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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Tour de France News Extra for June 30, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Team CSC faces the press

By Anthony Tan in Strasbourg

Not a nice place to be
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Shortly before 2pm CEDST (Central European Daylight Saving Time) Friday afternoon, Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis and spokesperson Brian Nygaard walked into the salle de presse (press room) in Strasbourg's Palais de la Musique et de Congres to deliver a statement and answer questions. But with the room soon morphing into a boxing arena with around 200 journalists and photographers all wanting a piece of the action, the crowd moved to the much larger conference de presse in the Auditorium Schweitzer.

"Maybe most of you have heard already. We had a meeting with all the teams this morning, and in that meeting, we made a decision - I made a decision - that Ivan would not participate in the Tour," began Riis.

"Of course, it's because of the story [of what happened] today, and we believe that it's not possible for one rider to focus on the Tour, and, at the same time, defend himself. So we believe that it's best for him [Basso], for everybody, that he's not going to do the Tour.

"If I let Ivan do the Tour, I can see all of you here - and there's a lot more outside - there will be no race for him, because he will be hunted, day and night. It won't be good for Ivan, it won't be good for the team, and it certainly won't be good for the sport."

To read the full feature, click here.

Mancebo ends career

Francisco Mancebo, former leader of French team AG2R, will put an end to his career as of today. The rider's name is on the list of the Spanish doping investigation; he will not ride the Tour de France and his team suspended him.

"When I attended the team's meeting on Friday morning, I already knew what was waiting for me," said team manager Vincent Lavenu. "After breakfast I knew everything. Mancebo told me then: I'm gone, I'm stopping.

"All of this is very unfortunate, because Francisco was well-integrated in the group. It's hard, but we had to do it if to give the sport a chance to survive."

New doping charges for CSC?

As if one doping scandal were not enough, French newspaper L'Equipe has published further doping allegations concerning the CSC squad, in its Friday, June 30 edition. A plastic bag filled with syringes was reportedly found by a cleaning person in a Parisian underground parking lot on the eve of Spring Classic Paris-Roubaix, on April 8.

The man accidentally pin-pricked himself with one of the needles and lodged a complaint with the police. A witness told investigators that he had seen several people step out of a car labeled with the name of the team's sponsor, that transported and deposited the bag in question.

There are thus about 100 syringes that are currently being analysed by judicial expert lab Toxlab, but the needles are reported to have been meticulously cleaned before being discharged. However, the Paris-based lab is said to have secured one particular molecule, but they haven't been able to identify it yet. Spanish police have also been contacted to see if similar substances had been seized in the Operación Puerto raid last May.

CSC has denied any association with this latest scandal.

Reactions to Ullrich suspension

By Susan Westemeyer

After Team T-Mobile suspended Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and DS Rudy Pevenage, there have been multiple reactions in the surroundings of the German outfit. Here's a selection:

Walter Godefroot, former owner and team manager of Team Telekom/T-Mobile, called the scandal "a catastrophe for cycling." He added, "I won't have anything further to say, except to add that Pevenage hasn't existed for me since 2002."

Arthur Tabat, Ullrich friend and organizer of the "Rund um Köln" race: "This is the end of his career. There is surely something to the charges. Jan is a great cyclist, who also had great results without doping. The problem in the current situation is: if you don't dope, you don't win the Tour."

Hans-Michael Holczer, Team Manager, Team Gerolsteiner: "That is a hard blow for cycling. The unanimous decision for clean teams makes me feel that we will survive this setback. We will have to wait and see how it affects German cycling, how the public reacts to Jan Ullrich's case."

Marcel Wüst, ex-pro cyclist: "That is unbelievable, that is something you have to digest first. It is especially shocking to me, how apparently widespread the manipulation is. But we have to take advantage of this opportunity - in the end the Tour makes the stars, the stars don't make the Tour. All of the biggest GC riders seem to be affected. If they were all clean, then the results in Paris would be the same, but the times would be a little slower. We can only hope that on Saturday we can concentrate on the sporting aspects. If the charges against Jan Ullrich should be proven, then I think his career is over."

Jens Heppner, former Ullrich colleague: "I think that Jan wanted to end his career after a Tour victory anyway. Now he just has to end it three weeks earlier."

Rolf Aldag, former Ullrich colleague: "Of course this is very hard, but then maybe it is a chance for cycling to really clean itself up. When you earn five million a year, then maybe you are more willing to take a risk with your health. I think that cycling will learn a bigger lesson from this affair than it did from the 1998 Tour scandal."

Thomas Bach, IOC Vice-President and German Olympic Committee President: "I can only advise Jan Ullrich to do everything he can for a quick and comprehensive explanation, including a DNA test. This would be in his own interest, as well as that of the sport, especially the young riders and the fans. Only a comprehensive explanation offers the chance for the necessary cleansing process. [...] One of the most important tasks for the future will be to break up such a network early, or not let it get a chance to develop. The state and the sport must share this assignment. The sport can't dry out this swamp by itself, it needs the help of the state."

Rudolf Scharping, president of the German Cycling Federation: "Team T-Mobile's decision is clear and consequent. It makes clear: everything will be done for a clean sport, no matter which name is involved. The German Cycling Federation supports this position. Only a clean sport can have the popularity, be an example for the youngsters and also gain the trust of its economic partners. Popular athletes must stand to this responsibility."

Bruyneel maintains focus

In the sad pre-Tour de France confusion that has reigned at the start of the race in Strasbourg for the last couple of days, with several of the race favourites finally being denied to start because of implications in the Spanish doping scandal, Discovery Channel directeur sportif remained confident that his riders were going to achieve great things in the upcoming event.

"On the eve of the 2006 Tour de France, all of the Team Director’s meet to decide on the current situation regarding the riders named in the Spanish doping scandal," related Bruyneel in a statement. "The directors unanimously decided to uphold the code of ethics that was signed by all teams on January 1, 2005 which stated that no team would allow a rider to compete while under investigation in any doping affair.

"This is certainly an unfortunate situation for all of professional cycling, not just those teams and riders involved. And even though the top pre-Tour favourites have been suspended from competition, all of our Discovery Channel riders continue to maintain their focus on tomorrow’s prologue time trial. The entire team has prepared meticulously for this race as they have over the past seven years and we continue to have high expectations about our chances in this year's Tour de France."

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