First Edition Cycling News for March 10, 2007
Edited by Laura Weislo
Unibet Paris-Nice appeal fails
By Shane Stokes
On a day when Jimmy Casper won the first stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen in Belgium and Baden Cooke took over the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Murcia in Spain, the Unibet.com team have had disappointment in France with regards to Sunday’s Paris-Nice.
After being left off the start list by ASO, the Swedish-registered squad took a court action on Wednesday to try to force the organiser to grant them a ride in the opening ProTour-counting race. However a judge in the Nanterre region near Paris closed the door to this solution on Friday, removing the last hope for the team of getting a ride.
Full details of the ruling have yet to be clarified, but general manger Koen Terryn said that he was not happy with the ruling. "I am disappointed - I can't believe it, because even with a neutral jersey, we cannot participate [in Paris-Nice]."
Terryn said that he was not sure what the judge’s reason was, or if it would also apply to other races promoted by ASO. It will be important to ascertain if the judge sided with ASO in their insistence that they have no binding obligation to invite Unibet - something which was reinforced after Monday’s peace deal with the UCI - or if his ruling related to French laws prohibiting advertising by gambling companies.
If it is the latter, Terryn told Cyclingnews that this could have very big implications for sport in France. "I am very disappointed, and what the judge has said has a lot of consequences [if he rejected the team’s application due to the gambling legislation]. Werder Bremen and AC Milan, the champions league football teams, are sponsored by Bwin. So now, is it the case that even with the neutral jersey they may not participate any more in the champions league if they are playing in France against French teams? If so, the decision of the judge has a very, very big impact.
"It was very strange to see that the procureur de l’Etat (state prosecutor) was in the same room as the judge and came in two or three times with an intervention. Normally this person is only involved in big, big cases."
He’s not giving up, though. "On the plus side, Jimmy Casper won another race, and today Baden Cooke took over the leader’s jersey in Murcia. We need to fight with the Devil, but we have God’s hands with us!" he added, with some humour.
A long term solution on the way?
Koen and the team will continue to campaign to get into ASO’s races. Clarification of the reason for Friday’s decision will show them if the ruling relates only to Paris-Nice, or if it will have longer-reaching consequences.
Outside France, he believes that the chances of riding RCS Sport's events such as the Giro d’Italia may have improved after the team clarified to organiser Angelo Zomegnan that their sponsor is fully legal.
"We are working with the lawyer in Italy as well and there we have proved to the organiser of the Giro that we really have a license in that country. So our problems in Italy should be solved. We may miss Tirreno-Adriatico for organisational reasons, but Mr Zomegnan was really helpful. He saw that we are not illegal so that will be to our advantage."
As mentioned by Cyclingnews on Thursday, a landmark ruling by the European court of justice has made it possible that laws preserving state gambling monopolies in countries like France could be ruled illegal. On Tuesday, the ECT found in favour of a claim by UK-licenced bookmaker Stanleybet International that Italian authorities were not complying with an existing EU law on freedom of businesses to provide services.
Terryn says that he is hopeful that this could remove any question mark over the use of Unibet.com branded jerseys in France and other countries. "The case in Italy is something which has gone in our advantage," he said. "The European court has said that now all this needs to be completed, that each member state of Europe needs to find a solution that they stop with the monopolies. I believe the French state now needs to give some explanation to the European Court on the 27th of March.
"Perhaps this could all work in our favour because other member states like Italy have given up the monopoly and you can ask for a [gambling] license. In Sweden that will be the case around July or August. In Belgium they are working on the license system, so the only one that is causing a big problem is France."
He said that the team has been in regular contact with the UCI since Monday’s agreement with the Grand Tour organisers over the ProTour. Terryn suggests that the governing body did not have fully accurate information at the meeting.
"The UCI were very surprised to see that, for example in Italy, we are not illegal at all. When they were in the meeting earlier in the week, the IPCT told them we were illegal as did the three Grand Tours. But now we have given them the proof to show them that the sponsor is not illegal in every state."
Giro Problems for Française des Jeux and Predictor Lotto?
By Shane Stokes
While Unibet.com’s general manager Koen Terryn believes that the team no longer faces any question marks over racing in Italy, having proved to RCS Sport that their sponsors have a fully valid licence to practice on Italian soil, he says that two other teams may run into problems if the same standards of law are applied.
"We have shown that we have a licence but that could pose some problems to Française des Jeux and the Lotto team," he said on Friday. "Their sponsors don't actually have a license for that country. I really don’t have anything against those teams, it is not our intention to stop them from riding in the Giro. But that scenario has arisen after our case of today."
UCI unveils new anti-doping program
Blood profiles to be used to screen for doping
By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
UCI anti-doping department manager Anne Gripper has presented the new UCI ProTour anti-doping program as a direct response to the Operación Puerto and Floyd Landis' alleged doping case that tarnished the 2006 cycling season and resulted in the loss of team sponsors Liberty Seguros, Würth, Comunidad Valenciana, Phonak, iShares, among others.
"The 100% Against Doping initiative represents a quantum leap forward for the cycling world in its efforts to fight doping. Our objective is clear: to give cycling the best anti-doping program in the world. Only clean riders should win; those who cheat should be caught; those trying to cheat should be discouraged. Together we can eliminate doping from our sport."
"100%" means that 100% of the ProTour riders will be subject to unannounced out-of-competition tests, especially in periods of preparation for their main goals. All of them will also undergo pre-race blood tests at least four times a year. A haematological profile (blood) will be created for 100% of the ProTour riders and a steroid profile (urine) will be put in place for selected riders. All the riders will also have to sign a commitment to provide a sample of their DNA if necessary. There will be a code of conduct for everyone as well and it will include high financial sanctions.
"The program will have the ability to recognize the clean riders", Gripper stated. Profiling will not mean giving bonus to the clean ones, nor banning the suspected riders, but "it will help chasing them as it happened before with Raimondas Rumsas and Tyler Hamilton", UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf explained. "Names will remain confidential until the right time, Gripper added. "The program guarantees anonymity, confidentiality and security. We want to restore 100% confidence."
Bob Stapleton, the new manager of T-Mobile, pointed out the lack of unity in the cycling world recently. He's enthusiastic about the idea of this new anti-doping program to make all parties agree. "Is there cycling at two speeds?" he questioned. "There can't be a program at two speeds."
Teams and races organizers will now have to be united about the cost of the program. The UCI only announced that it would go in the region of €1 million, to be shared by all parties. They have received the bill already: €30,000 for every ProTour team, €5,000 for Pro Continental teams aiming at wild cards, €1,000 per day of racing for the organizers. Not all of them have made the deadline: they had to approve the project by March 5th. "Some of them have responded, all of them will, I don't think it's an issue", McQuaid said.
Some team managers have decided to wait and see. "Should we refuse to pay, we'd be accused of not fighting doping," Selle Italia team manager Gianni Savio commented. One ProTour race organizer has found a solution to this non-budgeted new expense: he'll invite two fewer teams than last year.
Funding the anti-doping program might become a subject of the coming discussions about the ProTour, but everyone seems to agree on the new method for fighting doping. Present at the meeting in Paris, Française des Jeux team doctor Gérard Guillaume said: "If only it had been put in place in 1998, we wouldn't be talking about it today. Wasn't the Festina affair big enough for the UCI to realize what had to be done? I'm afraid the damage done since 1998 is impossible to repair. The new program doesn't resolve the question of the TUE: it was a medical and scientific nonsense to let Floyd Landis ride the 2006 Tour de France considering the health problems he had."
Asked about the TUE and the possibility of having other cyclists with health conditions requiring medication riding the next Tour de France and testing positive but being cleared by medical authorizations, Gripper said, "the UCI has a stringent approach and strictly follows the WADA standard".
Exactly ten years after introducing the blood tests for the hematocrit level, the UCI might have put in place an ambitious program but no one would bet this means the end of drugs in cycling.
Ivan Basso hasn't been cleared, according to UCI president
Asked about his feeling to see Ivan Basso returning to racing with Discovery Channel, and other suspected riders as well, Pat McQuaid has made a clarification about the Operación Puerto. "To say that they have been cleared is not quite true," he answered. "It's a process being shelved. The cases can be reopened, should more information become available. It's not over yet."
McQuaid: Verbruggen stepping down isn't an option
Jean Pitallier, the president of the French cycling federation didn't attend the presentation of the UCI anti-doping program in Paris although he was invited. However, Pat McQuaid answered a question about the Frenchman's wish to see Hein Verbruggen quit the world of cycling.
"That's not an option," the Irishman stated. "Hein Verbruggen is the vice-president of the UCI, he's a member of the ProTour council and an important representative of cycling at the IOC. He has done more for cycling than many national presidents would do in ten careers."
Oleg Tinkov jumps in for ProTour licence
Oleg Tinkov, the manager and owner of the successful Italian-Russian Tinkoff Credit Systems team was present at the UCI meeting in Paris. He asked a question in the middle of the press conference. "We don't understand how to become a ProTour team," he said. "It's not like in football with teams finishing first in one league. When will we see clear set of rules? Is it about corruption?"
Pat McQuaid smiled when he heard the word "corruption" and stated, "There is a clear definition for entering the ProTour. We met in Moscow at the track world cup and spoke about it. I repeat the invitation: come and visit in our office in Aigle, Switzerland, we'll have some nice wine and we'll speak about it."
A few minutes later, Tinkov also heard about the CAS decision to extend Danilo Hondo's ban for another ten months. As his team is lacking riders now after Sergey Klimov's injury, the Russian entrepreneur is considering taking Jörg Jaksche on board. McQuaid confirmed to him that the German rider is free to race despite his history in the Operación Puerto.
Hondo must serve two years
Tinkoff Credit System's Danilo Hondo's season will start later than expected after the Court for Arbitration for Sport ruled that the German must serve more time on his suspension to fulfil the two year penalty that was upheld in January. Hondo, who tested positive for banned substance Carphedon during the 2005 Vuelta a Murcia, challenged his original ban in the Swiss courts, and won a temporary reprieve when the Swiss courts overturned the suspension imposed by the Swiss Cycling Union.
Hondo returned to racing in April of 2006, having served just over one year of the suspension before being banned again by the Swiss Supreme Court in January 2007. He was originally scheduled to return to racing on March 31, but CAS must now recalculate his ban, throwing the German's 2007 season into doubt.
UCI relieved over the new ProTour situation
Initially intending to talk about the anti-doping program only, Pat McQuaid started his official speech at the UCI press conference Friday with the ProTour situation but didn't come up with new information.
"We are relieved that all parties have had the courage to return to the path of dialog. It's an act of responsibility... The UCI has three missions: regulating the sport and assuring its integrity, promoting the sport, being the meeting place of cycling communities around the world... The UCI has a vision for the sport to move forward... Cycling has never had a brilliant future as today."
Talking again about the convention agreed on Monday between the Grand Tours and the UCI, he said: "We are not completely happy but we feel a sense of relief. We'll discuss for one year. Everyone has to be reasonable."
Even without Unibet.com taking part in all the races, there will be a ProTour ranking and a ProTour ceremony organized beside the official protocol podium at the races run by ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic. It will be the case at the end of next week for the winner of Paris-Nice. "I don't think it's humiliating," McQuaid answered to the press. "It's a short term situation for the good of cycling."
He also made clear that "there is still a risk of sanctions by the UCI. Personally, I have asked that there would be no sanctions, but I'm only the president. The board has the responsibilities for the order of cycling. At some stages, I've been really afraid that teams would boycott Paris-Nice."
UCI accepts French judge's decision
Right after the anti-doping program presentation, Pat McQuaid got wind of the French judge's decision to not include Unibet.com in Paris-Nice. "We have to accept it then, it's a judicial decision," the UCI president said. "We gave Unibet a ProTour license with good will."
Asked whether or not the UCI could or should have anticipated this decision, the Irishman answered: "No. Or ask the same question to Unibet." During the winter Olympics in Torino in February 2006, Hein Verbruggen was already warned by Française Des Jeux's president Christophe Blanchard-Dignac that cycling would face problems, should Unibet become a major team.
Blood tests at Driedaagse
The UCI carried out blood tests before the start of the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen Friday morning. The teams involved were Predictor-Lotto, Rabobank, Wiesenhof, Team Slipstream and Agritubel. All riders were allowed to start.
No Ullrich at Volksbank presentation
By Susan Westemeyer
Team Volksbank was planning on Tuesday to present not only its squad for the 2007 season but also its newest team advisor - the recently retired Jan Ullrich. However, the team announced Friday evening that Ullrich had decided not to appear at the team presentation in Vienna, Austria, in order not to take attention away from the team itself.
"It is very important to me that the only one who stands in the foreground at the team presentation is the Volksbank team," Ullrich said. "The media reports of the last few days and weeks lead me to doubt that this would be so, if I were to attend. This is not about one person, but about 17 ambitious cyclists. The name Jan Ullrich should not be in the middle. Together we can do great things, as soon as things have calmed down."
Thomas Kofler, Team Manager of the Austrian Professional Continental team, said, "Jan is thoroughly supportive of our team. Like us, he has a heart and passion for cycling. So I understand and accept his suggestion, which shows that our relationship is based on friendship and trust."
Austrian television station ORF had originally reported Friday afternoon that Ullrich and Volksbank had agreed to part ways. It reported that Ullrich suggested that he and the team should talk again when the doping charges against him were settled, and that Kofler had agreed. This announcement was subsequently denied by both Ullrich and Team Volksbank.
Mattan: Museeuw and EPO
Nico Mattan admitted in the Belgian press that EPO and other doping products were frequently used by riders in his earlier riding days. Mattan, who currently rides for the Professional Continental DFL-Cyclingnews team, was interviewed by the regional weekly Belgian newspaper Krant concerning Johan Museeuw's confession that he had used EPO.
"I think that was a mistake for Johan. He must have said in fact, 'Yes, I have taken EPO'. And then? Johan certainly did nothing more than any other rider," Mattan said. "At that time the whole peloton was riding on EPO." Did Mattan ever use forbidden products? "Ach, who hasn't done a bad thing in his life?" he answered.
McGee out of Paris-Nice
Française Des Jeux rider Bradley McGee will not make it to the start of this year's Paris-Nice. The Australian is suffering from an ongoing ear infection, which already made him miss out on his season start program, GP Chiasso and GP Lugano last weekend, and will not be able to test his legs in the Paris-Nice prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux on Sunday.
"It's better that he heals correctly, without participating in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico," Française Des Jeux sports director Marc Madiot told L'Equipe on Thursday.
McGee will also have to leave out the Track World's in Mallorca at the end of the month. Instead, he will participate in a team training camp next week in Toulon, and take up competition again at the GP Cholet on April 25. He is also scheduled to race at the Criterium International from March 31-April 1.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)