News Flash for May 24, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Saeco pulls Simoni before B sample announced; Mercatone withdraws gambelluri
The Giro d'Italia continues to deliver almost as much action off the parcours, with Saeco management this morning announcing they were withdrawing last year's Giro winner Gilberto Simoni, currently in third place on GC and yesterday's stage winner.
The announcement was made this morning by Claudio Corti, Saeco's general manager, as well as Carmine Castellano, the director of the Giro d'Italia. The decision has shocked many as in theory, Simoni was still clear to continue in the Giro under UCI rules.
Even if Simoni's B test is positive for cocaine - and this was still not released at the time of Saeco's withdrawal of their star rider - according to UCI rules he would not be ejected from the race, as the control did not occur during the Giro d'Italia (it was taken before the Giro del Trentino on April 24).
So Simoni could have still won the Giro, regardless of the fate that awaits him afterwards. The UCI even issued a press release to clarify the regulations. "The UCI regulations respect the principle of right of defense and presumption of innocence. The person indicted for offence will be condemned and sanctioned after having had the possibility to be heard and to invoke all circumstances in his/her favour, and this will result in a time period between the positive testing and the start of the suspension, if the rider is declared guilty."
Saeco's decision to withdraw the race favourite may indicate that investigations will reveal further information about the case.
At the press conference before Wednesday morning's stage, when the cocaine test was revealed, Corti said "We're sure it's an accident. Gilberto has never taken cocaine. He had treatment at the dentist and that is what was found." Simoni visited his family dentist on the morning of the 24th to have some dental work done for a magazine shoot. When he returned home he was met by two officers from the World Anti-Doping Agency, who took a sample from him, also testing 14 other riders including Roberto Sgambelluri who was non-negative for Nesp.
"I'm a cyclist. I'm not a cocaine addict. I've never used it," Simoni at Wednesday's press conference. "If I'd wanted to I could have done it secretly, but not before the Giro del Trentino [note: he is from that area]. For a rider to be doped is one thing, this is something different. I'll try to show my innocence."
Corti said the dentist has been contacted and information has been requested from him about the use of this drug as an anaesthetic, which is not common in dentistry any more. Lidocaine, and to a lesser extent Novocaine, are the main drugs used as local anaesthetics. They each have a different structure to cocaine.
Meanwhile, Mercatone Uno management has also withdrawn Roberto Sgambelluri after he returned a positive test for NESP, a synthetic and easily detectable version of EPO, a forbidden doping agent favourred by endurance athletes.