Contador says anti-doping efforts working
MADRID, Spain -- The latest positive doping test from the Tour de France shows that efforts to rid the sport of drug cheats are working, former Tour champion Alberto Contador said Thursday.
Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press, the Spaniard said he was surprised to hear that Austrian cyclist Bernhard Kohl had tested positive for the new blood-booster CERA after finishing third at the Tour last summer.
"Anti-doping measures are working," Contador said. "The anti-doping controls are exhausting and continuous inside and outside of competition."
Kohl admitted Wednesday to using CERA because he felt under "incredibly huge" pressure to succeed. He is one of four Tour de France riders who recently tested positive for the drug in rechecking of samples by the French anti-doping agency.
"Bernhard Kohl is a cyclist who was doing good things, a young rider where a lot was expected. This has surprised me a lot," Contador said. "[But] it's like with everything, there are people who succumb to the pressure and there are those who join the team at kilometer zero and don't stop."
Contador said he had never heard of CERA, an advanced version of EPO, before the current crop of positives.
The International Cycling Union said Wednesday that it would double doping bans to four years in serious doping cases. Contador supported the increased penalty but remained skeptical about how the sanction would be judged between deliberate and accidental cheating.
"Imagine today I take some medicine for, I don't know, a flu or a headache and I test positive and my career is done," he said. "I think these actions are well-intended but you have to be able to distinguish between the cases."
Contador, the Tour de France champion in 2007, won both the Giro d'Italia and Spanish Vuelta this year. He's the first Spaniard and fifth rider to win cycling's three classics -- and managed the feat within a record 15 months.
"I had a lot of pressure from everyone going in to win [the Vuelta]," the 25-year-old Contador said. "You had to win it. It was an obligation. But I carried the pressure really well. To tell you the truth, it was something that motivated me more. When I don't have pressure, I cannot deliver."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press