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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for October 24, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Anti-doping summit in Paris agrees on biological passports

By Jean-François Quénet in Paris

UCI president Pat McQuaid speaks at the anti-doping summit in Paris.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Professional riders will have to show their passport next year, but it will be for crossing the anti-doping border after French minister for sport Roselyne Bachelot announced the introduction of "500 to 700 biological passports before July 1st" at an anti-doping summit in Paris on Tuesday. Also in attendance were UCI president Pat McQuaid, Tour de France president and director Patrice Clerc and Christian Prudhomme, and WADA boss Dick Pound who called McQuaid his "friend". It was something of a reconciliation meeting for all these people more used to fighting via press releases.

Therefore, nothing spectacular should be expected from the Tour de France launch in Paris on Thursday, as McQuaid is now welcome after failing to get an accreditation for the event in July, at the end of which Clerc had announced ASO "would not work with the UCI in the future". ASO is rumoured to not accept the proposal from the UCI that all ProTour teams have to be lined up in the Tour de France. Mainly, the participation of Astana remains questionable. "But we can't imagine that one single rider will ride the 2008 Tour de France without showing a biological passport," Clerc stated.

The program, based on half a dozen blood analyses to determine each rider's blood profile, is considered by all parties (UCI, WADA and ASO) as a real weapon against blood doping. "We hope if it's successful in cycling that once we know it is successful, we'll use it in other sports after 2008," Pound said. The biological passport will not be compulsory at the start of all races but "the main ones". It will concern road riders only when it's put in place on January 1 and McQuaid added: "I'd like to think we'll do it in other disciplines than road possibly before the Olympics in Beijing."

"The conditions are there for a new start in cycling," Clerc said. "A disaster is becoming an opportunity for cycling to be an example for everybody." The president of ASO suggested the Paris summit to be like "a kilometre zero". He said he was "a little bit afraid of the word amnesty" but that's what he meant.

"At some stage it'll be time to forget about the past," added Prudhomme.

In July, the direction of the Tour de France appeared totally at odds with the UCI's own vision. Now ASO seem ready to organise the world's biggest bike race inside the UCI system, but with the biological passport. At the Paris summit, the questions of therapeutic use exemptions (mainly for corticoids) and recovery drips - strictly banned by the WADA code but never submitted to any kind of control - were not taken into serious consideration. It appears that the most important part of this summit was the picture that old enemies have been reunited.

Contador signs two-year deal with Astana

Contador will structure his 2008 season around the Tour de France.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France, has signed a two-year contract to ride for the Astana team. The 24 year-old follows in the footsteps of his directeur sportif from Discovery Channel, Johan Bruyneel, who will work in a general managerial role for the Kazakh-funded squad.

In a personal press note released on Tuesday, Contador said he had chosen Astana because it allowed his to focus entirely on the 2008 Tour de France. "My main goal in 2008 is to ride the Tour and try to wear the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysées," he said.

"After weighing some interesting offers I had, I decided on Astana because it is an entirely new project and puts all available means into having a great team for the Tour de France."

The previous Astana team suffered a string of doping scandals this year, and was forced out of the Tour de France after Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion during the race. Another Astana rider, Andrey Kascheskin, was later caught by a surprise out-of-competition control in Turkey.

However, the 2008 Astana team, which has Frenchman Alain Gallopin and former Discovery rider Viatcheslav Ekimov as directeur sportifs, is keen to distance itself from its troubled past. "It is clear that the new Astana has nothing to do with the old team," Contador told Marca earlier this month.

UCI says Mayo case not closed

Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The UCI said on Tuesday that it does not consider Iban Mayo's doping case to be fully closed and took issue with the Spanish Cycling Federation's announcement that Mayo's B sample had tested negative for EPO. "It wasn't a negative B sample it was an inconclusive B sample," Anne Gripper, UCI anti-doping manager told AP. "The case for us is still very open, we have not gotten a final resolution on the B sample. It needs to be analysed in the Paris laboratory."

A sample given by Mayo on July 24, the Tour de France's second rest day, tested positive for EPO and the rider was subsequently suspended without pay from his Saunier Duval team.

According to Gripper, Mayo's B sample was transferred to a laboratory in Gent, Belgium because the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory in Paris, where the original sample was tested, was closed for the holidays. "To ensure that the rider could have the B sample done more quickly, we transferred the sample, but the Gent laboratory just couldn't get the sample to confirm the Paris result," said Gripper.

"In Gent, they use a slightly different technique [than the Paris laboratory]," she added.

The UCI has now requested the Spanish Cycling Federation fully explain its decision to close the case. "We are waiting for the Spanish federation's report but anyway, the B sample will be tested again in Paris," UCI president Pat McQuaid told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the rider himself said on Monday that he was considering taking legal action against the UCI. "I have to talk to my lawyer," Mayo told Spanish newspaper El Correo. "It's been shown that the whole process was a disaster. Someone will have to pay for this."

Millar misses anti-doping summit, but supports measures

By Shane Stokes

Scottish rider David Millar has clarified the reason why he has not been able to attend the anti-doping meeting held between WADA, the UCI, the French Minister for Sport and other major stakeholders in Paris, stating that he supports the initiative but was unable to take part due to prior commitments.

"Despite recent press reports of my attendance at the anti-doping summit held in Paris yesterday and today I will not be present at the summit, and informed the organisers of this when I received my invitation two weeks ago," he said in a statement issued on Tuesday. "I am currently in Malaysia visiting my father, a vacation I have had booked for five months, and as it is the only time in the year I can see him I was reluctant to cancel the trip." Millar's father has lived in Asia for many years.

"This does not in any way mean I do not support the summit," he continued. "I regret not being able to attend and whole-heartedly support the French Minister of Sport in her initiative. I think these are the steps that need to be taken to help cycling move forward."

Millar received a two-year ban in 2004 after admitting EPO use. He returned to the sport immediately prior to last year's Tour de France and has been strongly outspoken against drug use in cycling, saying that he wanted to set an example for others. In keeping with that, he will move to Slipstream next season and undergo the considerable battery of internal testing which the team utilises to prove its riders are clean.

He said that he is hoping that things continue to move forward in the anti-doping fight. "I think the summit represents real progress for the sport and offers a great opportunity for us to make advances in the fight against doping as a united force. I look forward to hearing of the results of this seminar, and believe that everybody involved should for once see this as an opportunity to make progress and not point blame."

EU to consider criminalising doping

European Union officials and Council of Europe lawmakers are to consider proposals to criminalise doping across the EU at a meeting in Lisbon on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency. Sports governing bodies are reportedly against the proposals after a recently passed reform treaty gave them more power in regulating their own sports without interference from Brussels.

However, in July, the European Commission released a strategy paper on sport recommending that "trade in illicit doping substances be treated in the same manner as trade in illicit drugs throughout the EU".

According to one EU diplomat, the current deterrent of stripping titles and imposing suspensions for athletes found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs is not considered strong enough, whereas a prison sentence or criminal record might be. "The Commission does not go as far as saying the actual athletes who take drugs be treated as criminals, but there is some support to go further and do this," the diplomat told Reuters.

The meeting will also discuss proposals to setup a new EU anti-doping agency, potentially a European rival to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, outgoing WADA president Dick Pound dismissed the idea, proposed by former French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour, as ineffective. "We've got a perfectly good code, a perfectly good organisation," said Pound.

Warrnambool gearing up for Commonwealth battle

The SEW-Eurodrive Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic will resemble a Commonwealth Games road race when it gets underway on Saturday with riders from New Zealand, Scotland, England and all the Australian states vying for victory. One slight difference, though, is the distance of 299 kilometres, making it the longest one-day race on the UCI sanctioned calendar.

Starting as favourite for the 91st edition of 'The Warny' is New Zealander Hayden Roulston, a silver medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games who recently showed an encouraging return to form at the World Road Championships in Stuttgart. Others to watch out for are 25 year-old Scotsman Evan Oliphant, who zoomed into eye-catching form with victory in the Tour of Tasmania's tough Launceston-Grindelwald stage earlier this month and also Englishman Kristian House.

"I'd like to win it, to be quite honest," the genial House said. "The Warrnambool is an event that fascinates me. It depends how you feel on the day, but a lot can go wrong over 300 kilometres."

An experience Australian contingent will be spearheaded by 2006 runner-up David Pell, prolific placegetter Tim Decker, Victorian Institute of Sport riders Richard England and Patrick Shaw, and evergreen Queenslander Cameron Hughes, winner of the 2007 Grafton to Inverell race.

Race director John Craven described the 155-strong field, which includes former world triathlon champion Emma Carney, as one of the most impressive in modern times. "Trying to pick the winner is a raffle," he said. "It will be like watching a Commonwealth Games road race. The attrition rate will probably be high but the contest will be superb."

The $17,000 classic will start at 7.30am at Sanctuary Lakes resort on Saturday, October 27, finishing about 3.30pm in Warrnambool's Raglan Parade.

Three recreational rides of 71, 120 and 168 kilometres are being held as part of the classic on Sunday, October 28. All rides start at 9am at Warrnambool's Flagstaff Hill. Entries will be taken on the start line from 7.30 - 8.30am.

Rabon re-signs with T-Mobile

The T-Mobile team has now filled up 29 places on its roster for the coming season after it announced on Monday that Frantisek Rabon will return, and also confirmed the signing of Marcel Sieberg from Team Milram.

"Frantisek has proven himself as a good team worker for two years and both he and Marcel are riders who can make a positive meaningful contribution on the bike," said team manager Bob Stapleton. "Plus, they are riders their team mates can rely on and have confidence in."

The 24 year-old Czech Rabon is an all-rounder who has been with T-Mobile since 2006.

Rabobank signs German youngster

Team Rabobank has signed Paul Martens, a 24 year-old German who made his professional debut with Team Skil-Shimano in 2005. He has signed a two-year contract with the Dutch ProTour team.

"Paul Martens is a young rider with potential," said Rabobank team manager Erik Breukink. "His basis with Skil-Shimano is a solid one and every year he manages to improve himself. To our team, Martens is a very useful rider with his all round skills. His individual time trial is okay and he has a decent sprint."

Martens has three wins in his two-year career. This year he won a stage in the Ster Elektrotoer, finishing second overall in the race. In 2006 he won the Münsterland Giro and a stage in the Tour of Luxembourg.

Three new riders for Andalucía-Cajasur

By Monika Prell

Professional Continental team Andalucía Cajasur is working on its squad for 2008. On Monday it announced the signing of three new riders: Francisco José Ventoso, José Antonio Redondo and José Antonio Carrasco.

Francisco José Ventoso is the most well-know of the trio, having ridden for Saunier Duval since he became professional in 2004. This year, he took three stage wins, all of them during the Vuelta a Castilla y León, and was second in stages of Paris - Nice, the Challenge of Mallorca, the Vuelta a Andalucía and the Vuelta a Asturias.

José Antonio Redondo became professional in 2005 with Liberty Seguros and later continued his career with Astana. The 22 year-old has no professional victories to his name, but displayed a promising performance at the 2006 Vuelta a España.

José Antonio Carrasco, who rode for the under 23 team of Andalucía-Cajasur this season, is entering his first year as a professional in 2008.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)