Latest Cycling News, October 2, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Armstrong responds to testing times
By Cyclingnews staff
Lance Armstrong has responded to a proposal by the French Anti-Doping Authority (AFLD) that it re-test urine samples taken from him during the 1999 Tour de France. Designed to "enable the cyclist Lance Armstrong to dispel any unfounded rumours," the testing is a flashback to 2005, when allegations about the American's samples were made by French sports daily, L'Equipe.
On that occasion, the paper reported that "Recent analysis of samples dating from the American's first Tour de France victory demonstrate that Lance Armstrong had already consumed doping products." Armstrong was quick to respond on that occasion, saying, "Yet again, a European newspaper has reported that I have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. [Today's] L'Equipe, a French sports daily, is reporting that my 1999 samples were positive. Unfortunately, the witch hunt continues and [the] article is nothing short of tabloid journalism.
"The paper even admits in its own article that the science in question here is faulty and that I have no way to defend myself. They state: 'There will therefore be no counter-exam nor regulatory prosecutions, in a strict sense, since defendant's rights cannot be respected. 'I will simply restate what I have said many times: I have never taken performance enhancing drugs."
Armstrong cited the end result three years ago as evidence of why the case should not be revisited now. The seven-time Tour champion made a point of reiterating the reasons for his absolution in the matter and the contrary conduct of then-WADA president, Dick Pound. He began by saying that, "Today, Mr. Pierre Bordry, the new head of the French anti-doping agency, proposed that they retest samples from the 1999 Tour de France. Unfortunately, Mr. Bordry is new to these issues and his proposal is based on a fundamental failure to understand the facts.
"In 2005, some research was conducted on urine samples left over from the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France. That research was the subject of an independent investigation, and the conclusions of the investigation were that the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France samples have not been maintained properly, have been compromised in many ways, and even three years ago could not be tested to provide any meaningful results. There is simply nothing that I can agree to that would provide any relevant evidence about 1999.
Just days after Armstrong had announced his return to professional cycling, Dick Pound weighed into the debate over the merits of the American's comeback. And as expected, it wasn't complimentary. The outspoken Canadian told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he wasn't convinced it was a clean return, saying, "With his comeback not all doping accusations go away."
Therefore, as expected, Armstrong saved his greatest criticism for the man who had most to say about the seven-time Tour champion during his career - from the viewpoint of possible doping, at least. "In addition, the Independent Investigation concluded that the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, and Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, all behaved improperly with respect to the 1999 Tour de France samples. The Independent Investigation concluded that both Mr. Pound and the French laboratory engaged in improper conduct that violated a number of regulations and laws. After the report of the Independent Investigator was issued, Mr. Pound's conduct was submitted to the IOC Ethics Commission and the IOC Ethics Commission censured Mr. Pound.
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Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback
January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
No Armstrong/Contador conflict for Bruyneel
Spaniard bound to Astana by contract
In a press release, Team Astana manager Johan Bruyneel played down the possible leadership conflict between Lance Armstrong, who will be coming back to pro racing in 2009, and the squad's current captain, Spaniard Alberto Contador. Bruyneel, who as Armstrong's directeur sportif co-authored seven Tour de France victories with the American champion, said that the media were "looking to pit these two riders against each other", but that reports of Contador being frustrated with the situation could be due to incorrect translation.
"I am always careful of what I read in the press as often times words and meanings get distorted," Bruyneel stated. "Even more so when translated to different languages."
Still, at the Spanish national team's press conference prior to the World Championships in Varese, the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espańa winner told Cyclingnews, "Knowing Lance, it's clear to me that he will not ride the Tour as a gregario [helper - ed.]. And to me, there is no plan B. There is no other race for me than the Tour de France next year."
Contador said that he hoped the team management could work out race schedules for both of them that wouldn't interfere with the riders' objectives. "Maybe he can be team captain for certain races, and I for others. If his objectives are different to mine, then there will be no problem, then we can both stay in the same team and I will be delighted to do so. But I still need to have some guarantees."
Bruyneel, on the other hand, did not want to determine yet who would be the team's leader for the Tour de France next year. "At the end of the day, the strongest rider will be supported, regardless of that person’s name or what they've accomplished in the past," he said in the press release, adding that Armstrong was prepared to work for Contador, too.
"That’s a question that Lance answered himself last week in Las Vegas - Yes. He knows that the decisions are made in the team car and he understands the philosophy - the same one we've always had - we work for the strongest rider. This is not the first time that big names have all been on the same team. It has worked out in the past and I’m confident for the same in 2009," he added.
The question now remains whether this possibility is enough 'guarantee' to Contador, who affirmed he had offers from other teams and contemplated the possibility of leaving Astana. Still, according to Bruyneel, a team change was out of the question. "He will remain with this team for the next two years. Actually, it’s pretty simple - there’s a contract and there are no options to leave," the Belgian said.
Contador, who told Cyclingnews nearly one week ago that he didn't have any direct contact with Armstrong over the matter, may now have to wait until the team's first training camp in December to settle the conflict over the Tour de France leadership. "This is when the directors and I will discuss the 2009 season with the riders," added Bruyneel.
Kolobnev baffled with Worlds tactics
By Gregor Brown in Varese
Russia's Alexandr Kolobnev was unable to repeat his medal performance of last year at the 2008 World Championships Sunday in Varese. The 27 year-old finished 44th and baffled by the big teams' tactics.
"Happy with the race? No. Today, an outsider won," said Kolobnev to Cyclingnews. Italy's Alessandro Ballan won after a solo attack at 3000 metres out. His teammate, Damiano Cunego, won the sprint over Denmark's Matti Breschel.
Kolobnev, second at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart, made his move in the 12th round of the 15-lap parcours - totalling 260.2 kilometres. The peloton caught day's three-man escape and it cleared the way for counter-attacks. On the Ronchi climb, he formed part of a group of around 10 that had 11 seconds at the start of the 13th circuit.
The move failed despite the presence of Italy's Paolo Bettini, Ballan and Cunego and Spain's Joaquím Rodríguez, Juan Manuel Gárate and Alejandro Valverde. Kolobnev's chance ended following the Montello climb, shortly into the 13th circuit. It cleared the way for Ballan's group on the next lap.
"Ballan is not a bad rider, but he was very good today and all the leaders were in the group behind. No one expected that the break away had gone - people there were just looking at each other.
"I think the Spanish team was riding really bad. Sometimes it was three Italians and four Spanish, but they [Spain] did not pull and they did not work. The race became strange. The Spanish were riding wrong and in the results you see it. Such a top team like Spain and they were not even in the top three."
ProTour 2011: AIGCP president raises questions
By Hedwig Kröner
Eric Boyer, the head of the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP), has voiced some concerns over the new ProTour agreement established between the UCI and the owners of the Grand Tour races. Speaking at the World Championships in Varese, Boyer told Cyclingnews that he was overall happy a new collaboration had been found, but wary of some of the consequences the new teams' points ranking system could have on the Professional Continental teams.
As International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid explained in a press conference last Friday in Varese, the Grand Tours will be on a "historical" calendar alongside the ProTour races on the World calendar. From 2011 onwards, both the "historical" races as well as the ProTour events will determine their participating teams through wildcard invitations, but also through a points ranking system, "that will see the top 17 teams automatically selected," according to McQuaid.
Cofidis manager and AIGCP president Eric Boyer, long-time at odds with the head of the UCI over the series, was pleased that the Grand Tour organisers had maintained some of their claims while working out the peace deal. "The owners of the Tour de France negotiated well," he said. "They wanted to collaborate with the UCI, but didn't want to be in the ProTour. And that's exactly what they achieved: they have kept their independence and their power. The rules to participation in their races, as well as their business as such are protected now."
The Frenchman emphasised that both race series had defended their rights well. "It was important to ASO that the UCI can continue its work on their races [meaning that the races owned by the company will be held under the aegis of the UCI again - ed.]," he continued. "The agreement also allows the continuity of the ProTour circuit. The teams that will have a ProTour licence will be obliged to enter the ProTour races. On the other hand, the organisers of the historic races - ASO, RCS sport and Unipublic - will hand out invitations. These two calendars will then allow the teams to score points in the new ranking system."
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Cancellara denies doping involvement
Fabian Cancellara of Team CSC has denied allegations that his samples from the Tour de France may show that he used doping. "I have nothing to do with doping, 100 percent," he said on his website, fabian-cancellara.ch.
The Belgian newspaper Le Soir had said that the CSC rider was one of those whose samples from the Tour de France would be re-investigated based on questionable blood values. Cancellara noted that he was controlled eight times during the Tour de France and underwent a blood test by the UCI at the Olympic Games.
Astana announces more signings
Team Astana has announced the coming of five new rider to the 2009 squad. One Spaniard, Jesús Hernández, as well as four Kazakh neo pros will be joining the team lead by Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador next year.
"Five more riders will join the team," said Astana manager Johan Bruyneel in a press release. "Another Spaniard, Jesús Hernández who is a good climber and the regular training mate of Alberto [Contador - ed.] Then four neo-pro Kazakh riders, who showed a lot of potential last year on the Kazakh Ulan Team. It is the goal of Kazakhstan to develop the next generation of professional riders, so we took a close look at many young Kazakhs and believe that these four are ready to take the next step in their cycling careers. We're excited for them to join our squad and we will continue to work with them on their development."
To date, the members of the 2009 Astana team are:
Lance Armstrong, Assan Bazayev, Jani Brajkovic, Alberto Contador, Valeriy Dmitriyev, Jesús Hernández, Chris Horner, Maxim Iglinskiy, Valentin Iglinskiy, Roman Kireyev, Andreas Klöden, Berik Kupeshov, Levi Leipheimer, Steve Morabito, Dmitriy Muravyev, Daniel Navarro, Benjamín Noval, Sérgio Paulinho, Bolat Raimbekov, Gregory Rast, Sergey Renev, José Luis Rubiera, Michael Schär, Tomas Vaitkus, Andrey Zeits, Haimar Zubeldia.
Greipel re-ups with Columbia
By Susan Westemeyer
André Greipel has signed up for another two years with Team Columbia. The sprinter told Cyclingnews, "I am very happy to continue to ride for Team Columbia.
"It is a super team and I feel well here," the 26 year-old continued. "The mix of old and young riders is very good and it is fun, because every one does their best for everyone else..."
Greipel joins fellow sprinter Mark Cavendish in extending with the team. Cavendish has the most season wins of any rider in the ProTour this year (17), and Greipel is third, with 13. He opened the season by winning the Tour Down Under and continued winning through September, when he won the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen - Koolskamp.
The German also rode in the World Championships in support of captains Stefan Schumacher and Erik Zabel. He helped to control the field the first half of the race, eventually dropping out after 230 kilometres. "A lot of people thought that maybe I wasn't good enough for this course, but I think that the team put in a good performance," Greipel said.
He will close out his season this weekend, with the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro on Friday and Steffen Wesemann's farewell race in Wolmirstadt on Saturday.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)