News for August 8, 1998

The drugs scandal update

* A major drugs scandal has now hit an Australian Olympic sport. Guess which one? Laurie Cousins, a regular reporter from has written telling me about a phone call he had with a leading sport's journalist in Australia trying to work out what the story which I reproduce below is about. It was confirmed later on Friday that the National TV channel 9 will be running a story on their "Sports Saturday" show at 16.00. I will bring you reports when Laurie gets back to me on this. I can hardly watch Channel 9 from Maastricht! But the ABC radio Grandstand program is also likely to be giving this story big airplay tomorrow.

Later today, top cycling journalist Roger Vaughan, who writes for AAP, has confirmed that the Australian Sport's Commission (ASC) has said that the allegations are from Lucy Tyler-Sharman from the National Track Cycling team and were targetted against National Cycling Coach Charlie Walsh.

Vaughan reports that the ASC Sport's Management Director Geoff Strang has "strongly denied suggestions head coach Charlie Walsh had condoned illegal drug use, saying there had never been accusations of that nature. He confirmed top pursuit rider Lucy Tyler-Sharman had a major falling out this year with Walsh and had left the squad with her husband, sprinter Graham Sharman, to train in the American city of Allentown."

It appears that it was not Tyler-Sharman who has made the sexual harassment complaint against one of the masseurs but it was in the cycling team.

Apparently, Strang had travelled to the team's camp in Colorado to resolve the issue.

Stay tuned.

Anyway, this article was written by Leo Schlink and published in the Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday August 7. It was filed under the headlines "Sex, drug claims rock Olympic squad" and goes....

The Australian Sports Commission is investigating a string of allegations made by an Olympic athlete against a high profile coach. The allegations have sparked an immediate probe by the commission, which is reportedly shocked by the nature and the force of the claims. The coach, one of the most respected in the international arena, has been accused of condoning illegal use of drugs and turning a blind eye to sexual harassment of athletes. The claims have prompted the comission to send one of its highest-ranking officials overseas to interview the athlete - an Olympic medallist - the coach and support staff. When contacted separately by the "Herald Sun", both parties said they were not prepared to speak on the record under a team agreement which precludes public comment. But the "Herald Sun" understands the dispute has been simmering for more than three months.

At issue is:

  1. Control of the national squad, which contains world champions and Olympic and Commomwealth games medallists.
  2. The alleged refusal of athletes to undergo compulsory sports science blood testing during a training camp.
  3. Suggestions of sexual harassment.
  4. Accusations that the coach is vindictive and out of control.
  5. The failure of four athletes training outside the program, but answerable to it, to present themselves for drug tests.

The coach is said to have been shocked by the ferocity of the claims by an athlete he has cultivated under difficult circumstances. It is understood he has warned members of his family to brace themselves for news of the story - when it eventually emerges. The athlete is said by industry sources to be determined to topple the coach. The sending of the letter is believed to have been timed to coincide with selection discussions. An official within the sport last night said "all the coaches, athletes and staff would be put under the microscope" by the end of September. The athlete making the accusations is understood to have won the support of at least one other prominent competitor.

* The raid by the Police in France during the Tour de France on the hotel room of TVM in Pamiers (July 23) has now been officially declared a failure - the cops found absolutely nothing that was on the banned list. All they found was some caffeine. The lawyer for TVM Joost van Mierlo said in Reims to that this null finding should lead to the immediate release of Cees Priem, Andrei Michailov and Jan Moors, who have all been held in jail in Reims on drugs offences.

* The Dutch newspaper, the Algemeen Dagblad (Aug 7) has carried a sensational story of doping. Apparently, the soigneur of Gerolsteiner, Albert Groenhoff, gave an injection to Michael van der Wolf on January 27 during a training camp in Mallorca. Van der Wolf has now confessed in a tell-all interview. He said that the soigneur had told him that: "Everything will be okay, he said frequently." But the soigneur gave him Deca-Duraboline and that's on the UCI banned list.

Van der Wolf said: "Groenhoff assured me that it wasn't on the banned list. He said he had spoken to Swiss doctors about it. But it didn't work anyway and I still had a pain in my knee. It only gave me misery.

During the Tour of Murcia the doping committte tested Van der Wolf and he went positive and is now serving a 6 month suspension (starting on May 28). Groenhoff confirmed he was guilty in administering the drug to Van der Wolf. He wrote in a statement: "On January 27, I gave Van der Wolf a syringe with 0.5 ml of Deca-Duraboline. I did not know that it would stay in the body for so long. Now I know it can stay for 6-12 months. But at the time no-one knew this."

Van der Wolf explains: "My teammates, except Raymond Meijs, still think I have a sickness (Pfeiffer) and that is why I am not racing. I lie to everybody. In relation to Festina and TVM I'm a little pawn, but the drugs incident has had great consequences for me."

Van der Wolf told the press that the Gerolsteiner team manager Dieter Koslar said to him that if he brought this affair out into the public the team would stop his salary during the suspension. If he maintained his silence then Van der Wolf could sign for another year with Gerolsteiner. He said: "So now that I have revealed it, I have to wait to see what the sponsor will do. But I know for sure that there still many riders in the peloton who are as naive as I am."

This affair was instrumental in the departure of assistant manager Peter Verbeek from Gerolsteiner. Verbeek explains: "It happened with Van der Wolf before I was involved with Gerolsteiner. But when I knew I wanted the soigneur to be sacked immediately. But he was not fired."

The KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation) found that Van der Wolf guilty but "with limited blame" and therefore gave him the lighter sentence of 6 months. Both parties agreed to keep the penalty secret. But this week Van der Wolf's name was listed in the UCI newsletter as being suspended for doping. Van der Wolf says: "Hardly anyone knew up until now. But it is a relief because I hate telling lies. I can be honest again as to why I am not riding."

* Dutch rider Patrick Eyk is also on the UCI list of suspended riders but he is not to be punished. Eyk, who rides with the American team Navigators, failed to attend a drugs test after a road race in Atlanta. Team manager Ray Cipollini (who was fined 3,000 Swiss Francs) failed to tell Eyk that he was required to undergo the test. Eyk successfully appealed against the 6 months sentence.

* - In Australia, top sporting bodies are asking the IOC to get tough with sport's that fail to comply with drug rules. The Australian IOC delegate, Kevin Gosper told the Australian press that: "This is where we need to regain the moral high ground. Maybe the public and the corporate world views that the IOC leadership is not coming up with new initiatives and ideas."

The issue of cycling was raised specifically. The Australian Olympic Committee is becoming very scared of a major doping scandal at the 2000 Games. They are also very critical of the comments from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch last week about the need to relax doping standards.

Australia wants sponsors to withdraw from sports where cheating is going on.

Tour de France MTB

The Tour de France ATB starts in Briancon on Sunday. The route is as follows:

August 9: 
Briancon - Guillestre, 47 kms 
Guillestre - Embrun, 30 kms

August 10:
Crevoux - Station des Orres, 30 kms 
Station des Orres - Savines le Lac, 30 kms

August 11:
Savines le Lac - Gap, 48 kms

August 12: 
Sisteron - Oraison 68 kms 
Oraison - St. Etienne les Orgues 24 kms

August 13: 
ITT St. Etienne les Orgues 16 kms
St. Etienne les Orgues - Sault 45 kms

August 14: 
Sault - Apt 47 kms
Apt - Manosque 49 km;

August 15: 
Creoux les Bains - Draguignan 89 kms

August 16: 
Draguignan - Draguignan 36 kms