First Edition News for June 24, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Bruyneel: "Ullrich is the most dangerous"
In an interview with Spanish paper Marca, US Postal directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel has named Jan Ullrich as "still the most dangerous" to Lance Armstrong's chances of winning a sixth Tour de France.
Next on Bruyneel's list of threats is Iban Mayo, along with Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, Ivan Basso, "and I would even dare to mention the name of [Illes Balears - Banesto rider Denis] Menchov," said Bruyneel.
Asked how much weight can be placed on Mayo and Hamilton's strong performances in the Dauphiné Libéré, Bruyneel said, "Very simple: Mayo and Hamilton were very strong, more than Lance, and their teams Euskaltel and Phonak also went very well. We were good, but not as good as them, but in a way that was to be expected as we weren't there to win."
"Well," said Bruyneel, "although we didn't go with the idea of winning, I was a little surprised by how much we lost on Mont Ventoux. The truth is, we didn't expect that."
Bruyneel said he wasn't worried by Mayo's Ventoux performance, "but it is evident that we have to improve. If they improve too, then we have a problem."
"In previous years Lance has dominated the Dauphiné, but this year we weren't there intending to do great things, knowing there were still five weeks to go till the mountains of the Tour. This year we have approached the season differently because we saw that either with the heat, the difficulty of the course, the effort we had to expend to defend the leadership,or the fall that [Lance] suffered, the Dauphiné last year was not great for us. So this year we were more relaxed, without obligations and without pressure."
Bruyneel confirmed the Tour strategy hinted at by USPS general manager Dan Osipow yesterday. "We think that we should not arrive at the start of the Tour at 100 percent, because the mountains this year come very late. We will arrive in good shape, but with margin for improvement."
Nevertheless, an in-form Mayo is a threat, said Bruyneel. "Mayo has taken an important step and is now not just a favourite to win a stage and finish in a good position, as last year, but a serious candidate for victory. It's going to be a different race for him."
Like Armstrong, who says he spends most of the year worrying about the Tour, Bruyneel has thought about the possibility of losing. "It's always possible to lose, " he said," and even quite easy. But I have confidence in Lance and the rest of the team and I don't have reasons to think about it too much."
Evans reacts to Tour exclusion
In his latest diary comments, Australian cyclist Cadel Evans has reacted to his exclusion from T-Mobile's team for the Tour de France.
"I'm surprised and disappointed in the decision," writes Evans. "But I'm also frustrated that I've let down everyone who thought that I would be part of this year's Tour. At this stage, I'm not going to be there but of course I'll keep on training knowing that anything can happen in the next 10 days. It wouldn't surprise me too much if I do get the call-up so there's still a hint of hope."
Evans writes that he will now refocus his objectives for the season and concentrate on the world championships. But when he returns to the subject of the Tour his frustration is obvious. "I did join this team two years ago because I had ambitions for the Tour," he writes, "and now, even though I'm obviously riding well, I won't be there.
"Ah, not to worry… there'll be other challenges ahead," he concludes.
T-Mobile's Tour team now looks likely to be Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel, Andreas Klöden, Matthias Kessler, Rolf Aldag, Santiago Botero, Daniele Nardello, Giuseppe Guerini, and Tomas Konecny. The team will be officially announced on Friday.
Australia's track cycling scandal
French makes statement while judge begins the long haul
By Gerard Knapp
Over the next two weeks, a retired former Supreme Court Justice will attempt to unravel the conflicting statements made by elite track cyclists at the centre of the Australia Institute of Sport doping scandal, with Mark French issuing a statement that maintains the explosive testimony he gave to the Court of Arbitration for Sport earlier this month.
French, the 19 year-old, four-time junior world champion, intends to lodge an appeal against the two-year suspension and $1000 fine he received from CAS on June 9 this year for doping offences.
In his statement released today, the teenage sprinter said, "I have always at the outset admitted to using Testicomp, a product I was told is a vitamin supplement". (Testicomp is a supplement that contains minute traces of the banned drug cortisone acetate, a glucocorticosteroid. It is considered a 'soft' substance, but still doping.)
But French then denied using the more serious doping substance - equine growth hormone - that he has already been charged with possessing and trafficking. "I have never used any growth hormones of any description or any other illegal substance," he said.
More AOC comments
In another day of the ongoing saga affecting the futures of some of Australia's leading track cyclists, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates, flew back from Switzerland and into a press conference, where he reiterated the AOC's reluctance to include the named AIS riders in the Australian team, if selected by Cycling Australia.
"We are saying we want to be satisfied that you five are the proper sort of people we should be including on an Olympic team, and we're throwing the onus back on them through this inquiry to establish that," he said.
Coates also called for the establishment of a sporting ombudsman to assist in the investigation of doping claims. He believes that if such a facility existed the current case - first uncovered in December 2003 - may have been resolved sooner. It was also suggested this Ombudsman be given the ability to tap telephones of athletes who are under suspicion of doping.
The sporting future of five riders named by French hang in the balance, as Coates has placed all emphasis on the inquiry to clear their them for competition.
However, it's unclear how the new enquiry will resolve the central issue - that of identifying the user or users of the highly illegal doping substance, equine growth hormone. Some 13 used ampoules of eGH were among the injecting paraphernalia found in French's room at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) cycling building in Del Monte, Adelaide, in December.
An independent investigation held in January this year by Justice Stanwix found that French had a case to answer and he was served infraction notices for doping infringements, while Justice Stanwix could not find sufficient evidence against any other cyclist attending the AIS.
French kept racing
Summoned to appear before the 'sport court' in June (after taking part in the lucrative keirin series in Japan), French was found guilty of possession and trafficking of doping substances, including eGH and glucocorticosteroid. However, there was insufficient evidence to prove a case of using the eGH, while French admitted to using the lesser Testicomp supplement.
At the CAS hearings, French gave sworn evidence where he denied any knowledge of the eGH. Once again in his latest statement, he said, "I do not know who the eGH vials belonged to or when they were placed in the room I previously occupied".
However, his testimony was described as "implausible" by Malcolm Holmes, QC, who sat on the CAS hearings and made the ruling against French.
But it was at theses hearings French also elaborated on previous allegations that he was not alone in administering vitamins and supplements by injection. He alleged five AIS cyclists also used his room for injecting a variety of substances, which he assumed were vitamins and supplements.
As French gave his sworn testimony to CAS in-camera, the names of the cyclists remain confidential and will continue to do so even in the next enquiry to be chaired by Justice Anderson.
However, it is inevitable that the riders could be named, particularly if the AOC remains unconvinced of their innocence and rejects their selection by Cycling Australia.
The sport's ruling body has already named its shadow Olympic team and coaches have provided various media statements naming the likely team set to race in Athens. Also, past performances at selection criteria races are a matter of public record. If key riders are missing from the squad, then they have effectively been 'outed' by the AOC. Providing a further legal dilemma for the AOC is that a key condition of French's testimony is that the riders names remain confidential.
It's understood that lawyers for the riders - and the AOC - will be poring over their athlete agreements to determine if the AOC can prevent the participation of an athlete if a judiciary is unable to bring charges.
Judge to hit the road?
Into this legal quagmire comes Justice Anderson of Western Australia, who will be clocking up the frequent flyer miles if he is to personally interview the key players in what is shaping up to be the messiest doping case in Australian sport for some time.
The judge may need to go across the country to Melbourne to interview French, and then may go north to Rockhampton, if he needs to interview any of the named riders that may be with the AIS squad that will move north from South Australia to Queensland on Friday to train at an outdoor track in warmer weather in preparation for Athens. Justice Anderson has less than three weeks to wrap up the inquiry as CA has to announce the Olympic cycling squad by July 9.
In the Senate on Monday, Senator Rod Kemp, the Minister for Sport, said the new inquiry "will inquire into and provide recommendations on the allegations made by Mr French in his evidence given to CAS".
Further, the Minister "asked that the investigation also examine and provide recommendations on whether there was any failure of management, systems or supervision at the Del Monte facility; and whether the processes put in place by the ASC and other organisations in dealing with this matter were appropriate and effective".
The emphasis and of this next enquiry is of a political, rather than scientific, nature; it was demanded by the Federal Opposition in the Senate and on Monday the Government agreed to its demand. However, the key issue is the still-unresolved serious doping offence, but there appears little chance of the enquiry determining who is guilty of using the eGH found in French's room back in December.
Cycling Australia's Fredericks said that because there is no test to detect EGH, any successful prosecution will require corroborating evidence from a third party that can identify the rider/s who used the eGH - and also clear the names of the other riders. "Otherwise, it's going to be one statement against another, and that's probably not going to get us very far."
Previous stories on the French affair
RAGT's Barle optimistic about the Tour
While conceding that his team - currently languishing at the bottom of the UCI Division I trade team rankings with fewer points than all but three Division II teams - is "not among the favourites", RAGT Semences - MG Rover team manager Serge Barle is optimistic about the Tour de France and this weekend's French national championships.
In the team's newsletter, Barle says the team's state of mind is "excellent. We've put all our problems behind us. Since the Dauphiné, we've got back into the swing of things and are each fully aware of the responsibilities in hand."
Barle thinks the team's best chance of a French title is in the time trial. "I think we can do well as we have Eddy Seigneur," he says. "I've seldom seen him so motivated. Without bragging at all, I think we're in with a chance for the title and certainly could find ourselves with a top three place with Guillaume Auger, either with Frédéric Finot who has shown on several occasions that he was a specialist."
As for the Tour, Barle, whose team has yet to break its winless run in UCI races this year, says he is "confident. Even if each of us knows that we're not among the favourites, we do never the less have what it takes to to do some good work on the best stages. The Société du Tour will not regret having selected us."
Tyler Hamilton Foundation live Tour stage
The Tyler Hamilton Foundation is co-ordinating a live transmission of stage 13 of the Tour de France to 19 cinemas across the USA on Saturday, July 17, 2004.
The fund-raising event in support of the THF's work to raise money for the victims of multiple sclerosis is supported by OLN, which is providing the satellite feed, and Regal CineMedia, which owns the cinemas.
Stage 13 is a mountainous 217km trip from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille. Foundation patron Tyler Hamilton said "Just knowing that an entire nation of fans and enthusiasts are supporting the Foundation and watching me race live, will provide much needed strength during a particularly difficult juncture of this race."
For more information see www.tylerhamiltonfoundation.org.
Scottish XC round 4 this weekend
Round 4 of the 2004 Scottish SXC Cross Country Mountain Bike XC series takes place on Sunday 27th June at the course in Aberfoyle. The team of trail builders at Glasgow Mountain Bike Club have been busy this winter and the course at Aberfoyle seems to be bedding in nicely.
In the men's Elite category James Ochterlony of Angus Bike Chain leads the way with two firsts and a second place from the first 3 rounds. Second place and last years series winner Iain Nimmo is absent racing in Turkey so the main challenge should come from James Fraser-Moodie, Pedal Power R.T., Paul Newnham, Halfords Bikehut and reigning Scottish Cross Country Champion, Bruce McCleary. In the ladies Elite Class Ruth McGavigan, Eastern Region Velo/ Bianchi UK leads the way on 60 points after two second places.
Full details and entry forms are available from www.sxc.org.uk.
Madison at Friday Night Winter Track Racing
Yes, it's winter in Australia and after the first event last week the Friday Night Winter Track Racing series at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome is in full swing. This week's event sees the first Madison of the series and organizer Paul Craft says, "if last season's races are any indication this year should be action-packed."
The feature race this week is the Division Two FNWTR 1km wheelrace and this week also sees the start of the points series. Racing starts at 6pm with junior development races.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)