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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for October 29, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Good news for Basso & other riders implicated in Operación Puerto

Spanish federation shelves files, opens disciplinary investigations of Saiz, others

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Following Friday's announcement by the Italian Cycling Federation that the investigation of Ivan Basso related to Operación Puerto would be shelved, thus clearing the way for Giro d'Italia winner to race again in 2007, on Saturday, the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation announced that their Competition Committee had also decided to shelve, pending further judicial developments, the cases opened against cyclists presumably involved in of doping practices as investigated Operación Puerto. This will clear the way for many riders to look for new teams unless the UCI tries to block them with an appeal to the Court for Arbitration in Sport, something the UCI prexy Pat McQuaid has threatened to do before.

However, the Competition Committee has initiated disciplinary investigations of Manolo Saiz (ex-director of the Liberty Seguros team), Vicente Belda and Jose Ignacio Labarta (director and associate director of the Comunidad Valenciana team) as well as Yolanda Fuentes (Comunidad Valenciana team doctor), via the presumed infraction of article 83.2 of the Spanish National Regulations of Doping Control, but any procedures against the four are suspended, awaiting further action until the judge allows the information to be used by the Spanish Federation for any disciplinary action against Saiz, Belda, Labarta and Dr. Yolanda Fuentes.

In a strange twist, on Saturday, UCI's ProTour Licence Commission chose to ignore the fact that Manolo Saiz is in clear violation of the ProTour Ethics Code by being under investigation by the Spanish Cycling Federation's Competition Committee, and refused a request to withdraw Manolo Saiz's Active Bay's ProTour licence, claiming legal reasons and lack of information from Spanish authorities on the doping affair. However, in order for Saiz to keep his ProTour license, the financials of his company have to be approved by auditors Ernst & Young on November 20, which might ultimately derail Saiz's efforts.

Following today's decision by the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation's Competition Committee, the riders can now resume their normal activity since none of their licenses were ever suspended, nor were they sanctioned by the Federation. This means that the way looks clear for Ivan Basso to finalise his team contract for 2007, while Jan Ullrich may still have to overcome some hurdles with Swiss authorities.

The Spanish riders thus cleared are:

Team Astana-Würth:
Marcos Serrano
David Etxebarria
Joseba Beloki
Angel Vicioso
Isidro Nozal
Unai Osa

Team Caisse d'Espagne-Illes Balears:
Constantino Zaballa

Team Saunier Duval:
Carlos Zarate

Team Ag2R:
Francisco Mancebo

Team T-Mobile:
Oscar Sevilla

Team Phonak:
Jose Enrique Gutierrez Cataluña
Jose Ignacio Gutierrez Cataluña

Team Comunitat Valenciana:
Vicente Ballester
David Bernabeu
David Blanco
Jose Adrian
Juan Gomis
Eladio Jimenez
David Latasa
Javier Pascual Rodriguez
Ruben Plaza
Jose Luis Martinez
Manuel Llorent
Antonio Olmo
David Muñoz
Javier Cherro
Javier Pascual (former racer, now team director)

Team Unibet.Com:
Carlos Garcia Quesada

The cases of Michele Scarponi (Ita), Jörg Jaksche (Ger), Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) and Jan Ullrich (Ger) will be handled by their respective federations in charge, but as the Spanish justice forbids the use of the Puerto documents for disciplinary proceedings, the four cyclists are likely to be cleared in near future. Ivan Basso's case has been archived last Friday.

UCI disappointed at legal limbo, vow to reopen investigations when possible

By Shane Stokes

UCI president Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

In the wake of the news that the Spanish federation had been forced to drop proceedings against riders implicated in Operación Puerto and that investigation has also been shelved against Italian Ivan Basso, the UCI has reaffirmed that this does not mean that the riders have automatically been cleared of the charges against them.

A ruling by the Spanish court on October 7 prevented the Spanish federation from using court documents to open up cases against riders named in the investigation until such time as the court determined exactly what happened. There is a chance that other federations may follow suit.

It is expected that the trial will not be concluded until the middle of next year, raising the possibility that the result of the case will be known before or during the Tour de France. Should it be proven that there is substance behind the charges that Dr Eufemiano Fuentes ran a doping network involving cyclists and other sports people, it is likely that the UCI will instruct federations to once again open disciplinary proceedings against the riders in question.

Speaking to Cyclingnews on Saturday, UCI President Pat McQuaid explained how the current twist evolved in the long-running saga. "The situation with Manolo, with Basso and with the Spanish riders as well is all down to the current state of affairs with Operación Puerto," he said. "I can quite easily understand how the License Commission were unable take away Manolo’s license. They couldn't use the information that we had supplied to them due to the fact that the Spanish authorities have blocked us using those details.

Click here to read the full news feature.

DNA tests controversial among riders

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Despite recent declarations coming from a key meeting of the AIGCP (International Association of Professional Cycling Teams) held Wednesday in Paris on the eve of the presentation of the Tour de France, where the teams agreed to use DNA testing to combat doping, it's not clear if the AIGCP and its member teams have the legal authority or consensus among riders to implement this. "The agreement was unanimous," AIGCP President Patrick Lefévère and manager of Team Quick.Step-Innergetic told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We can not force the riders to agree to our request, but who refuses will have to assume the consequences. For example, a team could decide not to renew their contract."

Currently racing in the Grenoble 6-Day race, World Champion Paolo Bettini of Lefévère's Team Quick.Step-Innergetic scoffed at the idea of submitting to DNA testing. Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna that "DNA testing for riders is absurd, as is the idea to exclude riders (from ProTour teams) who are only under investigation. If they refuse to hire riders who are under investigation, the same should hold true for the managers, team directors, coaches and doctors who have had problems. And to make DNA testing obligatory is even more unacceptable! They only do that to serial killers; maybe whoever came up with this idea is watching too much TV. Since 1997 we have had to be available for blood testing, but now they are talking about violating all of our personal rights. Yeah, someone might want to take a DNA test to show their innocence and if they do, I'll tip my hat to them."

Bettini also had hard words for the AIGCP, saying "It's total hypocrisy that these rules are coming from the teams. Even the team managers need to be regulated." Bettini's countryman Giampaolo Caruso isn't as stoic as the World Champ, as the former Liberty Seguros rider is so desperate to get a contract for 2007 that he has agreed to submit to a DNA test, the first rider to get the OK from the UCI to do so. "I want to race again", Caruso explained simply.

T-Mobile Team's spokesman Luuc Eisenga weighed in for the German ProTour squad on the DNA testing issue, explaining "We believe that without a DNA test, (Ivan) Basso can't sign a contract with a ProTour team," but Basso's attorney Massimo Martelli responded that "for Ivan or any rider to submit to a DNA test imposed by their team is anti-ethical and against justice, but Basso might consider it."

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

Sean Kelly team for merger

By Shane Stokes

General Manager Kurt Bogaerts (l) and the Sean Kelly team at its launch in February 2006
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

The Sean Kelly M. Donnelly racing team, which this year moved up to Continental status, is to merge for the 2007 season with another Irish squad of the same level. Team manager Kurt Bogaerts told Cyclingnews this week that the Belgian-based squad will join with the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group team and that he expects that this pooling of strength will bring greater success in the years ahead.

"I think this is a very good step," he said, speaking by phone from the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Merchtem, Belgium. "Looking back, I think it was a bit too much to have two Continental teams, certain at this early stage. Joining the two squads will be an important move and will help us to progress to the next level."

Both squads rode big international events this season and while good results were obtained by some riders, others found it more difficult to compete regularly at a high level. The new structure will see an overall reduction in the numbers of Irish riders with Continental licences due to the change in emphasis from quantity to quality. However it is expected that this short term refocusing will bring about greater overall success for Irish cycling in the years to come.

Bogaerts gave some details about the new setup. "M. Donnelly will remain from the Sean Kelly team, and then Murphy and Gunn and the Newlyn Group will come on board as new backers. There might also be the possibility of taking on an extra sponsor, we will see what happens in the next few weeks."

"As regards the lineup, we will start talking with the riders next Thursday about contracts. I think there will be eight or nine, or perhaps ten Irish guys who will be riding for the team. And then there will also be some young foreign riders, not only from Belgium but other nationalities as well."

Bogaerts said the lineup is some way from being finalised, but mentioned Paídi O’Brien, Tim Cassidy and Mark Cassidy as amongst those likely to be retained. Some riders from the existing Murphy and Gunn setup will also be considered for the new-look squad.

O’Brien took the team’s best result in 2006 when he finished 7th in the 1.1 ranked Grand Prix d'Overijse - Course du Raisin.

"This will represent a fresh start for us," Bogaerts continued. "It is important that we take a new road. This will be the Continental team of Ireland, we will try to sign the best Irish guys that are currently available. My big hope is that we can start like we ended this year. In the last two months we had a top 10 in a 1.1 ranked event, and rode well in many races. Both Sean and myself hope to see these kinds of results more often - the aim is that we will build on this first season and be more competitive throughout the year."

Also see: Sean Kelly Racing Team launch in Dublin, Ireland, in February 2006.

Zabel looking forward to Tour 2007

By Susan Westemeyer

Erik Zabel is looking forward to riding his 13th Tour de France in 2007 - especially since it is going in the right direction. "Personally I prefer to ride in a clockwise direction. I don't know why," he told zdf.de.

HIs favourite to win the race is Alexander Vinokourov. "After he got shut out of the Tour this year, he will be highly motivated. He showed at the Vuelta that he has the potential to win a Grand Tour." Zabel also thinks that his countryman, young Marcus Fothen, who was at the Tour presentation in Paris this week, has a chance to finish in the top five. "Why not? He has a great potential. He has showed that already in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France."

Zabel is especially looking forward to starting the Tour in London. "I have already been with the Tour in Great Britain, my first Tour in 1994. That was a great experience. I'm really looking forward to it next year." And he is sure, "it will be fun for me" to ride the Tour again.

His overall goal for next year is to try and "make more progress with Team Milram. That means, that we, for example, want to make our sprinter train for Alessandro Petacchi even more perfect. We want to continue where we were in the Vuelta. That is surely our biggest goal. But we also want to do well in the big tours as well as the Spring Classics."

Heras and Sevilla back for Memorial León Sánchez

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The brother of the Spanish Astana rider Luis León Sánchez died one year ago in a motorbike accident. León León Sánchez also raced his bike with Würth, a branch of the ONCE team, together with Luis León. The third, younger brother of the family, Pedro Leon Sanchez, is a soccer player of Real Murcia.

Both of them, in collaboration with Peña Ciclista Muleña "Luis León Sánchez" will organize on Sunday a mountainbike-racing in their native locality, Mula (Murcia, Spain) called I Memorial León Sánchez. Many well-known cyclists such as Roberto Heras, Sergio Paulino (Astana), Alberto Contador (Astana), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Astana), Fran Perez (Caisse d' Epargne), Cayetano Juliá (Caisse d'Epargne), Óscar Sevilla (T-Mobile) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) will take part in the memorial cycling event.

Burghardt goes cross

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt missed much of the 2006 season due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, so the German has already started training for the coming season - not on his racing bike, but on a cross bike.

After having been plagued by problems all season, he underwent surgery in August. "I was injured for a long time, so I don't need a time-out any more", he said on the team's website, explaining why he already started training.

He gave the cross bike a workout last winter, too, participating in a few races along the way, even coming in second in one event. But "the fun factor is clearly the most important thing for me," Burghardt said. "Riding in the forest is great and more liberating than riding on roads. I will continue to slot cyclo-cross rides in my training schedule, even though I'm no longer living in the Erzgebirge."

He has moved from his native German mountains to the small town of Auenstein, Switzerland, where a neighbour and sometime training partner is former teammate Steffen Wesemann. The two share a passion for one particular race - Paris-Roubaix. "The 'Hell of the North' inspired me already as a teenager", Burghardt continued. It is a race that requires outstanding bike handling skills. "That's also important in cyclo-cross. And I benefit from that, particularly in races like Paris-Roubaix."

His team doesn't worry about this hobby - at least, not too much. "I cleared that with Rolf Aldag," Burghardt said. "He told me to be careful and that we should be responsible with our bodies." After all, cross riding is only a small part of his winter training. "Building up basic stamina is absolutely essential. Of approximately 16 hours of training per week, only one hour is devoted to cyclo-cross training. This way, I don't run any risk of lessening the endurance training effects."

Tour de France partners up for environment

At the presentation of the race in Paris last Thursday, Tour de France organiser ASO was pleased to announce a new partnership with French 'Eco-Emballages', a company in charge of selective packaging waste collection in France, an important step in the process of recycling. "It's a subject which we really care about," former Race director Jean-Marie Leblanc told Cyclingnews at the eve of the event. "It's very important to us to come to better terms with the amount of waste the Tour de France generates, and Eco-Emballages will help us doing that. We are working on solutions right now." Eco-Emballages will also partner the Paris-Nice cycling race.

Leblanc also revealed that the Tour de France had not lost any one of its partners this year. "Skoda is still our partner," he said. "And we have been able to bring three new sponsors aboard for next year, amongst which Eco-Emballages."

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