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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for June 24, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Armstrong denies allegations

Suspects Pound to have leaked the documents

After the new allegations made against Lance Armstrong by French newspaper Le Monde, according to which Armstrong admitted in 1996 that he had used performance-enhancing substances before his cancer illness, the seven-time Tour de France winner strongly denied the accusations. Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman called the claim "absurd", and Dr. Craig Nichols, who treated Armstrong at Indiana University Medical Center when the Texan was ill with testicular cancer, also refuted the statements.

The allegations were made by Frankie and Betsy Andreu under oath in the trial between Lance Armstrong and the SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based insurance company, in January 2006 and October 2005, which has since been dropped in favour of Armstrong. The state district judge in Dallas awarded him $5 million, and $181,327.87 interest, and an additional $2.5 million, in February 2006. The French newspaper published the statements made against Armstrong on Friday, June 22, in the lead up to L'Equipe, which will reveal them on Saturday, just one week before the start of the Tour de France.

Dr. Craig Nichols, who was also heard in the trial, has said that he did not recall Armstrong to have said that he had used banned substances in cycling. In a sworn affidavit, Nichols said he and other medical personnel visited with Armstrong that day about his medical history before he started chemotherapy.

"Lance Armstrong never admitted, suggested or indicated that he has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. Had this been disclosed to me, I would have recorded it, or been aware of it, as a pertinent aspect of Lance Armstrong's past medical history as I always do," Nichols said. "Had I been present at any such 'confession,' I would most certainly have vividly recalled the fact," Nichols said. "I would have recorded such a confession as a matter of form, as indeed, would have my colleagues. None was recorded."

Armstrong himself submitted a written statement to the media, denying the accusations and calling them "absurd and untrue". Moreover, Armstrong stated that he had reasons to be believe that Richard Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, had leaked the trial documents to the French press.

"I recently won a major arbitration, defeating allegations of performance enhancing drugs, after a three week trial," the statement read. "Several accusations made the subject of prior rumours were fully and finally considered by an impartial panel which heard many witnesses under oath. After years of litigation and three weeks of trial, and "having considered the evidence and testimony" the panel ordered the insurance company to pay, not the $5mm owed, but that $5mm and an additional $2.5mm, which confirms the baseless nature of the accusations. The allegations were rejected. It's over. We won. They lost. I was yet again completely vindicated.

"After having been illegally provided selective items from that trial, and on the eve of the 2006 Tour de France, a French newspaper again publishes stale, unfounded and untrue allegations about me. Any assertion that drug-related issues were not fully and finally considered is false; had the trial concerned only whether the money was owed because of my 2004 victory, the proceedings would have consumed less than an hour.

Click here to read the full statement by Lance Armstrong.

Millar's ban ends

David Millar (L) with new teammate Gilberto Simoni at the 2006 Saunier Duval presentation
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

David Millar, who confessed to having used EPO to win his 2003 World Time Trial title in Hamilton, will be able to race again. On Friday, June 23, his two-year ban ended; and the tall Scot is ready to start anew.

"I've never done this much training in my life," Millar told the BBC. "I'm fitter than I've ever been. Before I used to just train enough to race. I'm hoping this will make me a better cyclist, but we won't know until competition starts." The 29 year-old, who won the Tour de France prologue in 2000, is of course especially keen on the first day of this year's Tour, the Strasbourg prologue, only one week away.

"I'm not going to the Tour just to finish," the Saunier Duval rider added. "I certainly want to win at least one stage. I have high expectations. I want to be in the world's top three cyclists."

Millar confessed to the French authorities about his use of performance-enhancing drug EPO in the summer of 2004, and even though he "hit rock bottom about one year ago", he decided to make a clean come-back. "I recognise the stupid mistakes and the regrets with it," the Scot said. "The cheating was because of laziness and stupidity. I can perform better without drugs anyway. It was actually my Scottish friends who helped me clean my act up."

Valenciana riders volunteer blood samples

The 20 professional cyclists that make up Spanish Comunidad Valenciana squad have anticipated the usual quarterly controls imposed by the UCI and, at their own initiative, sent blood samples to the Spanish Superior Council of Sports and the Spanish Cycling Federation. In an effort to clear their image tarnished by 'Operación Puerto' and the dismissal by ASO from the upcoming Tour de France, the riders have asked to perform all doping tests the authorities see fit on the collected samples, including comparing them with the blood bags seized during the recent investigation in Madrid.

According to Spanish media reports, the team has offered to be tested since the beginning of the affair, but hasn't been approached by the various institutions to that effect; which is why the athletes now made the step. The team's assistant directeur sportif Ignacio Labarta has been incriminated in the latest doping affair surrounding Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and the team was subsequently no longer invited by Tour de France organiser ASO.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Gerolsteiner looks to take both German titles

By Susan Westemeyer

The new German national time trial champion is Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang. In the road race, the third place winner in 2004 was Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann and in 2005 Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster was second. So the winner this year has to be a Gerolsteiner rider, doesn't it? That's about how the team sees it. It is sending 13 riders - all the German riders on the team except for Heinrich Haussler, who is ill - in an attempt to win the German national road race title on Sunday.

Directeur Sportif Christian Henn said that he especially expects something from "our Tour riders, our boys are in great shape." That would be Markus Fothen, Fabian Wegmann, Ronny Scholz, Sebastian Lang and David Kopp, all of whom will be starting the Tour de France next weekend. But Henn doesn't count out Stefan Schumacher, who is "super motivated." Schumacher also has experience with the nationals, where he finished second in 2004.

Germany isn't the only nation to have Gerolsteiner riders competing in the nationals. The teams four Swiss riders - Beat Zberg, Marcus Zberg, Sven Montgomery and Marcel Strauss - will be riding in Switzerland, while Frank Hoj will represent the sparkling water squad in Denmark.

Canadian Nationals benefit from Beauce test

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The fifth stage of the Tour de Beauce last week, set in Ville de Québec, will also be the same course used for the upcoming Canadian national championships. "Québec City has been very good for us," said Rémi Bérubé, competition coordinator for the national championships. "Finding a city that will close it's roads for three full days is very rare."

The urban landscape of the city should have been an exciting change from the rural settings of the first four stages. However, on the first lap of the circuit, the realities of racing in a busy city atmosphere were obvious. The main road Grand-Allée, which was utilized in both directions for the race, was narrowed by the presence of a third lane of vehicle traffic only separated from the racers by orange pylons.

Adding to any potential problems was that each direction of the race course was further divided by orange pylons, making the width of the course even smaller and any service or need to manoeuvre through the race caravan quite dangerous. The worries were quickly confirmed on the third lap when a vehicle swerved onto the course and into the front of the peloton, causing Navigators Insurance's Mark Walters to crash.

After this incident the race was stopped and changes made. The pylons down the middle of the race course were mostly removed, making the actual race course wider. In the case of the vehicle traffic, however, the course was still only separated by pylons and marshaled by volunteers.

Nonetheless, Bérubé assured Cyclingnews that the parcours for the nationals will reflect the lessons learned during the Tour de Beauce. "Québec City is taking measures similar to what happened after the re-start at the Tour de Beauce. We will have three full lanes along the Grand-Allée and the material we will use to block the roads be different, we will have fences instead of cones."

Bérubé is confident that the races will occur without incident but is realistic about holding road racing events. "It's the nature of road cycling, so it's not the first nor the last time it will happen," he said. "The Tour de Beauce was kind of a test event so we found out what happened and are making the corrections."

Deignan and Scanlon to miss Irish Nationals

By Shane Stokes

AG2R Prévoyance duo Philip Deignan and Mark Scanlon are both likely to miss Sunday’s national road race championships, which will take place in Westport. The ProTour level duo have been off form this season, with Deignan struggling to return to full fitness after he crashed in the first race of the season and broke his collarbone. Tests conducted recently showed that he had contracted glandular fever several months ago, unbeknownst to him and the team, and he has now been advised to rebuild very gradually in order to avoid a relapse.

"Philip is seeing a doctor in Belgium in order to get back from this," said Irish Olympic manager designate Frank Campbell. "He is currently off the bike and will be starting back from scratch very soon. He has to take things very gently over the next few weeks in order to build up again, and unfortunately that rules him out of the national championships."

Although Scanlon has not officially withdrawn from the race, it is believed that he too will miss Sunday’s event due to poor form. After a tough 2005, the former world junior champion started well this season but then suffered from a drop in form in mid-March due to a tooth abscess. He was called into the Tour of Italy at short notice and then retired from the race on stage 12.

Scanlon rode the Tour de France two years ago, becoming the first Irishman to do so in 11 years. However, since then he has struggled with illness, injury and poor morale. His contract with AG2R Prévoyance is due to end this year and so he will be under pressure to perform in the second half of the season in order to ensure a good deal for 2007 and beyond.

Scanlon won the world junior championships in 1998 and has taken two Irish senior road race titles since then. He was the silver medallist last year, taking second behind defending champion David O’Loughlin and ahead of third-placed David McCann.

The Irish championship programme gets underway on Sunday with the 56 mile women’s road race.

Riders protest against 2006 Giro

In a report written at the request of many riders who took part in the Giro d’Italia 2006, José Luís Rubiera Vigil, a delegate of the riders' union CPA within the UCI Pro Tour Council, denounced the "difficult conditions" the riders were facing during the event. Especially the length of the transfers during the race (2,700 km, as well as 1,500 from Belgium to Italy and from the South to the North of the Peninsula) represented "an unbearable extra work" according to the CPA.

"The late arrivals in the hotels for the various teams, an obvious consequence of those long transfers, prevented on several occasions the riders having the massage they deserved and needed," a communiqué stated. "The rest days were wrongly programmed (the first one after only four days) without forgetting the fact that they were spent in travelling. The courses were excessively difficult, as the fact proves it of having to use gear ratios which are usually not used in races (34x25 and 36x27). With regard to safety, the finish in Sestri Levante was a true danger, to avoid absolutely in the future."

New angle for 'performance' enhancing drug

A recent study reported by The Los Angeles Times has found a new possible use for the drug Viagra. Researchers at Standford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System found that a group of ten trained cyclists, riding stationary bicycles in a simulated elevation of more than 12,000 feet, improved the average performance of four of the cyclists by an average of 39 percent compared to when riding with a placebo.

On its basic level the drug, known chemically as sildenafil, relaxes blood vessels and was originally developed to treat high blood pressure. Researchers studying the effects of high altitude environments began looking at the drug to compensate for pulmonary hypertension which narrows blood vessels, increasing the work put on the heart to pump blood.

But before you run to your doctor complaining of erectile dysfunction the night before the big race, the researchers stated that the effects were not seen at sea level and that the four cyclists who responded from the drug were the ones that displayed the most susceptibility to high altitude effects. In addition, it is unclear to researchers the exact altitude where the effects of the drug begin.

The Times' report quoted Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency, who serves on the committee that maintains the list of restricted substances. "We want a level playing field," he said. "If somebody has an illness or disability, you can use a [drug] to level the field."

The report further added Dr. Wadler saying that because the performance-enhancing effect of Viagra is not seen at sea level - and has never been tested at the moderate altitudes - sports regulators have never seriously considered banning the drug.

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