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Photo ©: Schaaf

News for June 5, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

US Postal dossier unlikely to be closed before Tour de France

The French investigation into the 'US Postal affair' will more than likely be kept open until the Tour de France has finished, despite a lack of evidence in the case so far. Parisian prosecutor François Franchy, in charge of the section 'against non-financial organised crime' said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde that "It will be finished soon...A closure should not be expected before July...I will make sure that the dossier is closed before the fall."

The investigation started in November 2000, after France 3 TV aired footage of allegedly suspicious behaviour involving the disposal of garbage originating from a hotel that US Postal had stayed in during the 2000 Tour de France. The footage showed men loading several plastic garbage bags from the hotel into a German registered car, driving to a back road, and dumping it. An examination of the contents revealed that the bags contained swabs, compresses and pill packets, including a substance derived from calves blood called Actovegin.

Actovegin is used to treat people suffering from blood deficiencies, and was at first considered a potential performance enhancer due to its ability to improve oxygen carrying capacity. However, although it was banned by the UCI after the investigation started, its performance enhancing virtues, if any, remain unclear. It is also not illegal in France.

Shortly after the affair started, US Postal team management issued a statement confirming its use by members of the team, although the team claimed that no riders had used it. "Prior to the start of the 2000 Tour, Actovegin was brought into France by our team physician with the full authorization of the Agence Française de Securité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé, the French medical control agency. Actovegin was available to be used to treat severe skin abrasions due to crashes and to aid one of our staff members who has diabetes," read the statement.

The US Postal lawyer, Georges Kiejman confirmed to Le Monde that "Actovegin was on the list of medicines that US Postal had given to the French authorities prior to the Tour and these were accepted." However, "this was not the reason that it [the investigation] has lasted this long."

The team's blood and urine samples from the Tour were analysed in the spring of 2001 by the UCI, and nothing suspicious was found. In February 2002, the team was asked to submit their medical files to professor Gilbert Pépin, in charge of the judicial laboratory Toxlab. However, the team refused as there was no specific accusation against them. At that point, it became clear that the investigation would run out of steam.

Prosecutor Franchy said that "We have moved forward on a presumption of doping, but we have not succeeded in identifying a product. We are blocked. We do not have any means of coercion," adding that "In this dossier, Lance Armstrong was not at risk of being investigated."

With the dossier still open, the prosecutor could add to this action should something come up at the Tour de France.

Garzelli case to be decided on July 22

A decision in the case involving Stefano Garzelli (Mapei-Quick Step) who tested positive for probenecid during the Giro d'Italia is expected to be announced by the Swiss federation on July 22. Garzelli was heard on Monday in Lugano by the president of the disciplinary committee. His explanation was that the positive test arose from ingesting food contaminated with the substance, which is banned by the UCI due to its diuretic/potential masking effects. However, the quantities picked up in Garzelli's urine test were considered too small to mask anything, according to the UCI medical expert, and there were no other signs of banned substances.

Garzelli was taken out of the Giro on the evening of May 21 after his counter-analysis was also found to be positive. Both his stage wins were taken away from him, as well as the points he earned from being in the maglia rosa. Note, for UCI points lovers, no-one was awarded the win for stages 2 and 5.

Euskal Bizikleta-Bicicleta Vasca

The Euskal Bizikleta-Bicicleta Vasca 2002 will be held over the next five days between June 5-9. Classified as 2.1 on the UCI calendar, the race will see the best Spanish teams and riders in action, including last year's top two, Juan Carlos Dominguez (Phonak) and Joseba Beloki (ONCE). In addition, Giro d'Italia stars Juan Manuel Garate and Aitor Gonzalez will also be on the start line in Billabona.

Mapei will be sending a strong Spanish team, with Oscar Freire, David Cañada, and Pedro Horrillo, along with Miguel Martinez, Elio Aggiano, and Charly Wegelius. Lampre will be led by Garate, with Raimondas Rumsas, Mariano Piccoli and Johan Verstrepen riding in support.

The race is suited to the climbers who can time trial, and Beloki and Aitor Gonzalez will all have excellent chances. Stage 2 includes the cat. 1 Urkiola climb but the toughest stage is the final one from Iurreta-Arrata, containing three cat. 1 climbs, including the finishing climb to Arrate.

The teams

Relax, Euskaltel-Euskadi,, Jazztel, Kelme, ONCE-Eroski, Cofidis, La Francaise des Jeux, Acqua e Sapone, Alessio, Lampre, Mapei-Quick Step, Saeco-Longoni Sport, CCC-Polsat, Milaneza-MSS, Phonak, De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa

The stages

  • Stage 1 - June 5: Billabona-Usurbil, 163.4 km
  • Stage 2 - June 6: Usurbil-Zeanuri, 163.1 km
  • Stage 3 - June 7: Zeanuri-Agurain, 185.3 km
  • Stage 4a - June 8: Agurain-Mendaro, 93.7 km
  • Stage 4b - June 8: Mendaro-Mendaro, 21.3 km ITT
  • Stage 5 - June 9: Iurreta-Arrate, 149.2 km

Strazzer and Popovych race in Memorial Casartelli

The day after finishing the 85th Giro d'Italia, future star Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago Landbouwkrediet) and Intergiro winner Massimo Strazzer (Phonak) competed in the Memorial Fabio Casartelli criterium in Albese con Cassano (Como). The large crowd watched Popovych in action, winning the Elimination race in front of Daniele Nardello (Mapei Quick Step) and Mauro Gerosa (Tacconi Sport); while Massimo Strazzer won the sprint competition in front of Ivan Quaranta (Index-Alexia) and Enrico Degano (Panaria).

The riders will compete in Broni this evening for the 4th Trofeo della Città Broni, and on Wednesday June 5, the fans will be able to see the winner of the Giro, Paolo Savoldelli, compete in the "33rd GP Associazione Ciclistica Arona", alongside Strazzer, Popovych, Daniele Nardello and Robert Hunter (Mapei Quick Step), Ivan Quaranta (Index-Alexia), Denis Lunghi (Colpack Astro), Franco Pellizotti (Alessio) and Vladimir Duma (Panaria). The racing begins at 20:00 with the professionals coming on at 20:30.

Savoldelli's bike for sale

Paolo Savoldelli will also be auctioning off his Giro d'Italia winning bike on the internet site of his team, Index-Alexia. Proceeds for the sale will go towards the Emergency fund of Gino Strada, the charity that the riders were supporting in the Giro with those white little saddle/helmet tags. 'Emergency' is a humanitarian organisation devoted to helping war victims, and the white flag signified the desire for peace. The auction will run from June 10-20.

Acqua & Sapone urges Italian boycott of Tour

The Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo team has urged the Italian teams taking part in the Tour de France to boycott the race in 2003, as a form of protest against the team selection made by the organisers. Team manager Vincenzo Santoni issued a communiqué to this effect:

"The exclusion of Saeco from the Tour de Frances is shameful. It demonstrates that we, the teams, have no no power or value. There is a monopoly of power on the part of a few organisers who take all the profits for their companies alone.

At this point, we, the Italian trade teams, should work together and if necessary also boycott important events such as the Tour de France. Only in this manner will we succeed in having a political and economical impact. We cannot allow ourselves to carry on working without any power; our teams are real businesses which provide work on average to 50 employees, funded only from sponsorships.

We also have the right to have other sources of income as is the case in other sports (TV revenues from the major tours, World Cups and World Championships).

We invite the other teams to meet us with the aim of selecting a prominent person who would be able to represent us (e.g. Mr Mastella [an Italian member of parliament])." in the USA has headed to America for the three race First Union Cycling Series which kicked off on June 4 with the 147 km First Union Invitational in Lancaster, PA. David McKenzie, Allan Iacuone, Dominique Perras, Trent Wilson, Brett Lancaster and Scott Guyton will be joined by Australian Peter Rogers who will race as a guest rider with in the US series. Phil Anderson has travelled from Australia to be the Team Director for the American races.

The Lancaster event will be followed two days later (June 6) by the 147km First Union Classic in Trenton, NJ with the feature event, the US PRO Championship being raced over 250km in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday June 9th.

"This series has been our big goal now for a few months and everyone's been working towards this," said David McKenzie. "It's the highest ranked UCI race we can do as a Category Three team and we know we can not only be competitive but that we have a real chance of finishing on the podium."

The team will be looking at the in-form Alan Iacuone to do well in these races, which are similar in style to Belgian pro kermesses. Iacuone placed third in one in Wielsbeke last Sunday, and the team believes he has a good chance.

"Our attitude is that if you feel good you race hard and if you don't feel good you still race hard to put yourself in the best possible position," said McKenzie of the team that recently suffered some bad luck when Jamie Drew broke his wrist and was forced to pull out of the US Series.

"There's no doubt there is pressure on us to perform because it will certainly help our future prospects," he finished.

For more information about the team, visit their website.