HUESCA, Spain (AP) — Alberto Contador declined to comment on the possibility of Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and instead paid tribute Friday to his former teammate’s skill on the bike.
Armstrong said he won’t pursue arbitration in the case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which says his Tour titles will be stripped and he will be banned for life for doping.
Contador, who hesitantly partnered Armstrong during the first year of the American’s comeback in 2009 with Astana, said he had kept his distance from the case.
”I’m not up to date on the case. Whenever I’m competing at a major race I try to keep these things to the margin and stay completely focused on the race,” Contador said Friday before the start of the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta. ”I don’t know if it’s over or not. The truth is I’m not thinking about it.”
Contador and Armstrong were bitter teammates during the seven-time Tour champion’s return to cycling after a three-year hiatus, with Contador eventually emerging as the team No. 1 on his way to winning the Tour that season. Armstrong, who came third, moved to Radioshack the next season.
Still, the Spanish cyclist, who was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory because of drug charges, was polite in describing the 40-year-old Armstrong’s abilities on the bike after having once described their relationship as ”zero.”
”I think he was a cyclist who always showed such strength, great intelligence and spectacular physical conditioning,” said Contador, who is third overall at the Vuelta.
Few cyclists wanted to comment on Armstrong’s dilemma before the start of Friday’s Vuelta leg, with 2002 Tour runner-up Joseba Beloki refusing to say anything despite the possibility of winning the title if Armstrong is formally stripped.
”We read the cycling news and commented about it on the team bus, but nothing more than that,” Dutch cyclist Joost van Leijen of Lotto Belisol said. ”I understand his decision. The chasers will never stop and he has a life after this.”