Spain's Alberto Contador said on Monday that all seven of his major cycling Tour wins still count as far as he's concerned, despite being stripped of two titles along with receiving a two-year doping ban.
Contador, the 29-year-old Saxo Bank rider who won his second Tour of Spain on Sunday in a fairy-tale comeback from his hotly disputed drugs suspension, raised seven fingers on the winner's podium.
Asked on public television station TVE why he made the gesture, Contador said: "Seven, that how many Tours I feel I have won.
"What's written down on paper could be one thing or another. But in the end what counts is your own feeling, and the memory that remains imprinted on the retinas of the fans. What's on paper is secondary."
Contador lost his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d'Italia titles after testing positive for traces of banned substance clenbuterol in 2010, which he insists came from a contaminated steak.
Officially, he has notched up five Tour victories: the Tour of France in 2007 and 2009, the Giro d'Italia 2008 and the Vueltas in 2008 and 2012.
On Sunday, Contador safely negotiated the 21st and final 115km largely flat stage from Cercedilla to Madrid to claim victory. He clocked 84hr 59min 49sec in a Vuelta that covered a total distance of 3 300 kilometres.
Asked about the doping suspicions raised over some Spanish sports stars, who were notably mocked in a French satirical puppet show last February, he said: "It has been spoken of and joked about without a factual basis. It is something that does not reflect reality. I don't see it as envy, more as admiration."