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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for November 22, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Tim Maloney

Unnamed Italian pro claims widespread doping

An Italian professional cyclist, speaking anonymously on the television program "Striscia la Notizia", has created a stir by indulging viewers in his confessions that doping is rampant in the professional peloton and that he himself relied on performance enhancing drugs. Said only to be an active racer and "very well known", the cyclist offered the statement that "90% of the riders are doping".

"If I hadn't been doping I could never have finished races or kept pace," he said. At the same time, the interviewee insisted that doping was causing serious health problems in the peloton.

"I've found a lot of young riders who are reacting badly to the drugs," he said. "They have trouble sleeping, suffer from respiratory problems, heart problems, and that sort of thing. That also concerns riders who every morning receive injections of EPO or growth hormone in their abdomens. With any other treatment they wouldn't have been able to ride the next day."

The damaging statements didn't stop there. Shifting his accusations to race organisers, the cyclist alluded to lax controls at major races and a certain complicity with cyclists known to be doping.

"One time I was called for testing and I went to the medical control," he explained. "But they said to me, 'go ahead, the doping didn't happen.' And this was a very important international race."

"Everyone is afraid to speak out because we're in a world that's hard to escape," he said, explaining the decision to conceal his identity. "If you talk, if people know that it's you, you're excluded from the system. The majority of the riders in the peloton didn't finish school and wouldn't know what to do besides ride a bicycle."

Cipollini named

Following the Striscia la Notizia program, a satirical news show, the Italian website reported that the masked rider was in fact Mario Cipollini. That same day, Cipollini promptly denied having said anything to Striscia la Notizia.

"Regarding the news about me making these declarations to Striscia la notizia, I want to say- and this has already been explained by the press office of Striscia la Notizia- that these comments [from the website Dagostia] have no basis in fact," Cipollini said, quoted on Datasport.

"I'm really surprised, and very bitter, to have to come out and explain these absurd lies that are being thrown around," he continued. "I spoke with my lawyer and I am going to sue whoever is responsible for these accusations."

Subsequent to the first rider, another cyclist appeared on Channel 5, speaking to Striscia la notizia about his early years in the pro ranks. "I started to race when I was eight years old," the younger rider explained. "The first year I was a professional I had to really face what was going in the sport with the usage of GH [growth hormone], EPO, cortisone, caffeine and steroids. I decided not to take any drugs, and I finally I had to quit the sport.

"Personally I did two years without getting any results as a pro, so in the third year without any results there was nothing left to do," he added. "The logic in this situation is that the team had to see the investment they made in me as a rider pay off somehow. I had to deal with doping after I saw the team doctor. I had normal haematocrit values in my blood; actually, too low with respect to my teammates. The team doctor gave me a list of medicine I had to take, and when I came out of that visit I ripped the list up and decided to retire from cycling."

By not revealing the sources of these accusations, the at times sensationalist Italian media may be repeating their actions of last spring when hidden camera footage was broadcast of riders supposedly taking drugs. Some viewers of this week's program may wonder whether the rider making the allegations is Striscia la Notizia's Gabbibo and not former world champion Mario Cipollini.

Julich to CSC, Luttenberger extends

The move Julich wanted
Photo ©: Robert Naish

Team CSC continues to reinforce its roster for 2004, and after a push to enhance the team's classics squad, Bjarne Riis has signed two stage race riders. American Bobby Julich joins CSC after several seasons with Team Telekom, and Austrian Peter Luttenberger, who joined the team mid-season this year, has extended for another year. Riis expressed his satisfaction in signing Julich, who was not offered an extension with Telekom for next year.

"We have not seen much of [Julich] since he placed third in the 1998 Tour de France but I strongly believe that we can more out of him than he has shown in the previous years," Riis explained on the team's website. "Our team will give him the opportunities he needs and I look forward to seeing him getting back to the level that he used to have. He is an experienced stage race rider and I think that he will be able to benefit from the way run our team."

Julich is pleased to join CSC and looks forward to the 2004 season. His contract is for one year.

"From the outside, Riis' organisation seems to be one of the best functioning teams around and I have long been interested in riding for Team CSC," Julich said. "I think that Bjarne will be able to make the most of my talent and I look forward to developing my skills on his team. The team will be very strong next year and I look forward to becoming a part of that."

Luttenberger, who was without a contract in 2003 until Riis signed him prior to the Dauphiné Libéré, went on to finish 13th in the Tour de France, a great satisfaction for Riis and team, which along with Tyler Hamilton's fourth place overall claimed victory in the team competition.

"I am very pleased that we have been able to sign a new contract with Luttenberger," Riis added. "I have wanted to seal that deal for a long time. He did well in the Tour this year and he was one of the main reasons why we were able to win the team classification. He fits well into the team and he will be another strong stage racer on the team."

Saiz signs Baranowski and three amateurs

Manolo Saiz continues to build the roster for his new Liberty Seguros team, which will carry on in the wake of departing sponsor ONCE in 2004. Saiz has picked up Polish veteran Dariusz Baranowski, an ex-iBanesto rider who spent this season with the Polish CCC-Polsat team. Three riders from the amateur ranks will also join the team: León Sanchez, Carlos Barredo and Javier Ramírez Abeja. The team roster is up to 16 riders confirmed thus far.

Agnolutto extends with Ag2R

Christophe Agnolutto will ride another year with the French Ag2R-Prévoyance team. Ag2R Manager Vincent Lavenu was for a long time undecided about Agnolutto's future in the team but has opted to offer a one year contract extension. Agnolutto, who turns 34 next month, has been with Lavenu since joining the Casino team in 1996. His biggest career victory remains the overall classification (and stage win) in the 1997 Tour of Switzerland, along with stage wins in the 2000 Tour de France and 1998 Tour de Romandie.

Zajicek joins Navigators

Phil Zajicek has signed a contract to join the Navigators Cycling Team in 2004. Zajicek leaves the Saturn pro team, which will disband at the end of the year. "It's shaping up to be a season," Zajicek said. Zajicek joined Saturn in 2003 after a ride as a stagiaire with Mercury in 2000 which led to a pro contract with the team until 2002.

As for his participation in the Tour de Tucson on a tandem with Saturn teammate Chris Horner, Zajicek explained that the news was just a rumour. "I can't think of anything that would be more painful than jumping on a tandem with Horner," he said.

Gilbert extends with

Promising Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert has re-signed with, securing a deal through 2005 with the French team directed by Marc Madiot. Gilbert, 21, was selected for the Belgian World's team in his first year as a professional. His strong riding in the Tour de l'Avenir helped secure his place in the team for the coming seasons.

Vries to continue

At one point contemplating retirement, Dutchman Pieter Vries will carry on in the professional peloton with Bankgiroloterij. Vries, 28, has suffered through two seasons with a groin injury but a doctor's help in relieving pain from a pinched nerve has prompted him to reconsider his decision to stop riding. He has signed a one year contract with Bankgiroloterij, according to Dutch news agency ANP.

Elli to direct Barloworld

Former professional Alberto Elli replace Michel Gros as director of the South African Team Barloworld. Frenchman Gros helped bring Barloworld to race in Europe, but was dissatisfied with the team's financial offer for 2004, according to a l'Equipe report. Elli rode professionally with teams such as Ariostea, GB-MG, MG-Technogym, Casino, and Telekom. He finished his career with Index-Alexia in 2002 after being released from Telekom following a doping suspension stemming from the 2001 Giro d'Italia.

Danny Clark to ride Melbourne Cup

One of Australia's best ever track cyclists, Danny Clark, will ride the Melbourne Cup on Wheels in Australia on November 29, 2003. Clark, 52, retired from professional track cycling eight years ago, but has kept himself active, winning a few World Masters Titles on the track and road in recent years. He is expected to be given a handicap of around 80m for the main event, a 2000m wheelrace, which will see Shane Kelly, Jobie Dajka and Todd Wilksch off scratch.

Clark doesn't intend to stop there however, and wants to ride the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals this year. "I need some races beforehand to put myself under pressure and I thought the Melbourne Cup on Wheels might be a good race to start off with," he was quoted by as saying. "It will be pretty hard, I know that. All the young guys are so quick nowadays and I'm 52, but we'll see what happens."

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