FARO, Portugal - Alberto Contador insisted on Wednesday he had not benefited from patriotism after his doping ban was rescinded by the Spanish Cycling Federation and called for reform of anti-doping procedures.
Contador had threatened to end his career if he was found to have knowingly taken a banned substance.
The Spaniard had insisted all along the failed doping test during last year's Tour de France, which he won, was the result of eating a steak contaminated with traces of the muscle-building drug clenbuterol.
The Spanish federation on Tuesday cleared the 28-year-old of intentionally doping, although the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have the judgement overturned.
Contador, returning to action at the Tour of the Algarve, urged the cycling authorities to revise their anti-doping procedures to prevent further "injustices" of suspensions for riders ultimately deemed innocent.
He insisted there were "legal and scientific" reasons for clearing him and his nationality was nothing to do with it.
"Many people are pointing the finger because I am Spanish ... (but) I have been cleared and I want to stress it was not a question of patriotism, it was down to legal and scientific (issues)," Contador said.
"Mine is an exemplary case and affords a great chance to change the rules.
"There are norms which must be reviewed in the short term -- otherwise injustices will continue to be seen."
Before Wednesday's race, in which he finished in 28th place, five seconds behind Belgian stage winner Philippe Gilbert, Contador said: "After what has happened these past five or six months, the most important thing is to be here.
"For me it's already a victory," said the three-time Tour de France winner, who was cheered on by well-wishers and warmly greeted by his fellow riders.
"His goal today was to get started and not lose time," Contador's spokesperson, Jacinto Vidarte, said.
"You can't see it beneath his helmet and behind his sunglasses, but inside, of course, he was very emotional."
He arrived in Portugal in the early hours for his first race in the colors of his new team, Saxo Bank.
Saxo Bank Director Bjarne Riis said "the team and Alberto had absolutely no influence" on the federation's decision.
"The ruling rejects all other possibilities other than accidental consumption" of the rogue steak," Riis said.