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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for June 15, 2002

Edited by John Stevenson

French authorities to close US Postal investigation

The prosecutors in charge of the investigation into alleged doping by the US Postal team have announced that the case is to be dropped for lack of evidence.

François Franchy, head of the department of investigation into 'non-financial organised crime' told news agency AFP yesterday that "the investigation is headed toward a withdrawal of the case, [a decision] that should be returned in the next few weeks."

"Judicially, there is nothing to establish doping," he said. "The analyses of the blood samples did not show substances used in doping."

The investigation began in November 2000 after a French TV station claimed to have seen a US Postal vehicle dumping suspicious packages.

"In this case we cannot tell if there was doping because we could not perform all the tests we would have liked to," said Franchy. "French law does not allow us to demand the cooperation of the athletes. The law is aimed at those who provide the products not those who use them."

"If Lance Armstrong had made himself available for certain tests, then we could have been sure. But he did not want to, as is his right."

Armstrong and US Postal have always protested their innocence of the charges and recently declared they would not cooperate further with the investigation.

Franchy added that the failure of the case demonstrated that the police and judiciary alone could not solve the problem of doping in sport, which he called "a problem of society."

Ochoa crash 'not just an accident'

A Spanish court has ordered that the crash in February 2001 that killed Kelme rider Ricardo Ochoa and seriously injured his twin brother Javier should be treated as a crime and not an accident.

The Ochoa brothers were hit by a car allegedly driven by the director-general of sport at the University of Malaga, Sebastián Fernández.

Opening the hearings into the case, Malaga provincial court judge Teresa Guerrero initially considered the case to be caused by a misjudgement, but the facts of the case have caused that assessment to change.

According to court sources quoted by Europa Press, the incident "goes beyond a simple misjudgement." The court has therefore instructed the prosecutor's office to consider whether the incident might involve crimes such as negligent homicide, and negligently causing injury.

The Ochoa family and the Spanish association of professional cyclists (ACP) have announced that they will request the maximum penalties possible, which include four years jail for negligent homicide and a year for causing injury.

Dede Demet-Barry signs for T-Mobile

Montreal World Cup winner Dede Demet-Barry has signed a deal to ride for the increasingly powerful US-based T-Mobile team.

Twenty-nine year old Demet-Barry recently returned to cycling and at Montreal demonstrated that she still has the form that took her to seven US National championships (road race, time trial, criterium) before her retirement in 2000.

Her first race with the team will be the U.S. Elite National Championships in Nashville, TN, followed by the Grand Boucle Feminine.

Related story: Dede Demet-Barry interview

Cycling to open Athens Olympics

The organising comittess of the 2004 Olympics (ATHOC) has announced that road cycling will be the opening event of the Athens games.

With two years still to go before the event, preparations are in full sway and ATHOC wants to use cycling to showcase the host city.

"We want to present the city and its unique beauty to the world," said Olympic sport director Makis Asimakopoulos at the presentation of the provisional program for the games on Thursday in Athens.

Kloeden out of Tour

Telekom rider Andreas Kloeden says he does not expect to start this year's Tour de France.

"My condition is less good than that of the rest of the riders [on the team]. A start does not make much sense," he told German newspaper Lausitzer Rundschau. "Other riders are better placed to help our captain Erik Zabel."

Kloeden was forced to abandon the Tour of the Basque Country in April with an inflammation in his right knee and has only been able to ride again for the last two weeks

Saeco news: Di Luca returns, team heads for Switzerland

Saeco's Danilo di Luca make his post-Giro return to the peloton on Sunday at the GP Gippingen, then head to Luzern for Tuesday's prologue of the Tour of Switzerland (June 18-27).

Saeco says the Swiss races have taken on particular importance after the organisers revoked the team's invitation to the Tour de France. The Tour was Di Luca's main race for the second half of his season.

Together with Di Luca, directeur sportifs Giuseppe Martinelli and Guido Bontempi will field Mirko Celestino, Salvatore Commesso, Cristian Pepoli, Alessandro Spezialetti, Fabio Sacchi, German rider Joerg Ludewig and the young Spanish rider Juan Fuentes.

Big day out at Irish road race championships

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

If the reception on Thursday evening is anything to by, then competitors and spectators alike should pencil in the upcoming National Road Race Championships. The co-hosts of the championships are leaving no stone unturned in their preparation for the big day. The phrase on everybody's lips was "be there." Where? Stamullen, on June 30.

Sunday June 30 will see cycling's National Road Race Championships take place in the village of Stamullen, Co. Meath. Sponsored by Ideal Bikes and BBB Bike Parts, the race will be co-promoted by Stamullen M. Donnelly Road Club and McNally Joinery Swords Cycling Club.

The championships will be held on a tough 12-mile circuit, which includes the climb of Snowtown on each of the eight laps. The undulating course will be well known to Irish cyclists as it has been used for the Stamullen Grand Prix for the past 15 years and is recognised as one of the hardest on the Irish calendar. Indeed the race always produces a quality winner and former FBD Milk Ras winners Philip Cassidy (Cycleways Lee Strand) and American-based professional Ciaran Power (Navigators) as well as former junior world champion Mark Scanlon have all tasted victory in Stamullen previously. The course was also used for the national junior road race championships a couple of years ago.

As well as a top prize of 200 euros for first across the line, this year's championships will see all of Ireland's professional riders take part in search of the valuable UCI points on offer.

Ciaran Power will make the long trip home from America as will former Irish U/23 champion David O'Loughlin and his OFOTO-Lombardia Sports team-mate James Hodnett. Last year's winner David McCann from Belfast will be hoping to make it a record three wins in a row. McCann will be returning from his base in Austria where he rides for the professional Volksbank Ideal team to defend the title he won on his home course in Belfast last year. The current U/23 champion Thomas Hogan showed in the recent FBD Milk Ras that he will feature.

As usual the home-based riders will be looking to upset the professionals and competition will be strong for the highly regarded team prize. With the first three riders from each team to count towards the prize some of the favourites will be last year's winners Cycleways Lee Strand (Ray Clarke, Phil Cassidy, Eugene Moriarty), Totalcycling.com (Denis Easton, Brendan Docherty), Carrick Cidona (Brian Kenneally, Eddie O'Donoghue, Martin O'Loughlin, Timmy Barry) Usher IRC (Paul Healion, Dave Peelo, Colm Bracken), Stamullen M. Donnelly (Craig Sweetman , Tom Hughes, Robert Moore), Earl of Desmond Tralee (Paul Griffin, Kieran McMahon, Thomas Hogan), VC La Pomme (Tommy Evans, Mark Scanlon, Denis Lynch) and McNally Joinery Swords (John Lally, Simon Whelan, Gearoid Loughnane).

The race gets underway at 1.00pm with the women's championships starting shortly after the men's. Here, French-based Meath rider Geraldine Gill will be looking to make it an incredible fourth win in a row in the road race. Gill will have some tough opposition from Italian-based professional Tarja Owens and US-based Lorraine Manning (Atlanta Velo). Also due to ride will be former champion Susan O'Meara (Letchworth Velo), now based in England. Australian-based Sarah White of the promoting Stamullen M. Donnelly team is unfortunately unable to ride due to track racing commitments in Australia.

Home-based riders such as Marica Attoressi and Elsa Connaughton of Cycleways, Louise Moriarty (Dublin Skip), Kate Rudd (North Tipperary) and Claire Moore (Usher Insulations) will be looking to cause an upset on the day.

To add colour and entertainment to the occasion the promoters have planned for the Kentstown Accordion Band and St. Mary's Baton Twirlers from Stamullen/Balscadden to lead the parade of cyclists into the village and display their talents. Plus, during the Championships a local band called SNAZ will provide more entertainment.

See you all in Stamullen!

Boardman speaks out against animal research

Retired British cyclist Chris Boardman, winner of Olympic gold in Barcelona and bronze in Atlanta and current World Hour Record holder, has written to the British Heart Foundation urging them to stop experiments on animals.

Although Boardman praised the BHF for its "mission to eliminate heart disease" and thought that "the London-Brighton bike ride is an excellent way to promote good health", he was not impressed by their experiments involving animals.

"No useful information will be gained by cutting open dogs, cats and other animals and subjecting them to painful, irrelevant experiments," wrote Boardman. "We already know that a healthy, low-fat diet and regular exercise is the key to preventing heart disease."

"Many wonderful health charities, such as the Bath Cancer Research Unit, the British Institute for Brain Injured Children and the British Red Cross, put all their funds into effective programmes that help people without hurting animals. That's something that wins everyone's support."

In conclusion, he asked the BHF to fund "humane research instead of cruel experiments on animals.