news
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