News for December 20, 1998

Contracts and Transfers

* Italian team Vini Caldirola at present will consist of 16 riders. Valentino Fois is still negotiating with the management of the team to renew his contract. Apparently also in discussions with Vini Caldirola is the Swiss rider Mauro Gianetti.

* Vjatceslav Ekimov, the 32 year old Russian rider, will leave US Postal Service to ride for Amica Chips-Watt, the team of Marino Basso.

Drugs Update

A high ranking sports official in Italy has been charged over drug matters relating to cycling. It was previously thought the charge would be in relation to soccer. The official, Raffaele Pagnozzi, who is the secretary-general of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) told the press on Friday that he had been officially notified that he was being investigated for drug matters.

He said: "It concerns a case of alleged interference regarding positive test results on analyses of a member of the cycling federation. I exclude any responsibility on my part or any behavior that was less than correct."

This revelation follows the news the previous day that Luciano Nizzola, the director of the Italian Football Federation, was to be investigated for his part in the drugs scandal that is gripping national soccer. On Wednesday, the current UEFA and FIFA vice president Antonio Matarrese was also told he was being investigated for the drugs in soccer probe. He had been head of the Italian Football Federation prior to Nizzola, although Pagnozzi had an interim role as special commisioner in between the two. Another football official Carlo Tranquilli, who is the head of the Federation's anti-drug squad was similarly implicated. None appear to be worried.

The football inquiry is investigating problems with drug testing at the Rome centre of CONI. All sports in Italy are administered through CONI and the laboratory in Rome is the main test centre. It has been closed since October on an order of magistrates. The court heard that police had discovered major problems with the testing processes when they raided the centre. The first fallout from those raids was that 5 staff who were technical officers at the laboratory resigned and Mario Pescante, the head of CONI quit. The second wave is now going to the top of Italian sports.

Who will go to the Tour de France?

The chances of Marco Pantani riding in the Tour de France next year are getting slimmer. The Italian will not go to the Tour unless the French judicial authorities and the Tour organisation guarantee that he can bring to the race medicines that he takes which are legal in Italy but forbidden in France. He will race the Tour of Spain instead if the guarantee is not forthcoming.

In France, there are many drugs banned which are allowed in other countries. This was clear when the raids were on during the Tour de France in July. The Italian Tour winner believes that the Tour of Spain in 1999 is more suited to him anyway.

He said: "I will ride the Giro for sure. And I want to ride the Worlds in Verona because the circuit is to my liking. To be in form to contest the World Road Championship I must ride the Vuelta a Espagna. Three national tours in one season is not to be recommended. I thus don't think I will be riding the Tour de France."

The best climber at the moment is not the only one who will be absent from the Tour. Already, World Champion Oscar Camenzind, French star Laurent Jalabert and the Belgian talent Frank Vandenbroucke have said they will definitely not be riding the Tour de France.

Rik Van Looy turns 65

On Sunday, Rik Van Looy turns 65. The "Kaiser from Herentals" retired as a professional in August 1970. Upon retirement, Rik II (Rik Van Steenbergen was Rik I) ran a riding school, and for a time he was also a team manager. But he now lives as a pensioner and is head of the Bloso cycling school in his home town. Ric was a marvellous rider and he won all the great classic. Rik said in his own typical manner - that he had superfast legs and rode with an aggressive style and always looked to attack. That combination led to 401 race victories between 1953 and 1970 as a professional. He won Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem 3 times. He twice won the World Championship, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Tours and Paris-Brussel. He also won Milan-San Remo, Luik-Bastenaken-Luik, the Tour of Lombardy and the Waalse Pijl (Fleche Walloon). By that time he was 35 years old.

He was not a great time trialler nor could he climb well and those limitations stood between him and victory in the great stage races. But as a classics rider he stands next to Eddy Merckx and Rik Van Steenbergen as one of the greatest.

He said about the alleged rivalry between him and the cannibal: "I don't know who was the best - Merckx or myself. I know that Eddy did not let me ride away from him in my last year. I cannot really forecast how he would have gone against me if we were contemporaries."

Van Looy began racing in 1948 in the Kempense Herenthout. He recalls, laughing: "I was lapped 5 times." His last race was the criterium in Valkenswaard. He told his wife Nini on the way home in the car that she had seen his last race. "I have ridden my bike once since then in training - wit Jos Huysmans and Vic Van Schil to Namen. That trip convinced me. Now I just ride. I have some granddaughters who are athletic. I go for some rides on my MTB while they train."

1998 US Cyclocross Championships. Fort Devens, MA. December 18

Espoirs Men:

 1. Tim Johnson (CCB-Volkswagen)	       42.36
 2. Justin Spinelli (NECSA)			0.12
 3. Damon Kluck (LeMond)			0.30
 4. Jonathon Page (Head Shok-Cannondale) 	0.44
 5. Robert Dapice (Dartmouth)			2.35

Collegiate Men:

 1. Alex Candelario (Colorado)		       45.09
 2. Robert Dapice (Dartmouth) 			0.15
 3. Brain Adams (Grand Valley State) 		0.31
 4. Tyler Savage (Plymouth State) 		0.41
 5. Jeffrey Maycock (UMass-Amherst)  		0.42

Masters men 35+:

 1. Gunnar Shogren (Diamondback)	       45.23
 2. Thomas Hayles (Schwab Cycles-Burger King) 	0.45
 3. John Funk (Putney-Fat City) 		0.52
 4. Scott Wade (Gear Works) 			1.22
 5. Tom Stevens (Gear Works)			1.23

Junior Men:

 1. Matt Kelly (LeMond)			       45.21
 2. Will Frischkorn (Hot Tubes) 		0.30
 3. James Lillard (DEVO) 			0.44
 4. Bill Skinner 				1.44
 5. Peter Lawler (Richard Sachs) 		2.07
Thanks to Paul Boudreau

Jim Ferguson Interviewed by Karen Tighe

This is a transcript from the ABC Radio Grandstand program, Saturday December 19 1998. Karen Tighe, the ABC presenter is interviewing Jim Ferguson from the Australian Sports Commission, who is heading an inquiry into the Australian Track program. Thanks to Laurie Cousins who sends me these transcripts.

Karen: Well, the investigation into the Australian Track Cycling program has been completed with the findings to be released early next week. The inquiry was launched last month after concerns were expressed by a number of cyclists about the mangement of the Australian Track Cycling program. Earlier this morning I spoke with the executive director of the Australian Sports Commission, Jim Ferguson, who headed up the inquiry, and started by asking him what still has to be done before the findings are made public?

Jim: We've conveyed it to Cycling Australia. But we only did that late yesterday. We obviously want to give them an opportunity to have a look at it, and to talk to them privately, before we say anything in public about it.

Karen: When are you hoping now that the findings will be made public?

Jim: We would anticipate releasing the recommendations, I would think, on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, at this stage.

Karen: Did Lucy Tyler-Sharman give evidence to the inquiry last Monday?

Jim: In the end we were not able to have an interview with her. She declined that because of the action that has been taken in the Court of Arbitration and she felt that to give evidence or to appear before us may have conflicted with that action. But, she did put in a very long submission.

Karen: And, that's been taken into thorough consideration in the investigation?

Jim: Absolutely.

Karen: How many cyclists were interviewed, Jim, as a result of their submissions?

Jim: We had overall about 27 or 28 written submissions and they came from current and former cyclists, coaching and support staff, some of the state institutes, some of the network coaches and of course people from the cycling association. we conducted 38 interviews with roughly the same groups of people.

Karen: Are you satisfied that a thorough investigation has been completed?

Jim: I think that it has been very thorough.

Karen: In your mind, Jim, is this the end of the matter to concerns over the management of the Australian Track Cycling program?

Jim: Well, there are some things in our recommendations which will need to be put into effect. So, I think the report is not the end of the process, but I suppose it's the end of one part of the process. But, it's the beginning of another part of the process. There are a number of recommendations that we make that will require action to be taken in certain areas. We would hope that that action can be taken quickly.

Karen: You were saying you hope the findings would be made public by next Tuesday or Wednesday. The individual submissions, by the cyclists and officials that have approached you through this investigation, will they be made public?

Jim: No. They won't be and we have made it clear to everybody that wrote to us, or spoke to us, that anything that they said to us would be treated with absolute confidentiality and not released to anybody.

Karen: Obviously, at the end of the findings, and when it is made public next week there will be a section, I suppose, of the people that have approached you that will still feel disenchanted, which ever way the recommendations go. Is there any concern by the Sports Comission that these concerns will be taken on through the media in weeks to come?

Jim: I would be surprised if that was the case. We found actually a very strong consistency of views from pretty well everybody that we spoke to. Now, they varied a bit in subtly and they varied a bit in where the emphasis was, but overall there was a fairly coherent view. So, I would be surprised if anybody was really concerned by it. We haven't - bear in mind we weren't trying a apportion blame for anything that might have happened in the past - we didn't look at it in that light. We were trying to come up with sensible and practical and positive recommendations to improve the program for the future. And, I think that that is what we have done. So, if there are some people that were hoping that they might be vindicated, or something, they might be disappointed. but, I think in terms of the future of the program it's pretty positive.

Karen: Alright, Jim. we look forward, with a lot of interest to next Tuesday or Wednesday to see the findings and the recommendations of the Australian Sports Commission. Thank you again for your time on Grandstand.

Jim: Okay. Thank you.