First Edition News for June 26, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Cofidis to meet with Millar
The Cofidis team announced Friday that it planned to meet with its rider David Millar, said to have confessed to the use of EPO during nearly 48 hours of interrogation by French police in Biarritz, where he lives most of the year. Millar's questioning is a continuation of the ongoing doping investigation led by judge Richard Pallain, who first brought the case to light with the arrest of ex-Cofidis rider Marek Rutkiewicz and ex-soigneur Boguslaw Madejak in January. Since then eight people have been placed under investigation in connection with what is fundamentally a question of trafficking.
Millar's implication is ostensibly the result of statements made by former teammate Philippe Gaumont, himself a subject of investigation, fired by Cofidis following his own revelations of drug use during his career. Gaumont pointed the finger at Millar, Cédric Vasseur, and former Cofidis team doctor Jean-Jacques Menuet, who resigned his post during the team's hiatus from competition in April.
Gaumont is said to have told investigators that Millar instructed Dr. Menuet to give him and Vasseur remnants of a banned substance he says Millar used before the final time trial in the 2003 Tour de France. Both Menuet and Millar (who has never tested positive for a banned substance) have denied Gaumont's accusations. Gaumont's implication was that Millar's status as team leader would have been sufficiently influential on Dr. Menuet.
"Ten days before the Tour, this clearly is a problem," said Cofidis president François Migraine. "We'll dispose of anybody found guilty, but as long as the investigation is ongoing, new information can always come out."
Meanwhile, the team issued a statement of its position prior to meeting face to face with Millar.
"Following information revealed in the press concerning the possible admission of doping by David Millar during his questioning, the Cofidis team will call the rider so he can explain himself on these declarations," the statement read."
"Cofidis Competition, which maintains its firm position on the subject, awaits information pertaining to the content of David Millar's interrogations. If it is revealed that he admitted to doping, Cofidis Competition will apply its principle of zero tolerance and impose immediately the appropriate sanctions."
Could keep rainbow jersey
Although any admission of drug use by Millar would be seen as a positive doping offense per UCI regulations, the Scot could keep his world time trial championship title on the condition that he did not use banned substances during a certain period prior to that event. Millar tested negative after his World's win in Hamilton last October.
Under investigation? No Tour for you
Millar and Vasseur out
The Société du Tour de France issued a statement Friday, in the wake of David Millar's implication in the ongoing drug investigation surrounding the Cofidis team, indicating that no rider who is subject of a legal procedure or police investigation will be permitted to start the Tour de France. Even if Millar's Cofidis team has yet to make its own determination about Millar's status, the Tour policy rules out his participation in this year's Tour. Millar's teammate Cédric Vasseur also remains under investigation by judge Richard Pallain, though he has been allowed to return to competition by the team.
Similar investigations ongoing in Italy also implicate a number of Italian riders, though in the case of riders such as Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco), Alessio Galletti and Mario Scirea (Domina Vacanze), they have either been suspended by their team or at a minimum kept off the Tour roster. Saeco's Danilo Di Luca, who also finds himself under investigation in Italy, was scheduled to ride the Tour.
"We were in contact with the directors of the teams concerned to tell them that we didn't wish to have riders implicated in doping investigations [at the Tour]," said Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc. "I should add that some of them had already taken steps in this direction."
Oktos-Saint Quentin to drop Tessier
Jean-Michel Tessier faces a release from his Oktos-Saint Quentin team after testing positive for amphetamines at the Grand Prix de Villers-Cotterêts on May 31. Team manager Pascal Cordier expressed his intention to drop Tessier, who in the meantime will be deprived of a start at the French national championships Sunday.
"Of course I believe in the presumption of innocence," Cordier told l'Equipe, "but for me you can't have smoke without fire."
Cordier also had strong words concerning the conduct of teams unwilling to take a stance against riders facing doping charges, saying "we can't sign the AC 2000 charter and then act otherwise... I say without ambiguity that doping is not dead."
The charter of AC 2000, the association of French professional teams signed by all teams except Cofidis, calls for the firing of any rider who tests positive for a banned substance.
Tessier, 26, turned professional in 1999 with La Française des Jeux, moved to Cofidis from 2000-2003, and joined Oktos-Saint Quentin this season.
Former Belgian professional Stive Vermaut is still in a critical condition in Roeselare's Heilig Hart hospital after suffering a heart attack two weeks ago. The 28 year old has been in a coma ever since he was admitted, and his condition has reportedly deteriorated.
Vermaut rode with the US Postal and Lotto teams during his career, but was advised to stop racing due to heart problems. He did continue cycling and monitoring his heart, but suffered the heart attack during a ride on Sunday, June 13. Unfortunately for the Vermaut family, his father - who also had heart problems - died nearly a month ago of throat cancer.
No nationals for Paolini, Tankink
Italian Luca Paolini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will miss the national championship road race Sunday, suffering from continued intestinal difficulties. Paolini was forced to abandon the Tour de Suisse and has been unable to train properly since. Perhaps more importantly, Paolini is not deemed able to start the Tour de France. He is expected to return to competition at the Uniqa Classic (July 7-10).
Another Quick.Step rider missing his national championship is Bram Tankink of the Netherlands. Tankink will undergo testing in the coming days to determine the cause of an inflammation in his left leg.
USA Olympic track team
USA Cycling announced Friday the final roster for its track team for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The U.S. will field a team of seven riders for six events on the track. Following the 2004 UCI Track Cycling World Championships last month, the U.S. secured Olympic start positions in the team sprint, keirin, and points race for the men and the individual pursuit, sprint and 500m time trial for the women.
With five first-time Olympians on the seven-rider roster, USA Cycling COO and Director of Athletics, Steve Johnson, feels the relatively young team has made significant progress, though he contends that the full results from the rebuilding process will be seen in years to come.
"It's definitely a young team of sprinters, and they are to be commended for stepping up to the plate and securing the Olympic start positions this year, both for themselves and our country," Johnson said.
"It's certainly been the most demanding and difficult qualification process in recent history and hopefully some of the pressure should now be off. Since the retirement of our most accomplished riders a couple of years ago the young men in the sprint program have begun to develop a great foundation for the future, including the 2008 games."
USA Cycling will send a total of 18 cyclists to Athens. The eight road riders and three mountain bikers will be formally announced on July 6th and 13th, respectively.
2004 U.S. Olympic track team:
Marty Nothstein (keirin)
Erin Mirabella (individual pursuit)
Hushovd to TT in Athens
After winning the Norwegian time trial championships on Thursday, Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd has secured his position for Norway in the time trial at the Athens Olympics.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)