First Edition News for June 18, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Italian teams wait for fallout from wiretap reports
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Under house arrest as part of the Italian "Oil for Drugs" investigation, Doctor Carlo Santuccione, of Cepagatti, Italy had his office bugged by the Rome Prosecutors office. In phone transcripts leaked to French newspaper Le Monde, a number of riders were recorded talking to Santuccione, allegedly nicknamed "Ali The Pharmacist".
As a result of these leaked wiretap transcript, several riders have been suspended from their teams, including Mario Scirea and Alessio Galletti of Domina Vacanze, and as of Thursday, Eddy Mazzoleni of Saeco. Two other Saeco riders, Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Spezialetti who were also caught on tape, were not suspended by their squad. All of these riders named in the leaked wiretaps were already subjected to house searches and searches of heir hotel rooms at the Giro d'Italia last month and nothing turned up in any of the cases.
With just two weeks to go before the Tour de France and all three Saeco riders scheduled to take the start on July 3rd in Liège, Saeco team manager Claudio Corti attempted to clear the air about the turbulent situation.
"Before we take any decision we have to look much closer at the situation to understand what's going on," he said. "It's very clear for Saeco: should any involvement come out and become part of the magistrate's investigation, there will be strong consequences for those involved. But for now, the only proof is a newspaper article."
Mazzoleni was suspended on a cautionary basis according to the team and runs the risk of being dropped from Saeco's Tour team. As for the Tour organisers, for now, they seem to be taking a wait and see attitude.
"I haven't heard from (Jean-Marie) Leblanc, and I don't see why I should call him," declared a combative Corti. "Our team doesn't have problems."
Corti also told Italian newspaper Tuttosport's Paolo Viberti Thursday that "the same type of insinuations could be applied to Lance Armstrong. In the last few days, a book has come out that talk about the Texan and doping, so how can this be handled?"
As is often the case in the confused world of Italian criminal justice, leaked wiretaps are being used in a way that threatens to destroy the reputations of riders like Mazzoleni without any concrete evidence of any wrongdoing.
Aebersold regrets GC slide
Former Swiss national champion Niki Aebersold (Phonak), who took his first victory since 1998 in Thursday's stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse, confessed to a certain amount of regret that he lost over 18 minutes in the crucial stage 1 split, thus dashing any hopes in the general classification. Aebersold won the mountainous stage 6 by 2'51 over Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and 3'00 over race leader Jan Ullrich, but still sits in 34th place overall, nearly 21 minutes behind the gold jersey.
"I'm still annoyed that I missed the big split on the first day," Aebersold commented on the team's website. "I didn't want to ride for the general classification... But now I must admit I did."
Accepting his stage prize, Aebersold rattled off a list of people he wished to thank, including his teammate Alex Zülle, who helped him make the move from the troubled Team Coast to Phonak last year. He also thanked Phonak president Andy Rihs for the opportunity to return to ride on home soil.
"I wanted to do something yesterday, but I didn't have the legs," he said. "I got away with my attack today and I'm overjoyed."
UCI to sign anti-doping code
Better late than never, the UCI will sign the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) World Anti-Doping Code, announced WADA president Richard Pound on Thursday. The UCI is the only Olympic federation not have signed the code, which seeks to unify the various sports federations across the globe under one set of rules and procedures in the fight against doping. The UCI is expected to sign the code on July 23.
"The 23rd is a bit late, but it's still before the Olympics," Pound commented. "What's most important is that the UCI has always accepted the principle of the code."
The International Olympic Committee has indicated that the signing of the code by the various sports federations is imperative before the Athens Olympics begin in August.
French judge to hear Armstrong case
A French judge will hear the case presented by Lance Armstrong's lawyer on Friday, an effort by the US Postal Service leader to counter allegations of doping in a new book published in France Tuesday. Armstrong's lawyer, Christian Charrière-Bournazel, has argued that eight passages in the book, "LA Confidentiel" be considered defamatory.
Charrière-Bournazel has submitted requests that the book be pulled from the shelves, or the passages in question be removed from the book. In addition, a request has been submitted to require the publisher to insert a statement indicating Armstrong's formal opposition to the allegations in each copy of the book.
A Paris court is expected to hear the case Friday morning. Armstrong has begun legal proceedings against the book's publisher, the publishers of l'Express magazine, which reprinted sections of the book this week, the Sunday Times of London, and the book's authors, David Walsh and Pierre Ballester.
Petacchi tests Athens
Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and national team selector Franco Ballerini will travel to Athens, Greece this weekend to inspect the road course for the Olympic road race. Petacchi, winner of nine stages in this year's Giro d'Italia, hopes to make the Olympic road title a realistic objective in August.
"We decided to inspect the course to fully understand the characteristics of the race," Ballerini commented in La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Plus, Alessandro has kept all of his speed in the sprints but he has also shown in this year's Giro that he's improved on the climbs. We want to see what his possibilities will be on this type of course."
Franck Pencolé (Oktos-Saint Quentin) has decided to end his professional career. The Frenchman lost the motivation to continue and finish the 2004 season, citing a number of factors. Pencolé was an early leader in the Coupe de France standings but by the Classique des Alpes (which is not open to Division III teams) had dropped to eighth in the standings.
"I've had enough," he told l'Equipe. "It's a combination of many things: the state of cycling in France, the challenge of having a structured program when you're on a Division III team, and my expulsion from Paris-Camembert."
Pencolé was prevented from starting the spring classic Paris-Camembert this year after reportedly threatening race organisers. His Oktos-Saint Quentin team was unwelcome at the race following revelations that directeur sportif Oleg Kozlitine had provided drugs to ex-Cofidis rider Philippe Gaumont, and as a result angry members Pencolé's fan club left threatening phone messages with the race organisers. Tensions flared on the day of the race and Pencolé was ultimately kept out of the race.
During his career, which began in 1999, Pencolé rode for Crédit Agricole, BigMat-Auber, FDJeux.com, and Oktos-Saint Quentin.
First teams for the Univest GP
Race Director John Eustice has opened the Univest Grand Prix selection process by inviting the first six teams to compete in this year's race, to be held on September 18th in Souderton, Pennsylvania. The first selections, based on performances at the Tour of Connecticut in May, are Fiordifrutta, TIAA-CREF/5280 Magazine, Team Snow Valley, Volkswagen/Trek, Louis Garneau Racing, and Toga Bikes.
Three European teams will attend the 2004 Univest Grand Prix, leaving seventeen places open for North American teams. Final selection will be announced on August 20th. Interested teams should contact email@example.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)