Latest Cycling News for July 27, 2007
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Mixed Messages about Olympic Future
By Shane Stokes
Responding to the doping stories afflicting this year's Tour de France, the International Olympic Committee appears to have given a thumbs up to the increased testing which has led to the positive A samples from Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Christian Moreni (Cofidis).
The IOC issued a press release on Thursday which acknowledged that a stronger anti doping drive can bring about such results, and that this was a positive sign for the fight against drugs in sport.
"The recent doping-related events at the Tour de France, whilst disturbing, indicate a painful, slow but nonetheless significant shift in attitude against those who choose to violate the rules in sporting competition," read the release.
"The revelations serve as a valuable reminder that the fight against doping in sport is a daily battle which must be fought in concert by the sports authorities, sports teams, athletes and coaches, and governments.
"It is understandable that the incidents of the past days leave sports lovers feeling deceived. Despite this, it is important to recognise that an increase in exposure of those who are not playing by the rules – be that through increased testing or through other means of proving doping - is an important signal that increased efforts in the fight against doping do have an impact."
The release comes one day after Jean-Francois Lamour, vice president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, suggested that the sport could be withdrawn from the Olympics.
An unnamed source, referred to as a ‘senior European IOC member, echoed this when speaking to AFP on Wednesday.
"Cycling is now a serious point of concern among IOC members," he said. "There is scandal after scandal and it is in serious danger of exiting the Olympics."
He suggested that it could be replaced by one of several sports vying to get into the games. "Softball, rugby and karate are seen to be clean sports and do not carry the dirt of doping in cycling. Cycling is dreadful for the image of the Olympic movement and the Games itself."
Thursday's IOC release may have been issued in response to this statement, which gained considerable coverage.
UCI President Pat McQuaid takes a similar view to that press release, saying that catching cheats is a positive rather than negative sign. He rejects suggestions that cycling could be out of the Games.
"There has been some rumours recently about cycling's possible exclusion from the Olympic Games," he told Cyclingnews on Thursday. "I have spoken to IOC members since then and that is completely off the mark. The attitude of most of the IOC members is why should it take out a sport when it is doing what it is supposed to do?
"As far as WADA is concerned, we are doing what we should, which is to catch cheats and throw them out of the sport. When the sport is doing that, that is not the time to consider throwing it out of the Olympic Games. I don't think that is a realistic situation at all."
He feels it is better to push towards cleaning up the sport rather than ignoring the problem, even if this leads to high-profile positive cases and the resulting negative publicity.
"At the end of the day, while these things such as Vinokourov and Moreni and Rasmussen are shocks to the sport, it shows that cycling is dealing with the issues. It proves that the sport is prepared to face these issues head on, to tackle them and not hide things under the counter.
"There are many other sports that don't have as much testing as we do, but it is only when you actually have controls that you catch people. If there is even only a small percentage of athletes who are prepared to cheat, by doing loads of controls then you're going to catch that percentage.
"I believe it is a small percentage, but I do believe that that small percentage needs to completely disappear. It is only then that we will get the credibility back."
McQuaid feels that there is no overnight remedy and that it will take time to chance a long-standing culture of doping within the sport. WADA chairman Dick Pound and the UCI disagreed over this on Thursday , with the former implying that the tougher anti-doping measures introduced should already have eliminated the problem and the latter saying that such measures will, by their nature, lead to an increased number of positives in the short term.
Greg LeMond is not surprised
Greg LeMond, winner of the Tour de France on three occasions, was not surprised about the doping scandals in this year's Tour, as he revealed in an interview to AFP
The American pointed out that "the speed at which the riders go up the climbs is as fast as in the Pantani times. That is a shock to me." He thought that many riders are still involved with Dr. Ferrari and think they can't achieve results without him.
LeMond's point of view is that if Rasmussen got kicked out, others should have been excluded, too. "There are others where there is even more proof [of doping]. If I think about Floyd Landis, who defended himself by saying that the samples were manipulated, that the French were against him and that there is no culture of doping in cycling... Maybe he is just naive, or maybe he is malicious."
LeMond insisted that the riders know very well who dopes and who doesn't, suggesting that "it's obvious there are still dopers in the peloton." He explained that Contador weighs the same as Rasmussen, and both climbed at the same speed as Pantani. "That's sufficient for the red flag to come up." He also reminded us that Contador's name came up in connection with Operación Puerto, but was cleared after the 2006 Tour. "I am not pointing the finger at him [Contador]. I am simply saying if Rasmussen got caught then we also need to have a very close look at his competitors."
LeMond suggested the reason riders still dope is that "if you look closely, very few riders get caught, actually," adding that no rider is controlled right before the start of a stage. The American's intended solution would be an independent agency, similar to WADA, but just for cycling. "It should be financed by the governments and should be punitive."
LeMond negated the question if there should be a winner on Sunday on the Champs Elysées, "I would prefer the organisers would not give out a maillot jaune. It would be a symbolic gesture."
The ex-world champion was not worried for the Tour's future, though. "It will survive. It's an event with a history, a glorious past. During three weeks the riders become actors. If you replace the actors, the Tour is still there. What I am more pessimistic about is the image of cycling, which has taken a serious hit. Every time when we think it's getting a bit better, we are brought back down."
Moreni out of jail and out of a job
Cristian Moreni is out of jail and out of a job. The cyclist was released by the police but will have to undergo more questioning.
Investigating judge Erick Maurel said that Moreni is not being investigated on criminal charges, Sport1.de reports. The investigators are hoping to find out which doping product was used, and if the French prescription medicine laws were violated.
Cofidis explains retirement from Tour
Cofidis released a statement on its website yesterday, explaining why it asked the general manager, Eric Boyer, to withdraw the cycling formation from the Tour de France immediately, including pulling out of the advertising caravan.
Cofidis, which specializes in credits over the phone, called it a question of ethics, above all. It outlines the commitment in the fight against doping since 1998, when it signed the first "Charter of sponsors" together with other French teams.
Cofidis already overcame a difficult time with the cycling team in 2004. It hoped that its decision to stay and invest into cycling despite all the problems and support Draconian measures would allow for an efficient fight against doping.
The statement continued that those measure, which included that everybody on staff sign the charter, have not prevented the rider Cristian Moreni to display an intolerable behaviour, which has resulted immediately in Cofidis to apply the disciplinary measures.
Cofidis will one more time analyse the new situation. It will always be in solidarity with those who fight against doping and feel the pain that Moreni has brought on to the members of the team and their families.
Cofidis' statement reminded everyone that it has a strong anti-doping program in place, including six analyses per year in addition to the ones from the French cycling federation (FFC). There is also a detailed fitness, blood and hormone test twice a year.
As for drug tests, Cofidis requires a bi-annual check for cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis, heroin, anabolic steroids and its stimulants and corticoids. Those tests are done in Strasbourg, under the guidance of Prof. Pascal Kintz.
Additionally Cofidis requires an annual psychological analyses and training camps, which include presentations about doping, team building and hygiene in sports, are held in France, to make the controlling easier.
The statement concluded with specific demands by the sponsor Cofidis, including the requirement to have the riders race no more than 90 days a year to facilitate recuperation. The earnings scheme will be modified to not be directly tied to the UCI classification, which will also be applied to the management.
Bettini previews Worlds course
Paolo Bettini isn't riding the Tour de France, but neither is he sitting home idly. This week he checked out the course for the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, and is preparing to return to racing this weekend in the Tour de Wallonie.
The little Italian was in Stuttgart with the Italian national team manager Franco Ballerini and a few others from the national squad. "It is a good route, quick and complicated during the initial phase. The central part seems to be quite easy with some flat sections," he said on the Quick.Step Innergetic website, qsi-cycling.com.
"On the other hand the final is difficult and I'm sure it will be spectacular. The final 3 kilometres are all up-hill. At about 600 metres from the finish line the climb levels out slightly to then continue with a constant three-percent gradient. It will be a stimulating final where we'll need to have our eyes wide open, checking and controlling the race [and] choosing the right moment to make our move. The road surface is good and wide, it will be important to have good team work in order to keep any attacks at bay if a selection hasn't already taken place."
" Overall the race route is worthy of the World Championships," he concluded. "There are a lot of corners but none of them are dangerous and the roads are excellent. This is just the type of route I was expecting".
In the meantime, he will be returning to racing in the Tour de Wallonie this weekend, his first race since the national championships in June. "The Tour de Wallonie is a perfect race for me to return to racing, after a period without competing. It is a very popular race with Belgian fans and I'll be more than happy to take part in the race wearing my World Champion jersey. This will be the second time that I participate in the race. In 2002 I won the general classifications ahead of Popovych. I think a result like that this year will be difficult, though, but I want to use this race to see exactly what condition I'm in ready for the forthcoming events".
His schedule includes the Clasica de San Sebastian, the Deutschland Tour and the Vuelta a España.
Astana not welcome at Deutschland Tour
"Astana will have a problem with us. We don't see them at the start," said Kai Rapp, director of the upcoming Deutschland Tour. In an interview with Spiegel Online he said that "We will have a co-worker, especially hired for this, look at the vita of every rider registered to ride. He won't do anything else. If he finds problems, then the rider will have a problem."
By excluding Astana, the Tour will lose out on German star Andreas Klöden, but that doesn't bother Rapp, who noted that Klöden wasn't there last year. "In 2006 he decided he would rather ride criteriums." Rapp doubted that the German would be able to distance himself from the Astana team. "Alexander Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler are his friends, and they need friends like him now. We respect his loyalty. The problem is that his attempts to distance himself from these things just do not come across convincingly."
Rapp has no problem with T-Mobile or Cofidis. "We will carefully check out how the teams have reacted to the cases. Have they tried to cover up? What consequences have they taken? The voluntarily withdrawal of the team after the Cofidis rider Moreni's doping case persuaded me, for example."
He added that he hoped that the sponsor T-Mobile would not leave cycling. "The consequences would be tragic. T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner could accomplish a lot in the fight against doping, with the German market in the background. This market is very important for everyone involved in cycling. If they left, it would be a catastrophe."
Lance Armstrong to deliver keynote at fundraiser
Cancer-survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will deliver the key note address at the inaugural fundraising celebration to support 'Kids on Bikes' on Thursday, August 9 in Colorado Springs. 'Kids on Bikes' is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to making the dream of owning a bike, and the freedom and hope that comes with it, a reality for deserving children.
Tickets for the event are now on sale for the event where Armstrong will deliver his inspirational story about surviving cancer. The event is held at the BroAdmoor Hall and starts at 6pm. The ticket price of $150 includes cocktails and dinner. Lance Armstrong will be introduced by his long time personal cycling coach, Chris Carmichael.
Sponsorship opportunities are available also and will give sponsors the chance to attend an exclusive VIP reception. For more details visit http://www.kidsonbikes.net.
Topics of Armstrong's address will include his own life challenges, how cycling and fitness can be crucial components to developing confidence in youngsters, and about the Livestrong movement.
Armstrong hailed the program. "Kids on Bikes is doing a wonderful thing in Colorado Springs. A bike can represent a world of opportunity for a deserving child to grow, to learn about responsibility and to experience a sense of freedom, often for the first time. These things can lead that child to become a good, contributing citizen in the community."
President Paige Carmichael founded 'Kids on bikes' in 2003 and said about the program that "there is no greater childhood thrill than owning a bike for the first time and experiencing the freedom and hope that those two wheels provide. We are dedicated to putting a bike in the hands of every child, regardless of financial resources, to see just how far they can go." Part of the program engages local businesses in a team building exercise to build bikes, which are then donated to the children.
French evening without the Tour
The French daily paper 'France Soir' (France evening) has decided to stop reporting from the Tour de France due to the ongoing doping problems. In his editorial Jean-Pierre Brunois wrote that "according to our principals and those of many of our readers, we have decided to retire form the Tour de France."
Brunois continued that "we are all children of the Tour de France, we love its legends and we cry over its tragedies. The dream is shattered..."
France Soir will not give results of Thursday's stage, according to AFP. Instead of the results boxes for the different classifications, there will be a black box, saying 'No comment'."
France Soir's decision follows on the heels of daily paper 'Libération', which already announced Thursday that they won't be printing results or even the stages's profile. 'Libération' will merely print medical incidents and jury decisions at the end of the stage.
Niermann on the chaos
"For two weeks we gave everything we had, every single day, for the yellow jersey and now we are standing there with nothing," said Rabobank's Grischa Niermann on the removal of Michael Rasmussen from the Tour. "Looking back, it must be admitted that it would have been better not to have let him start, because now the chaos is bigger than ever."
Writing on his website, grischa-niermann.de, he said that "The only thing that motivates me to continue on to Paris is the fact that baby Luca with his big brother Finn and their Mama will be at the Champs Elysées, in order to pick up Papa."
"In the last two weeks I have experienced the best and worst moments of my career and I am pretty much at the end of my rope. That's why you won't hear any criticism of Michael Rasmussen from me. He surely didn't behave properly and made mistakes. But he is the only one who knows the truth about the accusations against him."
Elmiger to try again
Martin Elmiger was in the escape group of the day and managed to stay in it as it grew smaller and smaller, shrinking from an original ten to four at the finish. He took his chances for the win, but couldn't pull the upset off. He won't let that stop him from trying again today, though.
He knew it would be hard to beat Daniele Benatti, Markus Fothen or Jens Voigt, so he tried his best to get away alone, taking off only 400 meters before the finish line. Bennati stuck to his wheel, though, and the Swiss rider broke off his attempt. "That was a mistake," he told the si press agency. "I was in the lead and there was nothing more to do."
The Ag2r rider had come well through the Pyrénées. "In the last Pyrénées stage I quickly joined the gruppetto and so had a relatively quiet day," he revealed.
He hasn't given up hope, though. Friday's stage profile is similar to Thursday's, and "At any rate, I will try it again."
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