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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 26, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

More revelations from Manzano

Spanish ex-rofessional Jesus Manzano has continued to blow the whistle on the alleged doping practices within his former team, Kelme. In the second part of an in depth interview with Spanish sports newspaper AS, Manzano has gone into more detail about the use of illegal substances such as erythropoetin (EPO) and human growth hormone (HGH), with more to come.

Manzano said that HGH could be taken during training and during competition, because it is not able to be detected in drug controls. He also said that it is commonly taken with insulin in order to maximise its effect. But sometimes, as with the blood transfusions that he described previously, the riders experienced negative reactions to the drug.

During last year's Tour of Portugal, the Kelme team pulled out en masse in the first two days, blaming gastrointestinal problems. At the time, the team's directeur sportif José Luis Laguia said, "Honestly we don't know what happened, and we don't think it was a problem in the hotel, because there were more teams staying there who didn't have any problems. We don't know if it was dehydration during training yesterday or some bad water that they drank. Now the riders will return to Spain and there we will look for an explanation as to what has happened. We only know it was related to gastrointestinal problems."

Manzano, who was one of the last Kelme riders to pull out on stage 2, put a different spin on the situation. "I think that there was a pact made between the riders, because of what happened in the Tour where there was a positive test [later announced as Javier Pascual Llorente], I don't know if some of my teammates were afraid," said Manzano. "Certainly I did not inform them of the positive and continued hiding it after Valencia."

Manzano said that he took some Genotonorm [HGH] at the hotel after stage 1 and continued to race. Because HGH is not able to be detected, "There is an open bar to use it." He also named Humatrope, Norditropin and IGF1 as products he used. "There's a pile of [these products] because each laboratory has its own brand," he said, going on to detail the exact quantities and cost of each product that he would take.

After Manzano took the Genotonorm, he started having problems with diarrhoea and vomiting the next morning. He rode until halfway through stage 2, when he abandoned. On the way home to Spain, he said his team director called him to pass on the news that his salary was to be raised, and believed that the main reason for this was so that he could afford to buy more drugs.

Training camps at altitude and EPO

In order to use EPO without being caught by a surprise drug control, Manzano explained that a team training camp at altitude was the perfect place to do it, as living at altitude stimulates red blood cell growth. "But if you are at 46 percent haematocrit, you are not going to go up to 50 percent in 15 days," said Manzano. "Perhaps it was done to create a false appearance. The people have always been afraid of a scene, and panic at surprise controls at home. It's best to be away."

Manzano then went onto describe the various types of EPO that could be used: Eprex, Neorecormon, Epocrin (Russian EPO), Epomax. "You prepare yourself with this before the start of races. EPO is utilised in certain periods, depending on form peaks. You can't take it all year to race well, because you will have some high values. I would take it 15 days before a race."

Manzano described (and was photographed) how he would inject himself with EPO, either subcutaneously or intravenously, depending on the desired effect. "EPO stimulates the bone marrow and increases red blood cells. It depends on each rider. Now I have not trained for a while and have a haematocrit of 46%...but if I train 100 kilometres a day, it would remain at 42%. Therefore it's not the same as a person who has 48% naturally, because in that case they could only go up two points while I could raise eight, up to 50%."

Some riders are "very stupid" according to Manzano, because they use products like Darbepoetin Alfa (Aranesp), which has a much greater range of detectability than EPO, which can still only be detected within three days of its use.

Returning to blood transfusions, Manzano said that he would use EPO increase his blood cell count until his haematocrit was very high - sometimes up to 56% - which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. "Then I had a telephone and I set the alarm for every two hours, I took a pile of aspirins which they say dilutes the blood."

He would extract a litre of this red cell enhanced blood for use during the major tours, when riders' haematocrits tend to drop quite markedly after a week of racing. "If it wasn't for all this, I don't believe that the average of 41 km/h in the grand tours would be possible," he said.

Avoiding controls

"At the moment it's not difficult to fool the UCI 'vampires' [doctors who do surprise haematocrit tests in the morning of a race]," Manzano explained. "You get half an hour after the medical inspectors turn up and notify you, so the riders with low levels go down first. It's a practice to gain time. The [team] doctors are always prepared. The rest of the cyclists, who have the highest values, are given human plasma and glucose and go down to do the controls at the end. These can lower your haematocrit level by four points.

Manzano noted that all the water that accumulates in the body can make you "ride like a dog" during the stage. "Imagine what it's like to ride with a litre of liquid inside you rather than one that can be carried." He added that the UCI would be better off testing riders (including urine tests) at 7pm in the evening and giving them only 5 minutes to prepare.

In the final part of the second AS interview, Jesus Manzano hints at some of the other drugs that are used, including cortisone "which removes pain and gives you strength" but can lower your haematocrit and have many other negative side effects if over used. Geref (stimulant), Neoferinon, Androgel (testosterone), nandrolone (for the winter), synthetic haemoglobin and Actovegin. "There are many things to explain, but we will do that in the next few days," he finished.

Spanish Sports Council to investigate Manzano claims

Guillermo Jiménez, the director of Spanish Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD) and president of the National Antidoping Commission, has started an investigation into Jesus Manzano's allegations that doping is alive and well in certain sectors of the Spanish peloton. In a letter to AS, Jiménez called for Manzano to clarify his comments before the CSD, as well as requesting full cooperation from the Spanish cycling federation in the matter.

Jiménez also pointed out the role of the police in the fight against doping, "in order to clean up activities that are believed to influenced by Mafia gangs related to sport and athletes."

He called for a greater input from the government in order to allow these police investigations to continue. "This contribution will permit them to reach those objectives and will help to eradicate the persons or groups that are doing so much damage to sport, and above all to athletes, by means of deceit, possibly criminal actions and subversion of the objectives sought by sport."

On the other hand, neither the UCI (cycling's governing body), Kelme (Manzano's former team) and the Spanish Cycling Federation want to take Manzano's allegations seriously, and all have threatened legal action - either indirectly or directly - against him.

Castilla y Leon World Cup

A new fast flat course for round three

Melchers crossing the line in 2003
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

The third round of the women's world cup series will take place this weekend in Salamanca, Spain on a different course from the previous two years. The course will consist of 12 laps of a 10.1 km course making up a total of 121.2 kilometres. The lap is slightly undulating with the finishing straight being on a slight uphill grade.

Currently leading the World Cup series is Oenone Wood (Australian National Team), who won the first round of the series in Geelong, Australia, and continued her strong early season by taking third place in last week's Primavera Rosa. Wood leads by 35 points over last week's winner Zoulfia Zabirova, who won the race on the Ligurian coast in the same spectacular fashion as she did in 2003. Breaking away on the Cipressa and holding off a fast chasing peloton for the remaining 25 kilometres is something only a few women in the world would be capable of doing.

Winning the bunch sprint to take second place last week was Farm Frites-Hartol rider Miriam Melchers, who won Castilla y Leon last year by breaking away solo with five kilometres remaining in the race. Melchers has always been a strong contester of the World Cup series overall and will be back in Spain ready to defend her title.

If the race comes down to a bunch sprint, watch for Petra Rossner (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) who currently sits third in the WC points. Rossner came second in the bunch sprint in 2002 to Regina Schleicher (Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan) to take the WC series lead.

Click here for the full preview and course profile.

E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl

The Belgian classics season is now moving into top gear, with two big races on this weekend. Saturday's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen will be held for the 47th time, and is generally considered the key form tester for the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday week. Starting in Harelbeke at 12:00 noon, the 200 km race travels into the Vlaamse Ardennen, taking in 11 climbs (Taaienberg, Paterberg, Kwaremont and Knokteberg included) and several flat cobbled sections before finishing in Harelbeke at approximately 17:00.

The race will be contested by 23 teams with defending champion Steven de Jongh and MSR winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Johan Museeuw, Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Peter van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), Max van Heeswijk (US Postal-Berry Floor), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), Baden Cooke (, Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) and Roger Hammond (MrBookmaker) all among the favourites.

Sunday's Brabantse Pijl (Flèche Brabançonne) starts in Zaventem, on the outskirts of Brussels, and finishes in Beersel after 199.3 km. This race features 23 climbs, and is characterised by six 18.2 km finishing circuits, each including the climbs of Bruineput, Lindenberg and Alsemberg. The finish is on top of the Alsemberg, and last year Michael Boogerd gave Rabobank another reason to celebrate on the weekend when he won.

The start list includes Boogerd and Freire from Rabobank, as well as Cedric Vasseur and O'Grady (Cofidis), Bettini and Museeuw (Quick.Step), Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi), Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo), Thor Hushovd (CA), Dario Pieri (Saeco) and Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques).

Scheldeprijs modified

The 92nd Scheldeprijs (April 14), which will be Johan Museeuw's last race, has undergone a course change. With Museeuw in mind, the organisers have decided to include a 1,100 metre section of cobbles on Broekstraat that will be ridden over four times in the final kilometres.

"It's the most important new thing in the modified finishing circuit," said the organisers. "This year the winner will receive, in addition to a lot of honour and prestige, a diamond worth €5,000. A present from the Diamond High Council."

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