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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 19, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

2006 Tour of California and EPO Testing:

A Snafu at the Amgen Tour of California?

By Kirsten Robbins in San Francisco, CA & additional reporting by Tim Maloney

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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This Saturday morning, an article entitled "Doping drug EPO left out of race test" by New York Times journalist Edward Wyatt hit newsstands nationwide, just before the start of the 2007 Tour of California. A few days earlier, Amgen officials had announced that they were surprised to find out that no EPO testing took place in the inaugural edition of the event. "Our understanding going into the race was that the test would be included," Amgen spokesperson Mary Klem told the NY Times. "And we were told afterward that no rider tested positive for EPO or for any banned substances."

Biotech giant Amgen is a key manufacturer of the synthetic versions of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), a substance banned in high-level sports. Amgen has always maintained that the rationale for their sponsorship of the Tour of California was a vehicle to educate the public of EPO intended and proper uses. But Amgen's position in sponsoring the largest bike race in the USA seems contradictory in light of the doping scandals that frequent cycling headlines.

In a good mood despite missing 2006 EPO doping controls: Shawn Hunter and Phyllis Piano
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Phyllis Piano, Amgen's VP of Corporate Communications and Philanthropy explained at the press conference on Saturday, "We see this race as an opportunity. Our mission is to serve patients and we have been around twenty-six years. Doping and using our drugs in the wrong way is wrong and if there is a way that we can point out that it is harmful and dangerous and if there is a way we can use this race to send this message forward we will do it."

However, after the press conference, it is still unclear why Amgen's request for EPO testing in the '06 Tour of California did not happen and furthermore, why claims were made after the race that no positive tests for any banned performance enhancing substances, including EPO occurred during after the 2006 race. The request from Amgen would have gone to event owner AEG and then to event technical contractor Medalist Sports, who manages the technical aspects of the Tour of California for AEG, including the relationship with the UCI and USA Cycling. Once USA Cycling received the written request from Medalist Sports to add EPO testing to the standard drug testing protocol per EPO maker Amgen's request, the UCI would have this testing handled by the on-site UCI Medical Control official at the race. Unfortunately, somewhere in the shuffle, the request was lost.

Jim Birrell, of Medalist Sports, advocates a "safe, and drug-free event".
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

At Saturday's pre-race press conference (see separate feature), Race Director and part owner of Medalist Sports Jim Birrell made several comments during the pre-race press conference about the protocols followed requesting anti-doping from the UCI. "We applied for a sanction from USA Cycling and the UCI and that sanction appoints drug testing procedures appointed by UCI, USADA or WADA," Birrell said. "We as the race organizers, sponsors and promoters have no say in how those procedures are taken and administered. We are doing everything in our power to assure that we are producing a world class, safe and drug-free event."

Although EPO blood testing is part of UCI standard protocol in high-level European pro races, the anti-doping measure has seldom been implemented in North American UCI-sanctioned pro road racing, where race organizers would have to request it explicitly. However, USADA publishes a detailed handbook on testing policies and procedures, and the UCI has clear and specific anti-doping information in their rule book. Just as riders are expected to be aware of drug testing policies and procedures, so are race organizers and it may be seen as a major oversight for a race that hopes to become a ProTour race not to have implemented EPO testing as requested by sponsor and EPO manufacturer Amgen.

After Birrell commented, he handed off to USA Cycling's Sean Petty, who's "no comment" may fuel speculation that either Medalist Sports was not aware that they had to specifically request the EPO blood test from the UCI via USA Cycling, a blood test that adds $400 to the regular medical control urine analysis expenses of about $250 per test, to be paid for by the organizer. Or that Medalist Sports did request the additional EPO testing and USA Cycling failed to forward this request to the UCI.

Race owner AEG Sports's President and Chief Marketing Officer Shawn Hunter weighed in after Birrell and Petty, declaring that "As a race promoter we followed the protocol of the UCI and what we thought was right." However, AEG's contractor Medalist Sports may not have even requested the EPO test, leaving AEG's comments about how they had a drug-free race in 2006 seem inconsistent without testing for EPO.

Riders support Landis fundraiser for 'athletes' rights'

By Kirsten Robbins in San Francisco, CA

Bobby Julich (Team CSC) at the press conference
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Last year’s Tour of California winner, Floyd Landis, will leverage this year's event to hold fundraising events for the 'Floyd Fairness Fund'. The first is to be held on Sunday evening after the prologue to the 2007 event. The fund is raising money for 'athletes' rights in the anti-doping process', as well as for his own defense.

Landis’ fellow American riders were asked their thoughts on the event during the pre-race press conference. US national road champion, George Hincapie, said he didn't know much about the fundraiser but supported Landis. "Floyd is a friend of mine and I hope he can clear his name. I hope he is able to get all the help that he needs."

Race favourite from Discovery Channel, Levi Leipheimer, held a strong position in supporting Landis' quest for athletes' rights in the anti-doping process. "Landis is having a fundraiser for athletes' rights and that is something that everyone here would support one hundred percent," Leipheimer said. "There are definitely some issues that need to be resolved. One is the issue of his positive test but it is going to be a year later before he knows the decision... I think that we can all agree that is not a good time line of the process and I support him in that."

Team CSC has stepped forward in its team anti-doping measures by testing riders more frequently throughout the season. Bobby Julich expressed his fears of the anti-doping process during the press conference. "I think the reoccurring theme is that the testing procedures are being questioned," Julich said. "I myself, being a part of team CSC, we signed on to do 12 to 16 more tests on top of the four from WADA and four from USADA. That being said I have signed up for 12 to 16 more opportunities for theses tests to be flawed so I think that Floyd Landis fighting for the rights of the riders is very important. And we also need to find air proof- water proof testing procedures to make sure the outcome is one hundred percent innocent or guilty."

Landis attacks McQuaid over doping case comments

Floyd Landis has responded to comments made by UCI president Pat McQuaid on the American cyclist's ongoing doping case. In the Mercury News of Sunday, February 18, McQuaid argued that many athletes who returned a positive doping test tried to come clean of suspicions by questioning the testing methods. "Every athlete who tests positive blames the system and somebody else," he said. "Floyd is no different. Floyd has very expensive lawyers and PR people. He's doing an epic number. The public needs to understand they are hearing one side of the story."

In a press release, Landis responded to McQuaid's comments, saying that they "highlight the lack of quality leadership at the UCI, and his wish to deny me the basic rights to defend myself and protect my livelihood. At crushing personal expense, building a team of professionals to support me is the only way I have to fight against an unfair system and unsubstantiated allegations. The UCI should be apologizing that its athletes must go to such lengths to try to protect their basic rights, not criticizing them for the expense they are incurring to defend themselves."

The 2006 Tour de France winner added that his positive doping result in late July had not been properly handled by the UCI, which allegedly leaked information to the media. "Mr. McQuaid started my trial by media when he made his leading comments about a 'worst case scenario' adverse analytical finding on July 26. His organization continued to subject me to a public show trial when I had no information with which to defend myself by leaking test results to the New York Times, announcing the results of A samples before B confirmations, and refusing to inform me of the results of my B sample before they announced it in a press release.

"Mr. McQuaid should suspend all public comment on my case until it is resolved in an appropriate and professional manner."

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Former Tour de France director passes away

Félix Lévitan, who directed the Tour de France from 1962-1987, died on Sunday afternoon in his birthplace Cannes aged 95 years.

Born on October 12, 1911, Lévitan started his career as a sports journalist and became head of the sports section of the Parisien Libéré newspaper in the 60s. In 1962, he was hired by the Société du Tour de France to be the assistant of Jacques Goddet, with whom he directed the Tour de France until 1987.

Milram for Algarve

Team Milram announced that top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is to further "improve his condition" at the Volta ao Algarve (UCI category 2.1) from February 21-25. From next Wednesday on, eight Milram riders led by Alessandro Petacchi will start at the stage race through the South of Portugal over 949.4 kilometres.

With its hilly profile, the Volta ao Algarve is an ideal preparation for the season's next highlights, as well as a good opportunity to "further optimise the Milram-train" according to sports director Antonio Bevilacqua.

The team's roster for the Portuguese event will be: Alessandro Petacchi, Alessandro Cortinovis, Volodymyr Diudia, Alberto Ongarato, Björn Schröder, Fabio Sacchi, Marcel Sieberg and Marco Velo.

Cyclo-cross world stands by Yves Corminboeuf

Young Swiss cyclo-cross rider burdened with leukaemia

By Brecht Decaluwé

Vervecken's world champion jersey,
Photo ©: CN/Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

After the cyclo-cross world championships in Hooglede-Gits Swiss U23 champion Yves Corminboeuf found out he suffered a form of leukaemia. Corminboeuf abandoned the race in Belgium after a crash and felt extremely tired since then. The 21 year-old was brought over to intensive care on February 9 and chemotherapy was started immediately in a hospital near Lausanne.

The Belgian soigneuse of the Swiss national team Leen Hernalsteen informed the - mostly Belgian - cyclo-cross world about the situation of the triple Swiss U23 champion. Fidea manager Hans Van Kasteren provided her with a jersey of his world champion Erwin Vervecken, a jersey which has been signed by all riders in the Superprestige race in Vorselaar. "He will find it fantastic to notice his idols want to do something like this for him," the Belgian soigneuse said to Cyclingnews. The jersey will be handed over to Corminboeuf in Lausanne as soon as possible.

Spectators of cycling races might have noticed the Flemish flags along the road. The organisation behind this exposure 'Vlaanderen Vlagt' has decided to offer the main part of their sales on Sunday in Oostmalle to a benefit fund for the Swiss rider.

It is possible to send support mail to Yves Corminboeuf through this e-mail address:

Teams for Laigueglia: LPR, Volksbank

LPR and Team Volksbank will both be deprived of their leaders at the upcoming Trofeo Laigueglia, taking place next Tuesday in the Italian region of Liguria. LPR's Daniele Nardello, as well as Volksbank's Gerhard Trampusch are both tied to their beds with a flu, which has influenced the choice of riders both teams have made.

LPR will therefore send Maurizio Bellin, Paolo Bailetti, Luca Celli, Borut Bozic, Marco Marcato, Walter Proch, Roberto Traficante and Luca Solari to the race, and sports director Mario Manzoni is confident that the team will be able to put their training into practise. "These last few days, we had the opportunity to get to know each other more," he said. "We sat down and checked each rider's form. The guys worked out well, both power- and endurance-wise. We seem ready to race, and Laigueglia will be a good test in this sense."

Team Volksbank will have to do without captain Gerhard Trampusch at Trofeo Laigueglia on Tuesday. "Now we have to improvise," said teammate Harald Morscher. "We want a rider in the first group, no matter where that rider finishes." The team hopes to do better than it did last year, when only one rider from the Austrian Continental Professional team finished the race.

Volksbank for Trofeo Laigueglia: Pascal Hungerbühler, Florian Stalder, Simon Schärer, Rene Weissinger, Andreas Matzbacher, Harald Morscher, Patrick Riedesser and Werner Riebenbauer.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)