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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Cycling News Extra for September 23, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Special report: Serious concerns over urinary EPO test

Three recent cases in the endurance sport of triathlon have raised some major concerns about the reliability of the urinary EPO test, which has been used in the sport of cycling since 2001. Although researchers around the world are working on improving the test, several holes in its past methodology have thrown doubt on every positive case involving the drug. This places the World Anti-Doping Agency and national sports federations under potentially crippling legal pressure, should wronged athletes sue for damages. But WADA believes it is safe from such challenges, as Cyclingnews' Chief Online Editor Dr Jeff Jones reports.

Science is characterised by debate. If a theory or method is found to be inaccurate or false, it has to be modified or thrown away. This means that things we have believed to be true in the past, such as the sun and planets revolving around the earth, have had to be revised when better information comes to light. Anti-doping science is not exempt from this, with all the talk about retrospective testing of samples, as well as questioning existing positives.

The Lance Armstrong EPO-in-a-1999-B-sample affair, as well as the acquittals of triathletes Rutger Beke, Virginia Berasategui and Ibán Rodríguez for EPO abuse, have put the spotlight on the Recombinant EPO test, which up until now has been believed to have been quite robust, even if comparatively ineffectual given its maximum three day testing window. Dr Iñigo Mujika is one scientist who has taken a keen interest in the test, and has had plenty of experience. He is a Sports Physiologist from the Basque Country, who has spent time working as a Senior Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport in the lead up to the Athens Olympics, and now works as a physiologist and trainer for Euskaltel-Euskadi, as well as a coach of one of the triathletes mentioned, Virginia Berasategui. He has written a detailed report on the limitations of the test, which he forwarded to Cyclingnews.

Click here for the full story.

A wonderful moment for McQuaid

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid

Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

Ireland's Pat McQuaid was logically very happy after being elected president of the UCI this morning. McQuaid has had a couple of tense months after his position in the UCI was questioned by UCI management committee member Sylvia Schenk, among others, on ethical grounds. "It's a wonderful moment for me," were McQuaid's first words as UCI president at the end of the UCI congress. "I want to thank the voters who voted for me and also my family that is here. Now we have a commitment with the cycling in general." McQuaid won with 31 votes to 11 votes from the 42 voting delegates over Spain's Gregorio Moreno.

McQuaid paid tribute to former president Hein Verbruggen: "He was the eighth president of this federation and he will be remembered as the greatest president we had had. This wonderful building that is cycling these days was built by Verbruggen. He did a tremendous job for our sport. We indeed owe him a lot". McQuaid proposed that the Dutchman be given the title of honorary president of the UCI, and there is little doubt that Verbruggen will remain an active member of the organisation, despite his commitments in the IOC.

About his defeated rival in the election, Spaniard Gregorio Moreno, McQuaid said, "I look forward to discussing the future of cycling with him." And to Malaysian Darsan Singh Gill, who retired before the election, McQuaid added, "I wish all the best to him outside cycling."

McQuaid's big task now is to smooth out the ongoing problems between the Grand Tour organisers and the UCI with regards to the ProTour, and will be his first serious test as president.

After the Irishman's speech, it was turn of Verbruggen, who said that he will keep a great memory of his time as the president of the UCI. "I started as UCI president in 1991 and I think I gave a lot," said Verbruggen. "We had difficult times: the first [1992] year was difficult, and also six years later with the doping affair in the Tour de France. Now we have problems with the ProTour. But there is the willingness to sort things out". He also thanked all the UCI management committee members for their support.

Cyclingnews coverage of the UCI elections

September 24 - Spain's perspective on UCI election result
September 24 - Darshan Singh retires
September 23 - A wonderful moment for McQuaid
September 23 - McQuaid wins UCI presidential election
September 22 - IOC rejects complaints; Election to go ahead as planned
September 21 - World's opens, Spanish federation explains
September 20 - UCI committee exits Madrid
September 18 - Conflict between Schenk and UCI goes on
September 15 - Moreno not a Grand Tour stooge
September 8 - Baguet explains, Singh files third complaint
September 6 - McQuaid still UCI choice
September 3 - Verbruggen candidate for UCI presidency again
August 31 - Verbruggen nominated for UCI president
August 25 - UCI Ethics Commission meets
August 17 - Darshan Singh protests against UCI elections
Interview with Pat McQuaid: Next in line? Part II
Interview with Sylvia Schenk: Continuing her quest for Law & Order. Part II
August 6 - Moreno aims for presidency role
July 31 - UCI attacks Sylvia Schenk
Interview with Pat McQuaid: ProTour & Phonak, New teams & the UCI succession. Part II

Rogers looking to number 4

Michael Rogers (Australia)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

25 year-old Australian Michael Rogers became the first cyclist in history to achieve a hat trick in the time trial of the World Championships when he powered home for victory in Madrid's Casa de Campo on Thursday afternoon. Rogers' time of 53:34.49sec was a clear 23 seconds faster than second placed home-town hero Jose Ivan Gutierrez Palacios, with Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara claiming third on the 44 kilometre course.

"To be in the history books of anything is fantastic," said Rogers. "I just love cycling, I've done it since I was seven years-old and although I've had a few hard patches this really makes up for it. Perhaps this was the hardest one for me, but I am really, really happy to be the first person to be able to do it. There was a lot of pressure coming into the World Championships for me and that makes it all the better to win it and now I'll look to next year and number four."

Rogers thanked every member of the Australian support staff for their help and deferred his celebration to sit down with the U23 Australian riders at the team hotel to have a chat and spend some time with the young riders who are coming through the same development program that he did. There were also tears and cheers in the Australian camp as Rogers crossed the line and his victory gave the Aussies a much needed boost in the wake of the tragic death of Amy Gillett in a training accident in Germany in July.

"I hope so, I hope this lifts Australia," said Rogers. "It's a great sport and Australia's really getting behind it now, and I hope this is the start of things to come."

As the defending champion Rogers was the last rider off the start ramp and he rode the course to perfection. He was fifth at the first of four time checkpoints and second at the halfway mark. By the third check he was leading and in the final quarter he blew past last year's silver medallist, Michael Rich of Germany, and steamed home with vocal encouragement from Cycling Australia's professional rider liaison Neil Stephens, who was following in the team car.

"It was really funny because 'Stevo' was screaming in my ear piece in the final kilometres and then on the tricky final corner he suddenly went all serious and calm advising me not to overcook it," said Rogers. "Then it was back to screaming as I headed for the line.

"It was a very technical course and I spent some time on the day the course was open for training to find out where I could maximise my time advantage," said Rogers who had focussed on the trickier sections of the course on Tuesday to ensure there were no surprises on race day.

Rogers and Alessia
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Rogers was bolstered not only by the cheering Australian contingent but also by the dozen or so members of his Italian based fan club who had travelled to Madrid to support their hero. Chanting his name and displaying kangaroo adorned t-shirts the group were vocal throughout his ride and provided an emotional welcome when they broke into song as he emerged from the official protocols. Amongst the supporters was his Italian fiancee Alessia and his future father-in-law. The wedding is planned for late October in Italy.

2003 Australian champion, Ben Day, also performed well to finish 13th in the world class field after a patchy preparation. "My preparation wasn't ideal but I'm pretty happy with the outcome," said Day. "The start of the second lap I maybe lost it because I went out too hard in the first lap but I brought it home quite strongly so I can't complain."

Also see: Mick Rogers interview - Aiming for number three

Belgian World's angst continues

Lefevere: "Boonen with publicity for Davitamon, that is not possible?!"

The cold war between Patrick Lefevere and José De Cauwer is heating up. The QuickStep manager does not understand how the Belgian Cycling Federation accepted sponsorship from Davitamon, while this company is already sponsoring the other Belgian ProTour cycling team.

"I have no problem with De Cauwer being in charge of my riders for one day," Lefevere said, blowing off steam in the VUM newspapers. "But I do struggle with them saying that the selected riders ought to be happy that they are allowed to be here! Allowed? No! they sell my riders to their sponsors! Just like that, for free. I don't think it's normal that Tom Boonen will be riding with publicity for our competition (Davitamon) on his shirt on Sunday. I would love to cut that out."

When the selection for the World's was made, Lefevere already had mentioned that Davitamon's sponsorship with the Belgian Federation influenced De Cauwer's choice. "De Cauwer maintains that it didn't," Lefevere reacted. "But I don't believe one bit of that! They never asked us to sponsor the federation. What did the Belgian Cycling Federation do at the moment we were tied into a court case with Davitamon and a claim of €24 million was made? Help? Try to mediate? Get out, they made one of the parties their own sponsor. That really bothers me still. When I see Marc Coucke around here, I'll certainly shake his hand, but I haven't forgotten what happened. I would really grant Peter Van Petegem the rainbow jersey, but I wouldn't be cheering if he won.

"A World Championships, you ride with wit, your eyes and your wallet," said Lefevere, calling a spade a spade as usual. "Avoid making mistakes, read the race right and when push comes to shove, look for allies, no matter what jersey they wear. In those last five kilometres, not earlier. Only then, the puzzle will fit.

"If Tom Boonen wins, I'll jump for joy, what did you think maybe? Without forgetting that a rainbow jersey can be a poisoned gift for someone still to turn 25. Johan Museeuw was 31 when he became world champion in Lugano. Even then, he started the next season more nervous than other years. Johan rode well in the spring but the super-freshness was gone. What good will Tom be able to do if he becomes World Champion at the end of this kind of season? I'm holding my breath.

"I absolutely believe in it though. Especially how the head will be is most important. The form? Sometimes Tom can look like everything but fresh. It doesn't mean a thing. He arrived in the Vuelta and he needed a car-jack to open his eyes. I feared he'd be back home on the next plane. A few days later, he was pedaling fresh as a daisy over the mountains. He recuperates on the bike."

Lefevere values the rainbow jersey, though. "It's the most beautiful jersey. We don't get judged on how many wins we have in a season, but on the quality of them. Rather one dinner in a class restaurant than three times fish and chips. Although I like chips (laughs)."

Boonen doesn't like the course

Tom Boonen is not too enthusiastic about the World Championship parcours in Madrid. "I saw that U-turn that's 600 metres before the finish," Boonen told Het Nieuwsblad. "You can write that down: accidents are bound to happen there. It's totally unwarranted. The rider who brakes last, will be first out of that corner. We'll be speeding towards it with a speed of up to 80km/h. Everyone sitting in the front at that moment will think he'll become World Champion. This is totally irresponsible, but there's a lot of things like that happening in cycling. After the worst happens, a lot of bickering will go on, lots of comments given, but it all will be too late again by then."

The first training with the National Team wasn't something which made him any happier. "It's not possible here. We even ended up on the freeway!"

After one hour in the evening traffic, the Belgian team was back at their hotel. "Every 300 metres a roundabout. Very dangerous situations. That's always the case though when the World's are held in a metropolitan city. I will be relieved when it's Sunday. Although I was very happy to finally leave for Madrid this morning. My preparation is done. Though I'm not as confident about my form as I was before the Tour of Flanders. This race is too close to that heavy crash I had in the Tour. But I do have the feeling that I'm ready for it."

Aerts wants to get lucky

"Hopefully I don't have to work," Belgian Mario Aerts expresses his feelings about the World Championships to Het Nieuwsblad. "Of course I've already had secret dreams about being on the top podium. Everyone starting on Sunday has those. I'm sure of that. I should only get that lucky that I'm in the right break and I don't have to work."

Although Mario Aerts was told his job by José De Cauwer during the first meeting at the hotel in Madrid yesterday, he realises he'll be working for "a rival" and it's not an easy thing. "I'll do what the national coach demands of me. I'm very happy to be here. This is the crown on the hard comeback season. It could be that I have to go into a big break in the first half of the race, or labour at the front. As a Davitamon-Lotto rider I don't have a problem with riding for Tom, he's a good friend of mine. But it still is bizarre. The whole season you ride against one another and then you're helping an adversary to get the World Title.

"When I work to get Tom in the position that he'll be sprinting for the rainbow jersey, in fact I will have worked for McEwen too. That system with national teams is so out of date in a time of ProTour teams and big budgets. The UCI could have let all the ProTour teams start. Then it was up to the team directors to select their nine best riders and the best ProTour rider would be the best World Champion."

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

Drug charges against Rebellin dropped

The charges of illegal drug use against Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin have been dropped by the court in the northern Italian town of Este, Padova. Rebellin and 19 others were put on trial in November 2004 for violating the Italian anti-doping and sporting fraud laws. The trial was initiated on the basis of phone tapping and video surveillance of athletes allegedly injecting themselves with drugs in 2001. However, the court judge in Este ruled that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Rebellin had taken any banned substances.

Lindner thinks more will come from L'Equipe

Wolfram Lindner, Director Sportif for the former Team Coast, expects more names to be released in the "L'Equipe Tour de France" doping affair. "When names are put to the 40 positive doping results from 1999, which the UCI has before it, there will be a big explosion," Lindner said in Madrid. "Then there will probably only be four or five Pro Tour teams, that will be untouched by doping. Making this information public is only a matter of time,"

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Cyclingnews coverage of the L'Equipe allegations

June 27, 2006 - Carmichael defends Armstrong, Armstrong answers L'Equipe & LeMond
June 26, 2006 - LeMond: "Armstrong threatened my life"
June 19, 2006 - Armstrong calls for Pound's exit
June 18, 2006 - Lance Armstrong's open letter against Dick Pound
June 4, 2006 - UCI hits back at WADA
June 3, 2006 - WADA slams the Vrijman report
June 2, 2006 - L'Equipe stands by its story, UCI supports Vrijman's findings
June 1, 2006 - UCI, WADA and Armstrong react to Vrijman's report
May 31, 2006 - UCI lawyer asks for Armstrong's name to be cleared
May 14, 2006 - Two more weeks for Armstrong investigation

Click here for full coverage of the L'Equipe allegations.

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