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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest News for June 21, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Lifetime Olympic ban for French

French at 2003 national championships
Photo: © Tom Balks
Click for larger image

Australian cyclist Mark French has been handed a lifetime ban from Olympic competition by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) as a result of his implication in a drug scandal at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). French has already been issued a two year ban from all competition by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), after he was found guilty of trafficking of banned substances and growth hormones were found in his room at the AIS. (See full story here)

This marks the first time that the AOC has issued an athlete a lifetime ban from the Olympics, though the possibility of a reduction to eight years exists should French decide to provide evidence against other riders suspected of doping. Thus far, French is the only rider to be found guilty in the current investigation.

"Today Bob Elphinston, the AOC secretary-general, has written to Mark French, advising him that in light of the fact that two of the charges against him that were found proven involved trafficking, Mark is ineligible for life to represent Australia at the Olympic Games," AOC legal counsel Simon Rofe commented, quoted in The Age. "

"I should add... that if Mark French was to give substantial assistance in giving evidence as to other people involved in these offences there is potential for his sanction to be reduced, but in any event it will be a minimum of eight years under the world anti-doping code," Rofe said.

"There have been earlier athletes involved in trafficking and under the AOC policy there is no room to move; life is an automatic suspension once trafficking is established."

Rofe was unapologetic, insisting that as a junior world champion French has been exposed to sufficient education concerning performance enhancing drugs and the consequences of their use.

"At his elite level of sport he must surely have known the rules because it's drummed into all of them, and yes it has the potential to bring to a close what would have otherwise been a brilliant career but we can't do anything about it," Rofe explained.

Heras confident

Heras on track
Photo ©: AFP
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Entering this year's Tour de France as the leader of the Liberty Seguros team, two-time Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras says he has the confidence necessary to unseat defending Tour champion Lance Armstrong. Heras, recent winner of the Euskal Bizikleta, credits both his former US Postal Service team leader Armstrong and his new team under the direction of Manolo Saiz with his entry in the Tour as a contender for the overall classification.

"I feel stronger mentally and physically," Heras said, quoted in La Dernière Heure. "Most of all mentally, as that's what I learned most from Armstrong, who in dominating the Tour for five years owes that to his mental strength.

"I think there are other riders who prepare as well as Armstrong for the Tour, but Lance knows better than anyone how to convince himself that he is stronger than the rest," Heras continued. "He never thinks of defeat, only of victory."

This year Heras will hope to use his explosive climbing skills, which in recent years have been put in the service of Armstrong at the Tour, for his own bid for yellow in Paris. Backed by a strong Liberty Seguros team and experienced directeur sportif Manolo Saiz, Heras believes now is the time for his Tour assault.

"Manolo had already made me an offer in 2000, before Armstrong had called me, but I didn't think I was ready to tackle the ultimate challenge of the Tour," Heras explained. "I preferred to work for the American and build my own experience. Now, three years later, I feel like I've stepped up another level... Today I count myself among those who can beat Armstrong, as long as all of the right conditions come together."

Perdiguero confirms

Thirty-one year old Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Saunier Duval-Prodir) sealed his first major stage race victory Sunday by winning the UCI 2.1 ranked Volta a Catalunya in Spain. Perdiguero has ridden since 1997 primarily as a team worker, but having learned to climb as well as sprint, he emerged as a serious contender in Catalunya and took three stage wins on his way to the top of the general classification.

"I have won the most important test of my life and the team has been fantastic," Perdiguero commented after securing the overall victory.

Since 1997, Perdiguero has ridden with Kelme, ONCE, Vitalicio Seguros, Cantina Tollo, Acqua & Sapone, Domina Vacanze, and now Saunier-Duval. It seems his current team has provided the winning combination, and Perdiguero was quick to acknowledge this.

"For many years and various teams, I have had to work for others and I have tried to take advantage of the few opportunities I have had," Perdiguero explained. "I was comfortable and secure with my chances. It is possible that many are surprised by my triumphs in the mountains, but for me it is not a surprise.

"Throughout the Volta my teammates worked very hard for me and my director never lacked faith in my abilities," Perdiguero added. "He was the most optimistic of all."

Perdiguero will travel to the Spanish national championships this weekend, and remains hopefully for Olympic selection in August.

Rabobank keeps Kroon

The Dutch Rabobank team has announced that Karsten Kroon will remain with the team for an additional season. Kroon, who has ridden with Rabobank since joining its development team in 1997 (turning professional in 1999), recently won the Rund um den Henninger Turm, another highlight after his 2002 Tour de France stage win in Plouay.

"Actually, it was pretty easy," said Rabobank manager Theo de Rooij. "Karsten wanted to say and we really wanted to keep Karsten on the team."

France's Olympic MTB team set

Pending a formal announcement, the cross-country roster has bet set for the Olympics in Athens, where Miguel Martinez will return to defend his 2000 title in the men's race. Martinez will be joined by Julien Absalon, winner of the fourth round of the cross-country World Cup in Schladming, Austria last weekend, and Jean-Christophe Péraud. Reigning cyclo-cross world champion Laurence Leboucher will be the sole women's representative

Return of the Tour de l'Ouest

Jean-Yves Tranvaux, organiser of the Grand Prix de Plouay, has announced that he will bring back the Tour de l'Ouest stage race in the Bretagne region of France for the first time since 1959. The five stage race will return in 2005 from August 30-September 4. Fourteen teams are expected to compete.


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