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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, October 8, 2008

Edited by Les Clarke

Bach attacks, McQuaid defends

Pat McQuaid has defended the sport's image
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The International Olympic Committee has weighed in with comments following the latest positive doping test results. IOC vice president Thomas Bach has told AP that the cases of Stefan Schumacher and Leonardo Piepoli have further damaged cycling's credibility and the sport's status at the Olympics has been called into question.

It's a well-worn tune in relation to cycling's image, although the calls for "a pause" in men's road cycling at the Games is a relatively new revelation. "This is a hard blow for the credibility of men's road cycling," said Bach. "Obviously, the riders have not changed their mentality. They had a chance to do so, but they did not and this makes it even worse."

UCI president Pat McQuaid has called Bach's suggestion "completely unacceptable" and reiterated that cycling was making headway in eliminating the scourge of drug cheats. He was unequivocal in saying that, "We are weeding out the bad apples, make no mistake about it. No one can say the UCI and cycling authorities are not doing their utmost to find cheats and get them out of the sport."

He then fired a broadside at Bach. "It is completely unacceptable for Thomas Bach to be saying this. I don't like talking about other sports, but there are other sports with persistent problems. Instead of firing guns at cycling he should fire guns equally at them as well."

Bach said that cycling's "stakeholders" were to blame for not fully grasping the initiatives aimed to rid the sport of doping and that riders, race organisers, team owners and sponsors hadn't been co-operating. "I hope that now these stakeholders realise that they have to join this programme and work seamlessly together. They have to react. The credibility of men's road race cycling is at stake."

Bach added that, "I am confident that the UCI will react and will call upon the other stakeholders to join and to work hand in hand. They have made an effort, but it's not enough if you have no real collaboration and cooperation. The UCI has to be the leader."

Bach suggested that samples taken from Olympic competition should be re-tested, given that the Schumacher and Piepoli positives came from an extensive testing process conducted well after the Tour de France had concluded. "They have to check what was the substance used in the Tour de France, and what was the method being applied to detect it. They then have to compare it with the testing in Beijing and decide whether it makes sense to open (the samples) now," said Bach.

McQuaid recognised that the latest positives are having the greatest impact on cycling in Germany, Schumacher's home nation, and explained that, "These athletes are killing cycling in Germany and damaging it around the rest of the world. That doesn't mean the whole sport should suffer. Why should they be threatened because of a few bad apples?

"This is a low point, there is no doubt about it," admitted McQuaid. "Our resolve is to completely get rid of the cheats from cycling."

Lang's Schumacher suspicions

Sebastian Lang of Team Gerolsteiner said that the team had its suspicions of Stefan Schumacher during the Tour de France when they observed his reaction to news of the new CERA test.

"When it was announced that there was a new test for CERA, we were all happy. We sat on the bus and really celebrated," Lang told the Thueringer Allgemeine. "The whole team... except Stefan. He was suddenly very quiet and withdrawn."

Schumacher was "suddenly totally changed. So we other riders got together and discussed it. Finally we and the team management openly asked him whether there was something we should worry about." The response? "He just openly lied in our faces and said that everything was OK."

Lang was glad that his teammate was caught. "Cheats must be caught and punished. All of them. Even when it is another heavy blow for cycling." (SW)

Schleck cloud darkens

Luxembourg's anti-doping agency (ALAD) announced that it would expand an investigation into Fränk Schleck following revelations he had indirect dealings with Operación Puerto figure Eufemiano Fuentes. AP has reported that despite the Puerto case being closed by Spanish authorities, the ALAD has decided that CSC-Saxo Bank's star has a greater case to answer and will pursue it.

CSC-Saxo-Bank has already suspended Schleck after he admitted transferring money to a Swiss bank account held by Fuentes. Like former team-mate Ivan Basso before him, Luxembourg's number one rider said that despite these actions – contact with Fuentes – he never doped. He gave evidence about the transfer to ALAD last week and the national agency ruled on Tuesday that the statements were insufficient to declare him innocent. It will now widen the probe.

The ALAD released a statement, saying, "It has been decided to carry out an additional investigation at different levels." This latest development is another blow to cycling's image at a time when the Olympic movement is calling for the sport's place in the Games to be examined (SW).

Prudhomme praises anti-doping measures

Christian Prudhomme
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

While many observers may construe the positive tests of Stefan Schumacher and Leonardo Piepoli as another nail in the coffin of cycling, Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme is leading the chorus of voices praising the efforts of France's anti-doping authority in catching drug cheats.

"It's very good. It allows us to confound the cheaters, Prudhomme told AP. "What's being done at the Tour de France has never existed in the world of sport; in no competition."

And while the German Cycling Federations (BDR) is reeling at the potential impact of Schumacher's latest and greatest misdemeanour, Prudhomme remained philosophical and very much focused on the positives. "It's clear that those who have cheated, we're not going to consider that they won. We are not the ones who do the rankings, but I can't see how they can stay."

He explained that the methods used to uncover these latest infringements are widening the net for potential cheats to be caught, event if it does take some time. "People in the street ask me: 'How did that come out so late?' In July, the process wasn't legitimate at the time... These tests are of a new type."

The man arguably responsible for these new processes, AFLD chief Pierre Bordry, explained that there may be more announcements to the same tune as the Schumacher and Piepoli cases in the near future. "There are tests ongoing. I don't know if they will be positive or negative. We are only looking for CERA, not the rest."

UCI congratulates AFLD

The UCI has congratulated the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) after it informed the sport's international governing body of the results of first analyses of repeat tests conducted on samples taken during this year's Tour de France. Three abnormal results that correspond to samples taken from Leonardo Piepoli, Riccardo Riccò and Stefan Schumacher were the subject of the correspondence.

Despite the feud between the UCI and Tour de France organisers in recent times, in particular after the decision to run this year's edition under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation, the UCI was gracious in its praise of the anti-doping measures.

"The UCI congratulates the AFLD on the excellent work it carried out during the Tour de France," it said in an official release. "The collaboration with the AFLD shows that cycling as a whole rejects any kind of doping and is committed to eradicating cheating."

UCI media spokesperson Enrico Carpani added that, "A thorough approach and the deployment of all possible means are vital if we are to safeguard the interests of those riders who are clean, who make up the great majority of the peloton. Such rigour applies to all concerned."

CPA meets to discuss 2009

The management committee of the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) met in Geneva on Tuesday afternoon to address a wide-ranging agenda.

The committee discussed issues such as the development of a new world calendar and a new world ranking, in addition to rider numbers on teams, minimum and unpaid wages, race prizes and race safety. Communication with the riders was another important area addressed, with the commission deciding to establish a forum guaranteeing rider anonymity which will enable them to express themselves about various subjects relating to their profession.

The obligations of riders in relation the biological passport were discussed, and it was decided that the solidarity fund for retired riders will no longer be allocated to those who end their career following a positive control. The CPA, with representatives of the national associations and members of the riders’ council who were present, decided to create working commissions to present specific proposals to cycling's various stakeholders relating to safeguarding the jobs of professional riders.

The next meeting of the Management Committee of the CPA will be held in mid-December.

Aerts, Kaisen continue with Silence-Lotto

Aerts jokes before the Olympics kicked off.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Despite a few hiccups, Silence-Lotto stalwart Mario Aerts and young rider Olivier Kainsen have resigned with the Belgian squad. Aerts has negotiated another two seasons, with the option of a third, while Kaisen will definitely ride for the squad in 2009.

Aerts, who has spent nine years under the leadership of Marc Coucke, went into contract negotiations having been the subject of interest from Team Columbia and Katusha. Given this and a strong performance at the Olympics, the 33-year-old Belgian was requesting some vital upgrades to his contract.

"I didn't want to leave Silence, but there was a long discussion. I went to the Olympics, and it was difficult to contact [each other]," said the reliable domestique. "But eventually all was good and we have a good agreement. We've agreed to two years with option [of a third]," Aerts told Sporza.

Another rider up for contract renewal, it appeared Kaisen would be forced to search for another team after it was reported that manager Marc Sergeant told him that there was no room within the squad to accommodate his services. That changed however, and Kaisen will indeed be a part of Silence-Lotto's '09 lineup.

Team Type 1 bolsters squad

Team Type 1 has re-signed Chris Jones for the 2009 season while adding US elite criterium champion Ken Hanson to its roster.

"Chris was a valuable teammate and one of the most consistent performers on the team in 2008, and we are hoping that in 2009 he will have the opportunity to step up to a leadership role when the time is right," said Team Type 1 directeur sportif Ed Beamon.

"We had a solid, cohesive core of the team this season and I expect that with the new additions to the roster we will solidify our place in 2009 as one of the top teams in America. The more the team wins, the more awareness it will bring to the global diabetes epidemic, and that is ultimately the goal of the team."

Hanson won the first stage of the FBD Insurance RÁS in Ireland in May and Beamon believes his experience at international and domestic level will serve the team well. "Ken has shown he can close the deal with victories in races like the RAS and Priority Health, and his win at the Elite National Championships validates his ability to produce under pressure."

Beamon added that, "We are trying to build a sprinting package and not focus our attention on one or two riders. I expect Ken’s role in the lead-out train will change depending on the event, conditions and the lineup, but I am confident he has the ability to be set up guy in the run in, deliver the last push or win the race depending on the situation."

'Celebrity' road rage in Melbourne

In an incident that reminds us so-called celebrities aren't immune to road rage, AFL commentator Rex Hunt will face a preliminary hearing in Melbourne Magistrate's Court this month after allegedly assaulting a cyclist in July. The only headlines the TV fishing show personality has garnered in recent times relate to his poor behaviour, and the 59-year-old appeared to shrug off the implications of this latest misdemeanour when quizzed about it by Melbourne media.

South Melbourne police are investigating the incident that took place on Ormond Esplanade in Elwood which apparently involved Hunt getting out of his four-wheel drive and assaulting a man, resulting in the rider suffering a broken finger.

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