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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for November 28, 2006

Edited by Gregor Brown

Blood bags seized in Operación Puerto do not add up

Guardia Civil vary its count
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The bags of blood seized from the apartments of Eufemiano Fuentes and José Luis Merino Batres are the basis of the Operación Puerto investigation, an investigation which has turned the sport of cycling on its head. With the confiscated blood, Madrid's Court 31 is determining if there were crimes "against public health." To that end, Barcelona anti-doping laboratory had detected the traces of EPO in eight of the selected bags they examined. But there is a new problem, the accounting.

Spanish paper El Mundo reported today that the number of blood bags originally found in the apartments of Fuentes and Batres vary from what was recorded a month later. On June 27, the number of bags reported by the Guardia Civil to the presiding judge in Madrid, which helped exclude Liberty Seguros-Würth and other cyclists from the Tour de France, were 116.

The Guardia Civil accounted for 20 bags of plasma and 96 bags of blood with concentrated red blood cells. But, according to El Mundo, on October 17 the count was corrected by 10, reducing the total number of bags down from 116 to 106. Regarding this correction, Chief Lieutenant of the department of Consumption and environment for the Guardia Civil Central Operating Unit issued a communiqué that read "... errors have been observed relating to the quantities of samples seized."

Overall, the Guardia Civil now accounts for 99 bags (96 from Fuentes' residence and three from Batres). Exams are being conducted on selected bags of blood by the Barcelona anti-doping laboratory, and results are already being made available to the presiding judge of the Operación Puerto case.

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

Riis: DNA testing would have been enough for Basso to stay

By Shane Stokes

CSC chief Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

CSC boss Bjarne Riis is currently preparing things prior to the team's training camp in South Africa, where they will discuss plans for the new season as well as do their now-infamous team-building exercises. One familiar face which will be missing, however, is that of Ivan Basso, who for the past three seasons was very much part of the Danish team.

The Italian left the team due to fallout from the Operación Puerto affair this year. He was one of several big riders who didn't start the Tour de France due to his implication in the matter and while he and Riis had talks earlier this autumn to see if their relationship could be maintained, the two eventually decided to go their separate ways.

Basso subsequently signed for CSC's big rival Discovery Channel, an acquisition which initially led to much criticism from fans, media and other teams. The dissatisfaction originated from the fact that they felt that the signing went against the spirit of the ethical undertaking by ProTour teams not to sign riders under suspicion.

Discovery Channel DS Johann Bruyneel rejected the response, saying that the shelving of Basso's case by the Italian federation meant that the rider was clear to compete as per usual. The fact that the UCI has said that the suspended Operación Puerto cases may well be reopened once the Puerto judicial proceedings are finished was tempered somewhat by the news that the Italian would, after all, give a DNA sample if he was required to do so by the investigators.

His lawyer had previously refused to agree to the measure, stating somewhat bizarrely that the testing was not reliable.

Bjarne Riis recently spoke to Cyclingnews about CSC's new anti-doping policy, which will see the team spending over €300,000 on 800 out-of-competition tests, plus several other matters. He also commented on the Basso situation, saying that if the Italian had agreed to DNA testing he could have stayed with Team CSC.

Riis first gave his reaction to Basso's signing with Discovery, or rather declined to do so, diplomatically, on the grounds that the Italian was entitled to make his own choice once he had walked away from the Danish squad.

"I set him free, I had an agreement with him and he was free to choose whatever he wanted to do," said the 1996 Tour de France winner. "So I cannot have any reactions on that. I cannot have anything against that, otherwise I should have kept him. I will let other people give their own reactions, but I will not do so because it [Discovery Channel] is not my team."

Riis is clearly disappointed to lose a rider who won the Giro d'Italia earlier this year and was clearly one of the biggest favourites for the Tour de France. Several months after his exclusion from that race, he insists that CSC had no indication that Basso was behaving improperly. "When Ivan was with us, his [blood] values were all normal. There was no indication that anything was amiss."

However the possibility that the file will be reopened when the Operación Puerto judicial case concludes is something which he says he had to take into consideration. There was, he says, one way to resolve things, but Basso elected not to take a DNA test.

"The problem is that we have no guarantee that this case is over. This was of course a big issue for us when we were talking things over with Ivan. It is nice that he says he will do a DNA now, but I wonder why he couldn't do that with us.

"We were of course talking about it. We didn't say that he had to do it, as we can't insist on something like that, but of course we asked him about the possibility of it. We left open all the possibilities to prove that he is clean.

"If he had done a DNA test, sure... he would have been able to stay. That would have solved a lot of problems, of course."

A full feature interview with Bjarne Riis will follow soon on Cyclingnews.

Jaksche and the Austrians

By Susan Westemeyer

The Austrian cycling federation (ÖRV) announced last week that it has shelved proceedings against Jörg Jaksche, who was named in the Operación Puerto Spanish doping scandal. On Monday, ÖRV General Secretary Rudolf Massak gave Cyclingnews a more detailed explanation:

"With regards to the possible opening of anti-doping proceedings against Jörg Jaksche, the Austrian Cycling Federation {ÖRV} feels itself obligated after a thorough test of the underlying rules and legal regulations, to wait upon further findings from the court in Madrid in the process against Fuentes et al. (Operación Puerto) -- a decision, which was made together with the UCI.

"At the present time we assume that further relevant information most probably will be available only after the end of the legal proceedings in Spain. For the time being, the ÖRV anti-doping committee will therefore not be instructed to conduct hearings in the Jaksche case."

Jaksche told Cyclingnews, "Some weeks, ago, my attorney Michael Lehner had received positive signals by the federation saying that, after studying the documents, they would not open proceedings against me. But this decision had nothing to do with the fact that the Spanish judge in charge of the affair had ordered that the documents could not be used by the federations - they took that decision independently."

Watch out for an extensive interview with Jörg Jaksche on Cyclingnews in the coming days.

Sánchez is ready for Euskaltel leadership

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Sánchez takes Vuelta stage
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sánchez, who carried out a spectacular duel with Alejandro Valverde in the Criterium of Murcia of last Sunday, said to Cyclingnews to be "prepared to assume the leadership" of the Basque ProTour squad, although he clarified that, "there are also other important riders in Euskaltel-Euskadi, so that there is a shared leadership."

Sánchez recognizes that the departure of Iban Mayo to the Saunier Duval-Prodir "leaves an empty spot in the Euskaltel-Euskadi, but mainly, in Basque cycling, where Mayo continues being the most important."

In 2006, Sánchez obtained his best results that until now "had avoided me", and hopes to also follow the success "going forward." At the moment, he does not clearly know which races will make up his 2007 calendar, "but it could be similar to this season", leaving open the doors to his participation in the Tour of France, which he sacrificed in 2006 to be able to be in proper condition for the Vuelta a Espańa.

"I demonstrated in the Vuelta that I can fight to be on the podium of a grand tour, so why not also in the Tour?" he asked.

2007 Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale

Cunego in 2006 event
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The organizer of the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali has selected the dates and preliminary teams for its 2007 event. The seventh edition will be held from March 27 to 31 and include nine ProTour teams.

Monday the organizer confirmed the participation of the following ProTour teams: Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Milram, Gerolsteiner, Ag2R Prévoyance, Predictor–Lotto, T-Mobile, Quick-Step and Saunier Duval-Prodir. It noted that Astaná (depending on their status in the ProTour) and Discovery Channel are additional teams likely to be added, along with a selection of Italian "professional" teams.

Damiano Cunego won this year's event, while the other past winners include Romans Vainsteins (1999)*, Paolo Bettini (2000)*, Ruslan Ivanov (2001), Frances28/11/2006co Casagrande (2002), Mirko Celestino (2003), Giuliano Figueras (2004) and Franco Pellizotti (2005)
* Memorial Cecchi Gori

Quaranta chooses love and life: Amore & Vita

Ivan Quaranta will make the switch this winter from Universal Caffč-CB Immobiliare to Amore & Vita-McDonald's. The 32 year-old Italian from Crema will join the established team of Toscano Ivano Fanini, racing mostly Italian races.

"I have the desire to redeem myself, to demonstrate that I am still able to do something good," said Il Ghepardo to tuttobiciweb.com. "I know words don't mean much and I want to put myself immediately to work. The season's first race? In Donoratico [GP Etruschi], this is sure."

Early in Quaranta's career he was tipped to be one of Italy's next big sprinters, but the kick faded fast from his legs. Nevertheless, he has spent one day in the Maglia Rosa and sprinted to victory six times in the Giro d'Italia.

Volksbank under the stars in Austria

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Volksbank cycling stars will be sleeping under the heavenly counterparts this week in the Austrian Alps, as the professional continental team has invited its 14 riders to a "Team Building" camp, to be led by former Karate world champion Daniel Devigili.

The meeting will concentrate on the usual aspects of meeting the new riders, solving conflicts and building motivation, togetherness and trust. In addition, the riders' racing schedules for the coming season will be set.

To achieve the "togetherness" goals, mobile telephones will not be allowed, and the riders will sleep in tents on the mountainside. Team Manager Thomas Kofler said, "The important thing for me is that our riders have contact with each other before our first training camp in Italy, and now that they can absolutely trust each other in times of difficulty. Survival training brings people together. There's no better way of using the off-season."

New Zealand Tour Down Under team announced

Tuesday, the official New Zealand team for the 2007 Tour Down Under was announced. Coinciding with a parliamentary luncheon hosted by the Minister for Sport recognising 2006 world championship and Commonwealth Games cycling medallists, BikeNZ announced the team of eight cyclists who will represent New Zealand at the most prestigious road cycling event in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 667 km Tour Down Under starts on January 16 in Adelaide and traverses South Australia. The tour consists of 14 teams of eight riders, plus reserves, and is normally only open to national teams representing Australia and invited professional teams from Europe and North America. 2007 is the first time a national team outside of Australia has been invited to compete and offers valuable UCI ranking points.

The team will be Hayden Roulston, Tim Gudsell (pending availability from his pro team), Heath Blackgrove, Peter Latham, Logan Hutchings, Jeremy Vennell, Clinton Avery and Matthew Haydock.

The team staff will consist of Jacques Landry (Director), Kris Withington (Mechanic), Sarah Blake (Massage Therapist) and Tessa Soolaart (Physiotherapist).

New Zealander Julian Dean will be riding for his pro team, Crédit Agricole.

The 2007 Tour Down Under will be held January 16 – 21, 2007. For further information please visit the official website at www.tourdownunder.com.au.

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