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Latest Cycling News for August 23, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour champion under the microscope again

Did Armstrong and six others use EPO in 1999?

By Hedwig Kröner

Although he has now retired from cycling, accusations of doping continue to pursue seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. According to French newspaper L'Equipe, proof was produced today that Armstrong used the banned substance EPO to achieve his first victory in the race in 1999. Armstrong has already denied the claims, saying, "I will simply restate what I have said many times: I have never taken performance enhancing drugs."

The allegations came about when L'Equipe journalists compared the urinary sample numbers of the 1999 anti-doping controls with the - unnamed - results of extensive retrospective testing by French Laboratoire national de dépistage du dopage de Châtenay-Malabry (LNDD), which were communicated to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) today. The journalists identified Lance Armstrong's samples by finding the sample numbers on the 1999 doping control reports, which are available at various institutions at the French cycling federation as well as the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The collaboration between the French Ministry of Sports and WADA was aimed at validating the EPO testing method, which has recently come under fire for false positives. One part of the research involved proofing the EPO test against a sample group which had possibly used EPO without needing to 'hide' it, bearing in mind that the test was first used at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000, and validated by the UCI in spring 2001. The retrospective testing was carried out since December 2004 on the entirety of the Tour de France 1999 B samples, and determined twelve positive samples - six of which belonged to Lance Armstrong.

Those six were taken from the rider after the 1999 Tour prologue, which he won, as well as after stages 1 (Montaigu - Challans), 9 (Le Grand Bornand - Sestrières, where he beat Alex Zülle by 31 seconds), 10 (Sestrières-L'Alpe d'Huez), 12 (Saint-Galmier - Saint Flour) and 14 (Casters - Saint Gaudens).

The testing of the LNDD involved three parameters: (A) visual interpretation, (B) percentage of isoforms (indicating EPO use when present in values greater than 80 percent, with a margin of 5 percent) and (C) mathematical modelling. Only the samples positive in each of the three parameters were interpreted as positive, with a number of other samples found inconclusive. The urine samples had been frozen at -20° Celsius, making them resistant to molecular transformations which could lead to false positive testing, according to Prof. Michel Audran, member of Science and Industry Against Blood Doping (SIAB), quoted in the paper.

WADA is now evaluating the possible consequences for the American Tour de France champion. But because of the investigative nature of the testing, UCI sanctioning is not expected. "The investigations had an experimental character," LNDD scientific Jacques De Ceaurriz told ANP. "Since there is no possibility of a counter-evaluation, a rider can not be sanctioned on the basis of our findings."

The entirety of the A samples had been used in 1999, and the latest LNDD examinations involved using the B samples. Nevertheless, according to L'Equipe, the leftover quantities of the B samples would still be sufficient to realize another test, if this is deemed necessary by WADA.

The identity of the six other positive samples has not yet been revealed.

Anything but plain in Spain

By Les Clarke

In gold at the finish, 2004.
Photo ©: Unipublic
Click for larger image

This year's Vuelta a España, as in previous years, has no clear favourite, and nothing is a certainty. Except, of course, that riders will face heat, winds and plenty of climbing in a race that is unforgiving and usually dominated by climbers. Held over 3368.5km, the 60th edition of the 'Spanish loop' features three individual time trials, nine days of climbing with 11 cat 1 climbs and a quality field of riders intent on making a mark on the Pro Tour in the final Grand Tour of the year.

Last year's winner, Roberto Heras, has already said that "the Ordino-Arcalís, Lados de Covadonga and Pajares stages are going to be the hardest." Most climbers are pleased with the race route, and according to Liberty Seguros' Joseba Beloki, although there are "no explosive summit finishes, it should be good for the climbers." He also believes that "the race will be hard throughout, but the second week looks particularly tough. The stages to Valdelinares, Andorra and Aramón Cerler will be real deciders."

The usual Spanish suspects are there, including Heras, Mancebo, Beltran, Sevilla and Gonzalez de Galdeano, plus a host of Pro Tour stars including Tom Danielson and Erik Zabel are scheduled to be making appearances in Spain after a disappointing July. Floyd Landis is back after wearing gold in 2004, where he reveled in his role as a senior team member. After the hype and glamour of the Tour riders are faced with an extremely tough test, with harsh conditions and partisan crowds.

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Also see: Reactions, Stages & results, Map, Start List, History

Mancebo leads Illes Balears in Vuelta

Francisco Mancebo will be the leader of the Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne team in the Vuelta a España, which starts this Saturday in Granada. The fourth placed finisher in the Tour de France will have to do without the services of Alejandro Valverde, who will not race the Vuelta because of his knee injury. The full team is: Jose Vicente García Acosta, Iván Gutiérrez, Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras, Francisco Mancebo, new signing Fran Pérez, Mikel Pradera, Aitor Osa, and Unai Osa. Director: Eusebio Unzúe

Fran Pérez to Illes Balears

27 year-old Spanish rider Francisco Pérez Sanchez has signed for the Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne team for the next two and a bit seasons, the team confirmed. Pérez left his current team Milaneza-Maia at the conclusion of the Volta a Portugal, where he finished 8th, and will form part of Illes Balears' Vuelta a España line up.

Pérez surprised many in the 2003 Tour de Romandie when he won two stages and took the overall lead in spectacular fashion, but lost the yellow jersey on the final day to Tyler Hamilton. However, he was found to have tested positive twice for EPO during the Swiss race, and was suspended for 18 months from October 18, 2003 to April 17, 2005

Rebellin for two more years

Gerolsteiner's classics captain Davide Rebellin has extended his contract with the team until the end of 2007. The 34 year-old Italian has ridden for the German team since 2002. "I'm very happy that I can say 'at home' for the fifth and sixth year," he said, referring to his length of time spent at the team. "I'm personally and on a sporting level very happy here. This team improves itself from year to year, and we have an outstanding personal harmony. It was just a formality that I would stay with Gerolsteiner."

Team director Christian Henn called Rebellin "one of the consistent top riders in world cycling" who has "contributed to the team's success with his extraordinary reliability. By that I don't just mean his success in the "Ardennes triple" last year, but also his own work for the team. Like, for example, where he has worked here in the Deutschland Tour for Levi Leipheimer and Georg Totschnig. For a rider of his class, that's absolutely remarkable."

LPR: De Paoli renews, Ermeti signs

32 year-old Daniele De Paoli continuing his racing comeback after a three year break, extending his contract with LPR by two years this week. De Paoli has spent the last few years working for his father's building business, but decided that he still had the enthusiasm and physical ability to return to the saddle. "Today I'm pleased not to have hung up my bike and, at 32 years, I feel myself physically whole and psychologically motivated to still give a lot to this fantastic group," said De Paoli. "In this team, I fit in splendidly. It's the ideal environment for cycling, because the organisation is like that of a big ProTour team, but the human factor is like that of an extended family." De Paoli has had a steady season this year, but added that he'll be back to his best level in 2006.

In other LPR news, Giairo Ermeti has signed a two year deal with the team that will take him through 2007. The 24 year-old Italian has never raced professionally.

Velo confirms with Domina Vacanze

Marco Velo has confirmed his contract with Gianluigi Stanga's Domina Vacanze team, signing a three year agreement with them this week. Velo will form a key part of Alessandro Petacchi's lead out train, which so far includes Fabio Sacchi and Alberto Ongarato, and may well end up with Erik Zabel.

British riders finish on top at EPC Paralympic Championships

Great Britain's cyclists topped the final medal table at the Open European Paralympic Cycling Championships with a remarkable haul of 17 medals, including 10 golds. The GB team rounded off the competition in The Netherlands with some strong performances on the road to follow-up their successes in the track events.

David Stone led the way, taking gold medals in both the CP2 24.6km road race and in the 8.2km time trial. It is the first time the 24-year-old Worcester cyclist, a student at Brighton University, has competed internationally in tricycle events.

Sarah Bailey ­ a four times Paralympic swimmer - followed up her impressive cycling debut on the track with a pair of medals on the road. She won gold in the women's LC1 41km road race and took bronze in the 16.4km time trial.

Ian Sharpe and his sighted pilot Paul Hunter took silver in the 24.6km blind and visually-impaired time trial, while there was also a silver for double Paralympic gold medallist Darren Kenny, who finished runner-up to his Spanish arch rival, Javier Ochoa, in the CP3 time trial.

In the final medal table, Great Britain finished ahead of Australia, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic.

"It's been an unprecedented success and shows what you can achieve with talented athletes, good coaching and support staff," said Dave Mellor, Performance Manager of Disability Cycling at British Cycling.

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