News for August 15, 1998

Special Report on Australian Track Cycling Allegations

The ante has now been raised in the battle between the cycling establishment in Australia and those that see major problems with the organisation and personnel involved in elite cycling. The press in Australia have been sent a document from an unknown source which outlines a series of questions that they say require answering. The Herald-Sun newspaper published a damaging article based on the document on Thursday. Clearly, they got legal advice quicker than I did or other outlets. The response from Cycling Australia (CA) has been quick. Also leading Australian cycling journalist, Roger Vaughan who writes for AAP has written on Thursday that Charlie Walsh who is the target of the allegations is furious about the allegations.

So what were the allegations?

Here is the Herald-Sun article written by Leo Schlink, and published on August 13 1998 under the heading "Attack on Walsh Riles Officials".

Australia's preparations for the world cycling championships were thrown into disarray last night with the circulation of an anonymous document attacking Charlie Walsh. Cycling Australia responded immediately to the document, declaring the release of highly sensitive information required urgent investigation. The emergence of the document coincided with the regrouping of the Australian track squad in a volatile atmosphere under Walsh in Buttgen, Germany. Walsh last week was the subject of an Australian Sports Commission investigation after claims of discrimination by Olympic medallist Lucy Tyler-Sharman. He was cleared of the charge.

The timing of yesterday's release of the document has angered team officials, who believe the culprit has an intimate knowledge of the workings of Walsh's operation. In the unsigned paper Walsh is alleged to have paid more than $18,000 for a so-called drug. Cycling Australia confirmed last night Walsh had spent the money on Colostrum, a legal, natural substance found in breast milk used to bolster the immune system. Walsh was also accused of selling the secrets of the vaunted Australian Institute of sport track program to US interests in 1995 for up to $US80,000 ($134,000).

Cycling Australia president Ray Godkin described the claim as ludicrous. Walsh was accused of allowing masseur Malcom Morris to prescribe and distribute antibiotics and also of negotiating with US cycling officials over potential employment. Godkin dismissed all allegations.

Walsh, who probably will retire after the Sydney Olympics, is known to be shattered by recent attacks. A source in Buttgen last night said the culprits would be found and punished. Tyler-Sharman, her husband Graeme, Stephen Pate and Darryn Hill were recently allowed to leave the squad's training base in Colorado. Tyler-Sharman wrote a letter of complaint to the Australian Sports Commission over Walsh.

ASDC official Geoff Strang exonerated Walsh on all counts.

[article ends]

The Document

So what about the document. It is entitled "Media Directives" and proposes a series of questions and the people who questions should be directed to.

The questions, paraphrased by me are as follows (with names taken out):

Q1: Did the Australian Track Team .... purchase and distribute to his entire team a large quantity of a drug containing IGF-1 (a growth hormone) at the cost of $A16,000 plus $a2000 import duty in Germany?

We are told that the high-level officials at the Australian Institute of Sport, a German cycling offical (who helped with customs arrangements), and a medical officer with the Track team (without any medical background) were involved.

Q2: Did an official of the Australian Track Team who is not empowered under the law to issue prescribed drugs, distribute antibiotics to riders in contravention of the law?

We are told that a team official does this freely.

Q3: Was the AIS Track Cycling Program sold to the USWCF in 1995 for between $US60,000-$US80,000? And where did the money go?

We are told to ask two people who worked closely on the application of the Australian program to the US cyclists.

Q4: Merely repeats the story that Charlie Walsh is meant to have been negotiating employment with the USCF.

I hardly think it matters if he had been. People have freedom to work for whom they wish. The other allegations however demanded a response. And a response they got. Rapid by Australian cycling bureaucracy standards.

The reaction

The allegations now in the public domain have been met with disgust by Walsh and the CA officials. Roger Vaughan (for AAP) quotes Walsh, who is supervising the training camp in Germany, as saying: "I've always been very much that way. I'm vehemently against it. I like to see people healthy and well."

The CA officials are now on a hunt for the person who sent the document. They claim they know who the person is. It is obviously someone close to the squad given the detail that is contained in it (not published above).

CA President Ray Godkin has already denied that there has been any wrong doing. He confirmed that the drug purchased was Colostrum and was done so after being approved by the AIS. While it may be legal is it effective? What scientific research has gone into this to justify spending that much money?

The allegation that the AIS program has been sold to the USCF has been dismissed as being nonsense.

That leaves the issue of non-medically qualified staff distributing prescription drugs to riders. The question is not whether the drugs are illegal but that the distribution of them without a prescription from an authorised doctor. Godkin has also denied that this has occurred.

The lead story from SBS TV Friday "World Sport's Show

This is the lead story on last night's SBS TV "World Sports" (August 15). The presenter Dave Carlson began...

.....Cycling Australia president Ray Godkin however, has come out in support of coach Charlie Walsh as the team prepares for the Commonwealth Games. With the Commonwealth Games just three weeks away the scandal couldn't have come at a worse time for the Australian team. Cycling Australia president Ray Godkin said the controversy did have an unsettling effect on the team.

Ray Godkin: It certainly was unsettling and I can tell you that I was meant to go to Germany on Monday to speak to the riders myself, to address them. But, it's pretty difficult, because I have commitments that I just can't do this. So, what we've done, I've sent over a statement to be read by our high performance manager, Michael Flynn, and I've given them the choice to either comply with the program, and follow the directions given, or pack their bags and leave the team.

Dave Carlson: Head coach Charlie Walsh's former ally, rider Lucy Tyler-Sharman, joined his list of detractors and whilst she made no mention of drugs, she did allege that Walsh was vindictive and out of control.

Ray Godkin: If somebody wants to say that Charlie is the best person as far as handling human beings, I would say they are quite wrong because he is not. And also, Charlie doesn't handle women well, I'm the first to say that too. But, Lucy Tyler hasn't always been one of Charlie's allies. They have had a love-hate relationship ever since she has been involved in Australian cycling.

Dave Carlson: Ray Godkin says he knows the author of the anonymous letter.

Ray Godkin: I could name the person, but I won't. Certainly I know who wrote the letter. There is no doubt about that in my mind, but unfortunately I can't just say that publicly.

Dave Carlson: Is it a rider in the team ?

Ray Godkin: Yes. It is.

Dave Carlson: Australian Commonwealth Games rider Neil Stephens, a member of the drug-disgraced Festina team in the Tour de France has admitted to taking the banned substance EPO, yet was still included in our squad for Kuala Lumpur.

Ray Godkin: Speaking from a cycling official point of view, we can not condem Neil Stephens as a drug user. We have no proof of that.

Dave Carlson: Despite the current controversy Ray Godkin is confident that all problems will be resolved in time for the Commonwealth Games in three weeks and Australia in cycling will come home with a swag of gold medals.

Ray Godkin: I am quite confident that on this occasion Australia will win every cycling medal.

Dave Carlson: Dave Carlson, SBS Sport.

And another take on the Neil Stephens issue:

This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, August 12 and was written by former Rugby Union international Peter Fitzsimons under the headline "Hang on, we can't have it both ways".

It was the sort of thing that made you think ...

DRUG TEST SWOOP, Tour cyclist faces Games check-up, read the headline above a newspaper report yesterday which went on to detail comments from the Australian Cycling Federation president, Ray Godkin.

Godkin was outlining his federation's proposals for ensuring that the cycling team representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games next month would be squeaky-clean. Now hear this, now hear this, the ACF is going to test all those Australian cyclists who haven't already been tested. All of them. No excuses. Before they go. Tested. Don't say you haven't been warned ... because you most certainly have.

"This is something we do before every Olympic and Commonwealth Games," Godkin was quoted as saying. "The testing has already started and we will have screened every team member before the Games begin. It is not that we suspect any of our athletes [are using drugs], we just want to have the assurance. We need to keep everyone on their toes."

With all respect, hasn't the ACF been blown around by the same drugs-in-sport tornado that has been battering all the rest of us recently?

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but in days when drugs can be cleaned out of a cheat's system in as little as five hours, we are surely getting to the point when carefully highlighted routine drug tests such as this are close to ludicrous. Such tests should better be classed as intelligence tests because to fail them would be the surest sign that your IQ is no higher than that of cardboard.

Not for nothing does the Australian Sports Drug Agency do 70 per cent of its testing in out-of-competition periods - because that tends to be when they are least expected.

If such tests are meant to inspire confidence in the inclusion of Neil Stephens in the Australian cycling team, then for mine, it fails.

Stephens has been included in the Commonwealth Games team for Kuala Lumpur only very shortly after being a member of the Festina team that was hoiked out of the Tour de France after serious allegations of systematic drug-taking. Stephens himself has acknowledged that he unkowningly took a banned substance in EPO, insisting that he didn't know what the team doctor was giving him. And maybe he really is absolutely rinky-dink.

But here in Australia, no-one likes to speculate too far the other way, because Stephens is, after all, one of ours - not Chinese or anything - and will surely help bring home our big haul of medals, which is extremely important, so it wouldn't do to make a brouhaha about it, but still ...

But still, even allowing for the fact that we take Stephens at his word, and that he really didn't know what was being put in him - and at least in his defence, he can point to the fact that he has yet to fail a drug test in 14 years of competition - it would seem likely on available evidence that he might have been on the stuff as late as mid-July.

Media reports in France say anyone found guilty of taking EPO faces an automatic six-month ban. Yet we're sending him to compete in green and gold only two months later.

It is not the physical thing. According to Natalie Howson, of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, "EPO will begin to wear off in four to six weeks", so that at least means Stephens will not be benefiting from anything he took back then.

But when Australian sport continues to seek to take the high moral ground when it comes to drug-free international sport, is it wise to be seen to be bending so very far to give one of our own every benefit of the doubt - when we are so quick to accuse the athletes of other nations?

I would suggest we can't have it both ways - and that no amount of testing, after clear warnings to the athletes that they will be tested, will change that perception.

One wonders, just quietly, how we'd all go on a hypocrisy test at the moment.

[article ends].

So stay tuned. There is a long way left in all of this yet.

Italy, Fiorenzuola d'Arda, Sei Giorni delle Rose

Bruno Risi and Giovanni Lombardi won the Sei Giorni delle Rose at the Giuliano Pacciarelli velodrome in Fiorenzuola d'Arda.

 1. Bruno Risi (Swi) - Giovanni Lombardi (Ita)       	287 points.
 2. Marco Villa (Ita) - Adriano Baffi (Ita)          	282
 3. Carsten Wolf (Ger) - Gerd Dorich (Ger)           	163
 4. Ivan Cerioli (Ita) - Kurt Betschart (Swi)        	176 (+1 lap)
 5. Juan Curuchet (Arg) - Gabriel Curuchet (Arg)     	163
 6. Etienne De Wilde (Bel) - Massimo Strazzer (Ita)  	135
 7. Matthew Gilmore (Bel) - Mario Traversoni (Ita)   	166 (+2)

Axel Merckx signs with Mapei

Despite a bogus report that he had signed with Vitalicio Seguros Belgian cyclist Axel Merckx has now signed a 2 year contract with Italian-Belgian team Mapei-Bricobi.

The 26-year old, whose contract expired with Polti at the end of this season, was offered contracts with Lotto-Mobistar and Vitalicio Seguros. The son of Eddy Merckx, the former champion of the world and 5 times winner of the Tour of France, was second at the Clasica San Sebastian last weekend and 10th in the Tour de France (his first).

French ITT Championships

Francisque Teyssier will defend his French National ITT title today around the Lac de Malbuisson (Doubs) against another 21 riders.

Last year he beat Philippe Gaumont by 39 seconds over the 43.7 kms circuit. Christophe Moreau and Laurent Brochard were 3rd and 4th, respectively last year.

Mutuelle de Seine-et-Marne, the smallest of the 7 French teams, are legitimately aiming high with Teyssier, on account of his recent victory in the ITT at the Regio Tour, and also have Gilles Maignan, who is making progress this season.

The principal danger for the team of Yvon Sanquer, is the Festina rider Christophe Bassons who in July, has been preparing for this event in the Alpes. But Bassons, the Espoirs French Champion 3 years ago on the circuit at Herbiers, ceded 17 seconds to Teyssier on the 14.2 kms ITT at the Regio Tour.

Previous French ITT winners are:

1995 (Les Herbiers): 

 1. Thierry Marie 
 2. Pascal Lance 
 3. Bruno Thibout

1996 (Malbuisson): 

 1. Eddy Seigneur 
 2. Laurent Brochard
 3. Christophe Moreau

1997 (Malbuisson): 

 1. Francisque Teyssier 
 2. Philippe Gaumont
 3. Christophe Moreau

Venezuela, Maracaibo, Centro-American Games

Rodrigo Gini, from Brazil sent me these results.

Men's Time Trial: 

 1. Marlon Perez (Col)				     1.02.10 (47.093)
 2. Idiss Alvin Tabarez (Cub)				0.39
 3. Pedro Perez (Cub)					0.44
 4. Domingo González (Mex)				0.58
 5. Jairo Perez (Cub)					2.11

Women Time Trial:

 1. Maureen Kaila-Vergara (ElS)			    36.54.18 (43.900)
 2. Madelin Jorge (Cub)					0.19
 3. Julier Rodriguez (Cub)				1.13
 4. Belen Guerrero (Mex)				2.20
 5. Androsy Paruta (Ven)				3.39

Drugs Update

* 12 members of the Big Mat-Auber 93 team were brought before the Judiciary in Lyon mid-week after the police had discovered banned products in the team truck during the Tour de France.

The riders were accompanied by the Director Sportif, a doctor, some soigneurs and arrived at the enquiry in the morning and were interrogated by police for several hours.

The director of the regional customs in Chambéry, Guy Le Ruyet, said that around 330 bottles and ampoules of drugs were found in the truck. 60% of the drugs were in contravention of the laws.

* Francesco Casagrande is now facing a hearing before the Italian Olympic Committee's disciplinary panel on August 25. He has failed two drug tests - the first at the Tour of Romandie in May and the second later in June. Obviously, he denies it and has said it was all a matter of high vitamin doses. He told the Italian press that: I've been taking high doses of complex amino acids and vitamin E for a while - maybe taking huge quantities for a long time, together with stress, skewed the data. If that were true, I would come out clean. I've done nothing wrong. They are 'integrators', not banned substances that I took in perfect good faith. In seven years as a professional it's the first time anything like this has happened. I immediately thought there had to have been a mistake. I'll race with my head held high."