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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for June 30, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Vermaut dead at 28

RIP Stive Vermaut
Photo: © Daniel Schamps
Click for larger image

Former professional Stive Vermaut died early Wednesday morning at a hospital in Roeselaere, Belgium. Vermaut, 28, suffered a heart attack June 13 while out on a training ride, eventually succumbing to the effects of cerebral damage. He had been kept in an artificial coma but doctors were unable to save his life.

Vermaut, who ended his professional career in 2002 on the advice of his doctors, suffered a congenital heart disease. He began his career in 1998 with the Vlaanderen 2002 team, moved to US Postal Service for one season in 2000, before joining Lotto-Domo in 2001. As evidence of his heart condition emerged, Lotto-Domo decided against letting him continue riding, though he picked up a new contract with Palmans-Collstrop in 2002 before deciding to retire permanently. His one professional victory came in 1999 in a stage at the Circuit des Mines.

Related stories

Stive Vermaut diagnosed with heart problem (April 2002)
Vermaut's choice (June 2002)
Vermaut critical of Belgian doctors (June 2002)
Vermaut ends his career (November 2002)
Vermaut suffers heart attack (June 2004)
Vermaut still critical (June 2004)

Lamour's tempered expectations

French minister of sport Jean-François Lamour has declared himself neither "naively optimistic nor fundamentally pessimistic" concerning the doping the problems of doping facing cycling on the eve of the Tour de France. Lamour has been outspoken on the subject and has been the driving force behind legislation in France aimed at fighting doping. He was also the impetus behind recent decisions on the part of the Tour de France and French cycling federation to ban athletes under police investigation.

"My frustration is not with cycling," he insisted in a l'Equipe interview Wednesday. "I like this sport and I appreciate it. But it's defining itself through a succession of [doping] affairs: Cofidis in France, others in Spain and in Italy. This doesn't help the sport's progression and it doesn't help the ambiance that pervades cycling in France and elsewhere."

As for Lamour's sentiment as the Tour prepares to kick off in Liège, Belgium, "It's not serenity, that's the last I can say," he commented. Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc has already accepted that police raids on the Tour may be all but inevitable, while Lamour seems to fear more for the future of the sport, still popular on the roadside but facing a crisis in the form of ongoing doping scandals.

"I think this feeling is changing," he said, referring to the notion of the sport's enduring popularity among fans. "I think we're seeing a fracture in the sport, a sport that's inherently popular and free. We're asking ourselves if this could all come to an end one day."

Leblanc confident in Armstrong

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc remains an admirer of five-time winner Lance Armstrong, who this year embarks on a bid for an unprecedented sixth win in Paris. Leblanc, who declares himself 'skeptical' concerning allegations of doping revealed in the recent book "L.A. Confidential", prefers to offer his confidence to the majority of riders, Armstrong included.

"He works hard and leaves nothing to chance," Leblanc said of the US Postal Service leader in a recent AFP interview. "He's the one who started systematically testing the crucial stages, something now done by all of his rivals. Perhaps he's not as physically gifted as Jan Ullrich, who people call a real motor. But Armstrong has won five Tours de France thanks to his mental strength, his character, and his preparation.

Leblanc, a former rider-turned journalist, will direct the Tour for the sixteenth time this year. During his tenure he has seen two five-time winners, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong. This year he could see the five win record broken, but Leblanc prefers not to make comparisons between Tour champions from different eras.

"Comparisons can't be made only with their palmarès," he said. "There are other factors: the quality of competition, whether or not they were present all year long... Specialisation. I think cycling has changed. It's a different era."

Eadie posts qualifying time for Olympics selection

By Gerard Knapp

Sean Eadie (right) and Michael Ford
Photo: © Mal Sawford
Click for larger image

Sixteen-thousandths of a second is the miniscule difference between dreams and despair, success and failure, or being on a plane to Athens or staying home to watch the Olympic Games on television.

On Wednesday in Sydney, Australian track sprinter Sean Eadie cast aside the pressure of unprecedented doping allegations in Australian track cycling to post a time of 17.970 seconds for a standing start time trial over 250 metres, set at Dunc Gray Velodrome.

Eadie was "extremely focused and absolutely in the zone", said a spokesperson for the athlete, who made the qualifying time in the first of two timed rides at the qualifying time. "I'm so glad he did it in his first trial, because if he hadn't, then everything he'd ever put into cycling would have come down to one, 250 metre lap."

After his attempt, Eadie told the ABC, "It's out of my hands so now it's up to the selectors to pick who they believe is the best guy for the job.

"'Course I hope that's me, if it is I look forward to getting back up to Rockhampton and training with the boys and the next seven weeks in Athens."

While his time keeps his dream alive of representing Australia in Athens, it could be the end to fellow New South Welshman Ben Kersten's aims of representing his country.

Earlier this month, Kersten posted a time of 17.986 seconds for the standing start 250m TT, going under the world-class 18 seconds barrier and also placing him in contention for the final remaining spot on the Australian men's sprint squad.

Kersten had narrowly missed qualifying a second rider for Australia to enter in the 1km time trial at the 2004 Track Cycling World Championships when he finished in fifth place. To qualify the second kilo berth, either he or fellow kilo rider Shane Kelly had to finish inside the top four. As it was, Kersten finished ahead of Kelly in the kilo (who finished sixth). However, Kelly achieved his qualification for Athens through his performance in the team sprint.

A spokesperson for Cycling Australia (CA) said, the time "means that Sean has met the selection criteria, but he's still to be nominated (as part of the Australia's Olympic cycling team)."

As for the unlucky Kersten, "he's also met the criteria, but not as well".

Eadie will board a plane on Thursday morning at 8am bound for the Queensland centre of Rockhampton to join fellow track sprinters in the shadow Olympic squad to continue preparation for Athens at the outdoor velodrome.

Kersten could not be reached for comment, but at the Track World's last month, national track cycling coach Martin Barras told Cyclingnews, "The kid has the perfect makeup of a kilo rider and there is no doubt in my mind that he is perfect for the kilo. He could definitely come back next Olympics if he wanted to."

Olympic team due soon

The politicians are still to play their hand, however, as all final nominations from CA for the Athens Olympics have to be approved by the Australian Olympic Committee and before that, there is a report from Robert Anderson, QC, a retired Supreme Court Justice from Western Australia who's been flying around the country interviewing athletes involved in the 'French affair'.

Five riders from the shadow Olympic track cycling squad were named by suspended sprinter Mark French during in-camera testimony before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) earlier this month. They are subject to a new inquiry by Mr Anderson, who is due to deliver his report tomorrow.

However, it's understood that Mr Anderson's report may not be presented until the morning of July 2, the same day that Cycling Australia is planning to announce its final cycling team for Athens that covers track, road and MTB. (The cycling team for Athens has to be finalized by July 9 - the announcement on July 2 allows seven days for appeals by athletes who are omitted.)

Mr Anderson will investigate the allegations made by French and determine if any of the riders should be subject to further investigations for alleged doping offences. His report will follow on from a separate inquiry held earlier this year that found no other AIS cyclist had a case to answer. However, new information was provided by French at the CAS hearings had not been previously presented, even though aspects of this testimony were described as "implausible" by Malcolm Holmes, QC, the senior legal officer who wrote the CAS summation and issued the suspension and fine on French earlier this month.

Nonetheless, the AOC took a hard stance against the Australian cyclists - based on French's unproven allegations - and said it would block the participation of any rider named by French unless they are cleared by the new inquiry.

The AOC joined with the Federal Opposition in demanding the establishment of new inquiry to investigate French's allegations. It's understood that Mr Anderson has spoken to or met with all the riders named by French and has discounted the likelihood of DNA testing assisting his inquiry.

Already, one of the riders named by French, Graeme Brown, told the inquiry he was not at the AIS during the time French alleges. Nonetheless, Mr Anderson has been flying across, up and down the country in an effort to interview all parties connected with the matter. He was in Rockhampton yesterday at the Australian track team's northern training base at the outdoor velodrome and then flew back to Canberra on the same day.

Plugging leaks

The retired judge was instructed by the Federal Government to hold an urgent inquiry into the allegations made by the French, the suspended 19 year-old sprinter, whose in-camera testimony at CAS was leaked to a senior politician within the Federal Opposition, who then used the material to attack the Government in the Australian Parliament.

As it was aired in Parliament, it became fair game in the Australian media and it set off unprecedented coverage of any doping story in Australian cycling. In his testimony, French alleged that five other cyclists used his room at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) facility in Del Monte, South Australia, to inject a range of substances.

French was appearing before CAS after cleaners found a home-made 'sharps bucket' in his room that contained injecting paraphernalia. Among the used syringes, swabs and phials, were 13 used ampoules of equine growth hormone.

French was found guilty of possession and trafficking of the EGH and Testicomp, a homeopathic supplement containing minute amounts of a banned substance, glucocorticosteroid.

He was issued with a two-year suspension and $1000 fine after the CAS hearings. The AOC then weighed in and slapped a life ban on the four-time junior world champion from competing at the Olympic Games, ending his Olympic career.

The second component of the Anderson inquiry is to report by October 31 this year and it will look at the adequacy of management and supervision of athletes at the AIS, and the effectiveness of the original investigation into the French affair undertaken by the ASC and CA. It's also believed the retired judge will investigate how in-camera testimony was leaked to a politician.

Cyclingnews coverage of the French affair

Olympic qualification for Van Zyl

South African track rider JP van Zyl has qualified for the Olympic madison, though the Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) has until Friday to decide whether or not to send a full madison pair to Athens. Van Zyl is not guaranteed a ticket to Athens, but he remains confident that a solution will be found.

"[The UCI] stands behind me 100% to get a spot at the Games and I have also been assured by that their president [Hein Verbruggen] will follow up on the matter if NOCSA doesn't give the go-ahead," Van Zyl explained.

"Qualification for ten teams takes place on the basis of the recent World Championships, and the remaining two are in the discretion of the UCI, based on consistency over the past three years," Van Zyl added.

UCI Doping news

The following riders have been sanctioned by the UCI for doping offenses:

Ismail Mohd Sazlee - Sanctioned by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation, disqualified from the Tour of Langkawi on February 8, 2004, and suspended four months from February 16-June 16, 2004.

Duran Marconi - Sanctioned by the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo, disqualified from the Vuelta a Costa Rica on December 23, 2003, suspended three months from February 20-May 20, 2004, and fined 666 Swiss Francs.

Juan Pablo Araya - Sanctioned by the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo, disqualified from the Vuelta a Costa Rica on December 26, 2003, Suspended three months from February 20-May20, 2004, and fined 666 Swiss Francs.

Carlos Salazar - Sanctioned by the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo, disqualified from the Vuelta a Costa Rica on December 25, 2003, Suspended three months from February 20-May20, 2004, and fined 666 Swiss Francs.

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