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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for May 26, 2007

Edited by Sue George & Steve Medcroft

McQuaid speaks out about doping admissions

By Shane Stokes

UCI President Pat McQuaid has reacted to Friday's news that Bjarne Riis has admitted to doping during his career, saying that the decision to own up was a brave one, but that he also hoped that the Dane would return his yellow jersey.

"My reaction is the same as the reaction to the two Germans yesterday," he told Cyclingnews on Friday evening, speaking from the Pan-American cycling championships in Caracas, Venezuela. "It is sad that this has been the case, that they have had to resort to doping during their career. However, by the same token you have got to recognise that it was a brave decision of the three, Riis included, to do this and own up.

"Zabel, for example, has been around a long time and is an icon of the sport. It was a brave decision of them to stand up and admit their involvement in doping practices when there was no requirement or no necessity; nobody was forcing them into it doing it. There is no doubt that the sport is going through difficult moments right now...it is essentially baring its soul to the world."

" ...there is an eight-year statute of limitations in the WADA code which they are covered under"

-Pat McQuiad on the possibility of UCI sanctions against Riis, Aldag and Zabel after they confessed to doping in the nineties.

Recent days have seen a flood of confessions with former team-mates of Bjarne Riis, the winner of the Tour in 1996, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Christian Henn, Udo Bolts, Brian Holm and others all admitting that they doped. Some, like Zabel, are still active riders and so may face suspensions. Others, like Riis, risk having past performances struck from the books. Indeed, the Dane has said that he would return the yellow jersey if requested to do so.

"In the case of the three of them, there is an eight-year statute of limitations in the WADA code which they are covered under," said McQuaid, when asked about possible sanctions for their actions. "I also think that in light of the fact that they have come forward voluntarily of their own accord and admitted this, it means that it would be wrong of the UCI to take very strict view on them and to try and find ways of sanctioning them. I think we have got to have a very reasonable approach.

"In relation to Riis, I believe it was mentioned at the press conference that if ASO came to him looking for the jersey, he would give it back to them. I think that ethically he should consider this and offer his jersey back."

Of course, that would raise the problem of who should be crowned Tour champion for that year. Given that Jan Ullrich (2nd) has been seriously implicated in Operación Puerto, being linked to Eufemiano Fuentes through DNA blood matching, and the third and fourth-placed riders Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux were involved in the Festina Affair, it would be a difficult decision to take.

McQuaid feels there is another way. "As regards the dilemma of who was below him, I think the way to sort that out is to declare that there was no winner of the race in 1996," he said. "I wouldn't even think of going down the classification [to pinpoint a clean winner].

"If ASO decide to do that [demand the yellow jersey back], the UCI won't object."

Although recent days have brought bad publicity, he said that in the long run, this may be for the best. "I think it is a very good thing for the future because it is allowing us to make a fresh start to the sport of cycling. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that these are confessions and activities that were going on in the 1990s. We are dealing with the sport in 2007, so it has completely changed. There is much stronger controls, there much higher ethical values of the teams, so you have to realise that we are talking about the sport a long time ago. Things are better now."

Check back on Cyclingnews over the weekend for a full news feature with reaction to Riis' confession.

Giro TT winner Bruseghin to shave for next win

By Jean-François Quénet in Biella

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Marzio Bruseghin, 33, has been known for being a super domestique and having 17 donkeys at home. Now he's finally recognized as a winner, too. Wearing the Italian National Time Trial champion's jersey on his back, he claimed the stage 13 uphill time trial to Oropa in the Giro d'Italia. Friday's win brought his total as a pro to two since his career started ten years ago.

"This is the first stage of the Giro that I won," Bruseghin said. "I went flat out. I pushed as much as I could. I took maximum advantage on the first part of the climb."

Although smiling after his win, he was a bit unhappy with his appearance. "In fact, I didn't shave because the grandmother of my friend Marco said I shouldn't shave before winning, so I didn't. "Burseghin doesn't think boycotting the razor is the key to more success. "I'm not like (French movie star) Alain Delon..." he said.

Bruseghin is second in the General Classification as the only rider within one minute of maglia rosa Danilo Di Luca, but he is not focusing on the GC. "I remain a domestique," he stated. "I'm here for helping Damiano Cunego to win the Giro. Nothing has changed."

Teammate Cunego was happy with his ninth position in Oropa. "First of all, I'm very happy for Marzio who is a great specialist in time trialling, and he's a good climber as well," said Cunego. "As for myself, I've done pretty much as well as the other contenders for GC. I've lost 30 seconds on Di Luca, but I can sleep with serenity tonight. My team manager Giuseppe Saronni is also happy with what I did. Now there is a lot of work to be done. I'm up for it."

Popovych abandons Giro

Popovych
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
Following two crashes in the opening 12 stages of the Giro d'Italia, Team Discovery Channel's Yaroslav "Popo" Popovych did not start Friday's 13th stage due to excessive pain in his back and knee. The 27-year-old Ukrainian rider crashed in stage 1 and more recently, and severely, on stage 11 into Pinerolo, where he injured his back and knee.

Team Director Sean Yates consulted with the team physician and Popovych after the stage 11 crash and decided collectively that they would see how he felt on stage 12. Popovych immediately showed signs of difficulty on yesterday's first climb and radioed to Yates that his knee was bothering him.

"I spoke with Popo during the race and he let me know his knee was hurting, but he wanted to keep racing. He was in a lot of pain the last 50km," Yates commented. "Popo did not sleep well last night and had even more pain when he woke up today. The doctor advised him that medically it would not be a good idea to continue on in the race and jeopardize the remainder of his season. Popo agreed."

Discovery's Popovych came into the Giro with high aspirations having previously finished third and fifth in the 2003 and 2004 editions of the Giro. Abandoning the Giro was not an easy decision for Popovych.

"Of course I am very disappointed that things have turned out the way they have. I prepared very well for the Giro and was in good form when I arrived in Sardinia, but the two crashes were too much for my body to manage. It was hard to decide to stop but I know it is the best decision. I still have many races left this year, including the Tour, so all is not lost. I expect to recover quickly and be back in good form for the remainder of 2007," said Popovych according to a Discovery team press release.

Riis confesses doping-tainted career

At a press conference held on Friday at Team CSC's headquarters in Kongens Lyngby, just outside Copenhagen, the winner of the 1996 Tour de France Bjarne Riis confessed to doping during a period from 1993 to 1998. Cyclingnews' Katharina Schulz covered Riis' public admissions and his pleas for a better future for the sport of cycling:

Team CSC owner and director Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Bjarne Riis admitted that he took EPO, human growth hormone, and cortisone when he won the Tour de France title in 1996. In those days, however, he said it was part of the game, and that he didn't have a choice. "I was a professional cyclist under the conditions that were given at the time," he said putting in context his claim that he is still proud of his achievements. "I feel good about that victory, even though I didn't earn it in an honest way."

Riis is ready to accept the consequences of his actions and part with his winner's jersey: "My yellow jersey is in a box in my garage at home. You can come and collect it. What matters to me are my memories." With no other way to sanction Riis, the UCI issued a press release Friday in response to Riis' admissions asking for the Tour winner's jersey to be returned .

"The time has come to put the cards on the table," said Riis. "I have done things which I now regret and which I wouldn't do again. I have doped. I have taken EPO. For awhile, it was part if my everyday life," Riis told a huge press crowd that was almost too big for the location. Apparently, CSC had not expected that so many journalists would accept their invitation.

Riis underlined that he was making his statements as an individual, but that it was no tough decision for him to make. "Today I am here to put the past behind me. I am giving this statement as the private person Bjarne Riis. This has not been difficult for me."

He apologised to those he had deceived. "I have lied to myself and others as well. In that respect, of course I want to apologise. I can console myself with the thought that those who know me have faith in me." He never kept his actions secret from his family. They knew he used banned substances, and he added that it is important for him to take personal responsibility for his actions. "Like everyone else, I have made mistakes in my life. Those were my decisions and my mistakes, and I have to take the responsibility."

Read the entire news feature here.

Menchov also reacts to latest doping confessions

By Hernan Alvarez

Instead of talking about the race he is competing in, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) spoke instead about the latest doping confessions after winning Volta a Catalunya stage 5 in Arcalis (Andorra) expressing frustration with doping being at the center of the world's attention on cycling.

"With the image that we (riders) have nowadays and the damage suffered in these last two years, these new confessions are a very hard blow for us," said Menchov. "One must go on but we are all very disappointed because we are working and these things don't help."

Menchov says that he feels a lack of unity within cycling at any level has exacerbated the problem and it will take a committent from inside the sport to get through to a time when cycling becomes about racing again. "We cannot be united and I don't know why. Not at the highest level - in the UCI - or in the teams or among us riders," he said.

CONI seeks 21 months for Basso

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has asked the Italian Cycling Federation to suspend Ivan Basso for 21 months, according to Raisport. Although the rider denied ever using doping products, he admitted to being a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and to having the intention of using illegal products or methods.

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

Rund um Köln loses main sponsor

Rund um Köln will have to look for a new primary sponsor for its 100th birthday race in 2008. DEVK Versicherungen announced Friday that it will not renew its contract. The insurance company had sponsored the race since 2003.

"The current doping confessions of former pro cyclists pave the way for a clean and fair sport," the company said. "Next year seems like a good time for a new beginning for the Cologne classic."

Norwegian youngster to T-Mobile

By Susan Westemeyer

Edwald Boasson Hagen has signed a two-year contract with T-Mobile starting next season, the 20-year-old Norwegian announced Friday at a press conference in Oslo.

"I am really delighted that beginning next year I will be part of such a professional environment," he said, according to the team's website, t-mobile-team.com. "The talks I had with Luuc Eisenga and Rolf Aldag gave me a very positive impression of the T-Mobile Team and the team environment, and that was reinforced by my experience at a team training camp in Germany in March. That is why I decided that T-Mobile was the team for me."

The classics specialist now rides for the Norwegian Continental team Maxbo-Bianchi. Last year he won three stages of the U23 Tour de L'Avenir and two stages of the U23 Thuringer Rundfahrt.

"He fits perfectly with our goal of focusing on young and talented athletes," said T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton. "We believe that he has the mental and physical qualities to be very successful in cycling, and we can offer him the best possible environment for his development."

Petrov's happy birthday

By Jean-François Quénet in Biella

Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Evgeni Petrov started fast in the cronoscalata (uphill time trial) to Oropa where the tifosi remembered the great ride of Marco Pantani in 1999. Just a few days before failing the hematocrit test, the Pirate overcame an early problem near the bottom of the climb and took victory.

In a different exercise against the clock, the Russian did the opposite. At kilometer five, he had the best time. At kilometer nine, he was third. At the top, he finished seventh with a 31 second deficit behind stage winner Marzio Bruseghin. "It's right that I started strongly," he said, "but I didn't feel like I went slow later on."

Neither did his Directeur Sportif Orlando Maini who followed him. "Your gear change was spectacular and you rode really strong," he told a sweating Petrov afterward.

Petrov isn't the kind of guy who shows his emotions very much. Thinking about his birthday - he turned 29 Friday - he smiled and said, "I was feeling pretty good today, better than yesterday anyway. I regretted that I didn't manage to stay with Emmanuele Sella's group."

The Russian is seventh on GC now. He is part of Tinkoff's strong showing at this edition of the Giro. Only 1'15 behind Team CSC's Andy Schleck, who is now third, he can realistically aim for a spot on the final podium in Milan or for the unofficial title of best foreign rider. "I'm happy with my condition, and I'm curious to see what happens in the next few days."

It will be an interesting weekend of racing with the legendary finish at the top of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Sunday before Monday's rest day. Saturday's stage from Cantů to Bergamo features two significant climbs including the Passo di San Marco.

Ullrich: yes, no or maybe?

Will Jan Ullrich be the next to jump on the bandwagon and offer his confession to the anxiously awaiting public? Well,the answer to that is yes, no, or maybe, depending on which press report you choose to believe.

The "yes" was Friday midday, when WELT magazine quoted his manager Wolfgang Strohband as saying, "Jan will state his position, too. When and in what form, whether through a press conference or through a message on his website, is still open."

The "no" came that evening, when there was indeed a new message on Ullrich's homepage. "Press reports that Jan Ullrich will make a statement concerning the current situation are false. 'There is no reason for Jan to make a public statement,' said manager Wolfgang Strohband."

The "maybe" came later from German ARD-TV, which reported that its sources indicated that Ullrich would make a public confession only if the German fraud investigation against him was dismissed.

Giro TV coverage catches affair in action

According to Reuters, a man visiting the beach with his mistress made a mistake in attracting the attention of a helicopter TV crew covering the Giro d'Italia. Making an unanticipated appearance on national TV, he was inadvertently discovered by his wife.

The man waved at the passing camera crew, which zoomed in. The man's brother-in-law saw the coverage and called his sister, the man's wife, who he thought he saw with the man on the beach. Instead of reaching his sister on the beach, she was home, where her husband, upon returning from his excursion, would have to do some accounting for himself.

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