LONDON -- Lance Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, accepts Alberto Contador's explanation that contaminated meat caused his positive doping test.
Three-time Tour de France champion Contador has been provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union after a trace of the banned substance clenbuterol was discovered in a urine sample taken at the Tour in July.
"I know Alberto; I've worked with him for three years. I personally cannot believe he is guilty," Bruyneel, who also managed Contador with the Discovery Channel and Astana teams, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I think it's perfectly possible that his positive result would be due to a contaminated piece of meat or whatever supplement, but then again the result is that A and B sample show up positive.
"Now it's up to the authorities to deal with it, and I think it's a very sensitive matter because it is possible to have a positive [test] if you haven't done anything. I am convinced about that. So I would feel really bad for him if this would be the case that he would get suspension or even a reduced suspension," he said.
Bruyneel talked with the AP after speaking at the Leaders in Performance conference in London, where his session was closed to the media.
The UCI said Contador's clenbuterol was detected on July 21, the Tour's final rest day. In a separate sample taken a day earlier, the Cologne lab also found plastic traces that might turn up after a transfusion of blood from a plastic bag, according to a person with knowledge of the test results told the AP on Tuesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because Contador's investigation is ongoing.
"I think it's irrelevant because I don't think it's part of the problem," Bruyneel said. "I think the facts are there were 50 [picograms] of clenbuterol in his sample, and that has to be explained.
"And I think everything else is irrelevant. From what I hear, these tests are not validated yet," he said.
A detection method for self-blood transfusion has yet to be fully validated, but WADA director general David Howman has told the AP that "its use for anti-doping purposes is partially validated and evidence from it, among others, can be used before tribunals."
Contador has challenged cycling authorities to freeze his urine and blood samples until technology can show he rode clean in this year's race.
Bruyneel, who manages Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team, fired Chinese rider Li Fuyu in August after he tested positive for clenbuterol, an anabolic agent that can be used to reduce body fat.
"I have no doubts [about Contador] because I had a similar case in May with a Chinese rider on my team," Bruyneel said. "It's exactly the same quantity [as Contador], which is the least amount that can be measured. I'm pretty sure that's the same case, but I had to terminate his contract.
"A test is a test, and if there is a small quantity there, it's there. I think you have to be able to make the difference if it was deliberately ingested or if it was there because he ate a contaminated piece of meat. I am pretty sure there are more athletes that have been convicted and are in the same case," he said.