The President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch has called for performance-enhancing drugs in sport to be legalised. And two cycling teams have already come in behind the call: Banesto and ONCE. The manager of ONCE Manolo Saiz told the press that: "I think these were good words from Saramanch, to set us on a good course in professional sport."
The manager of Banesto, told the press that: "I'm completely in agreement with Saramanch. I'm also pleased that he has chosen this time to speak out. It's very important because our sport needs to recapture its long-held good image. His comments are extremely important and we have to take advantage of them."
The call by Samaranch came in an interview in the Sunday edition of El Mundo, the Spanish newspaper. He told the newspaper that: "As it stands, all those substances prohibited by the medical commission of the International Olympic Committee are considered as doping substances. For me, this is not sufficient. Drug taking is anything which firstly damages the health of the sportsman and, secondly, artificially improves his performance. If something produces just the second effect, then for me it's not drug-taking. If it produces the first, then yes. The list of products must be reduced drastically. Anything that doesn't adversely affect the health of the athlete, for me isn't doping."
Ambassadors of other sports were highly critical of the call however. The English press quoted two of the greatest middle distance runners David Moorcroft, Steve Ovett, and Steve Cram. Ovett: "How do you define dangerous? Is it when someone keels over and dies?" Cram: "I totally disagree with the sentiments." Moorcroft: "As soon as we give in to the notion that anything goes then the concept of fair competition has no meaning."
Riis in denial mode
1996 Tour de France winner, Bjarne Riis has reacted aggressively to the rumours that he used banned drugs. He vehemently denied the claims.
Priem to Reims
Meanwhile, Cees Priem (TVM manager) and the Russian doctor Alexandrei Mikhailov have been taken by car from Foix where they have been detained since last Thursday. They are being taken to Reims (North-east) where a judge is set to conduct further investigations relating to the possession and smuggling of drugs.
The feeling is that is specific charges are laid in Reims, then TVM will be expelled from the Tour de France, in the same way that Festina was thrown out. However the French judge investigating the matter has said today (Monday) that there is currently no evidence to link the drug caches found to the TVM riders. He said there was no "real parallel" between the current information available in the TVM case and the Festina case.
The Le Monde Editorial
Heather Williams sent me the full text (translated) of the Editorial in the influential French daily, Le Monde from July 25, where they called for the Tour to stop. It was under the headline "The Tour Must Stop".
The 1998 Tour de France is over. In truth, it never started. Stained since the 8th of July by the arrest of soigneur Willy Voet, which opened the Festina affair, the most famous of cycling races is turning itself inside out to maintain its status as a sporting event - but it has become a soap opera. Will anyone be able to rejoice in the arrival in Paris of a diminished peloton with a compromised reputation? Who will have the heart to cheer for the winner of a race without ethics or rules? And who will find the courage to say stop, we've seen too much, done too much, and above all, hidden too much? This edition of the Tour de France must stop.
Just as soon as the Festina affair was over, the TVM affair got underway. The Swiss justice system will be looking into the suspect medical case of a racer from the Française des Jeux team. France 2 found strange pharmaceutical products in the wastebaskets of the Italian team Asics. Soon, we won't hesitate to speculate publicly about the nature of the illnesses that previously struck professional riders, to ask why champions who had been caught using illegal substances and suspended are still cavorting at the head the peloton, winning stages, wearing the yellow jersey. Does this make sense? Of course not.
Since it has a former bicycle racer to the head of the race's organizing staff (Jean-Marie Leblanc), since it is run by the only french daily sports paper (L'Equipe), and since it counts among its administrators an eminent member of the International Olympic Committee (Jean-Claude Killy), the group that controls the Tour de France is fully aware of the strange customs of the peloton and the terrible consequences of doping. It is up to this group to prevent the shipwreck of this race, a race which it has made the primary representative of cycling, to save what is good and rebuild this most prestigious of all competitions on a more solid foundation. Because, on the sides of the roads, the public (which incidentally seems to be less numerous and enthusiastic than usual) understands that they have been shortchanged, while, in the office towers, the sponsors worry about the damage to their image.
So, this once, the show must not go on. The peloton should dismount and examine its conscience. The police and the justice system should work without pressure from anyone. The organizers, the appropriate organizations and federations, the medical profession, and the public authorities should open the debate that they have refused to engage in for years, because of fear or self-interest. If it wishes to survive, the Tour de France, a part of popular culture which has figured so strongly in the history of sport, should not avoid the truth any longer - or it will have decided to die and to take our childhood dreams with it.
Neil Stephens admits to drug taking
Neil Stephens who has consistently denied taking any performance-enhancing drugs has now admitted that he probably did but though they were just vitamin supplements. He has issued a statement from his home in Spain which also alleges illegal treatment by Lyon police.
Stephens has now been forced to admit that the evidence presented to the investigating police in Lyon during the enquiry into Festina's systematic drug taking, shows clearly that he has been using EPO. He now faces a minimum 6 months ban for cheating. He will begin the suspension (if it is imposed) from the time he made the confession to police (July 22). For Australian cycling fans this means that the coup by Phill Bates, organiser of the Cycling Classic in October to get Stephens to ride for one of the competing teams, will be thwarted.
Stephens told the Lyon police that the team doctor Erik Ryckaert had said he was taking vitamin C and E supplements in addition to some minerals. He faces no criminal charges because the police are more concerned with the international drug trafficking side of the affair rather than the drugs in sport issue.
He was asked why he had not made it clear to the doctor that he was against drugs in sport. He agreed he did not question the medical practices of the Festina team at the time.
Allegations of illegal behaviour by the Police are also made by Stephens. He said he was stripped and given a full "bent-over" body search. He told the national Australian daily, The Australian (published July 27), that: "They took all my clothes, put me in a cell with a wooden bed, a pillow and no blanket. I was given my pants and socks back to sleep in, but when I went for a pee they wouldn't give me my shoes. I had to stand there in my socks, over one of those holes in the floor and do it. Later they gave me my jeans back. I wanted my handkerchief, but they wouldn't give it to me. They asked me if I had a sinus problem. I said I did, but they said I didn't have the right."
Stephens is going to mount the defence of ignorance to the Australian Cycling Federation. He will claim he didn't know he was doing anything illegal. He also will say that the contract between him and the Festina team (via Bruno Roussel's promotion company) required that each rider obey the medical arrangements within the team.
Other Australian press reactions
Leading cycling journalist Roger Vaughan who files for AAP has also investigated the Stephens issue. He reported that the President of Cycling Australia, Ray Godkin was backing Stephens naivety in claiming that he was given banned substance under the veil of vitamin tablets. Vaughan (in an AAP story issued on July 27) quotes Godkin: "I have had many, many conversations over the years with Neil on this sort of topic and, in my eyes, his credibility is of the highest standard. If the evidence is irrefutable that Neil was given substances like synthetic EPO without his knowledge, then in my book that is extremely criminal and dishonest. If that's happened, it's an absolute disgrace. However, if it is proved he is a (intentional) drug user, then he should be treated like any other drug user. I am here to defend him unless there is proof otherwise - he has always been completely on our side in the fight against drugs in sport."
Stephens told Roger Vaughan that he had "little enthusiasm" for riding anymore. He said the the night he spent in jail was the worst of his life. He quotes Stephens: "My cell had blokes' names written on the walls in brown lettering - you can guess they hadn't been given brown crayons, they had used their own faeces."
Whilst the Mens Tour de France continues towards the Champs Elysees in Paris, the AIS-Australian Womens team is preparing in earnest for the annual challenge of the Womens Tour de France Feminin.
First up, the Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany, will be used as the last lead-up race to the Tour de France Feminin, and is Germany's Women's national tour, holding a Category 1 ranking on the U.C.I. list of competitions. It will be held from July 29 to August 2.
The 1998 Women's Tour de France will start on August 11 in Bourges ( 350 km south of Paris), and over 12 days will cover predominantly the Alps and Pyrenees regions, finishing with a 20 km twilight time-trial in Strasbourg on August 22.
On August 9 in La Chapelle Saint Ursin (near Bourges), the 4th round of the World Cup will preclude the Tour.
Anna Wilson has been in scintilating form in the USA and ITALY this year, with 4 stage wins, a sprint jersey in the USA and the points jersey in the Giro to add to her continually improving tally of wins, she is now ranked number 1 in the world this year with 13 wins to her credit.
[Bill notes: my research team did some research on this claim. Well We thought that there must have been some dramatic change that had somehow escaped being reported in www.cyclingnews.com but we found via - http://www.uci.ch/english/road/rankings/roadrank_ind_fem_980621.htm - that, as we thought, Hanka Kupfernagel was still sitting on top of the list with 431 points. Running down the list, we eventually came to the name WILSON, ANNA at 37th place with 49 points. I wonder what the other 36 riders think of the Australian manager's claim]
Liz Tadich is well on her way to being 100% fit for the tour, following some lower back problems in the USA and the GIRO, and confident the Tour and the rest of the season will have her back to her best.
Tracey Gaudry and Juanita Feldhahn have continued to strengthen the depth of the team, and their support towards Anna's results have not gone unnoticed. A stage win for either is a possibilty, after Juanita's fantastic Stage 11 win in 1997.
Geraldine Denham concludes her European program with the Thuringen tour next week. Geraldine was Australia's leading junior last year, and had a consistent summer in New Zealand and Australia, before accepting an invitation to join the Senior team in Europe on a 2 month development plan as one of Australia's riders of the future.
Geraldine will return to Australia after Thuringen a stronger and wiser rider for the future. Her contribution to the team's results in the recent Giro have not gone unnoticed, and she is looking forward to forthcoming opportunities through the summer in Australia, and no doubt a consideration for European duties in 1999.
Mary Grigson, Australia's No. 1 ranked Mountain Biker, and currently 9th in the UCI World Cup MTB rankings, earned a start in the Tour de France Feminin after a strong ride in the Tour de Snowy in Australia in April. After discussions between National Womens Road Coach, James Victor, National Road Selectors and MTB Coach Damian Grundy, Mary has been given the opportunity to maximise her physical capacities from the Womens Tour de France, leading into the World MTB championships in Canada in September.
Many of the worlds leading women's mountain bikers, including World No. 1 ranked, Alison Sydor of Canada, use the Tour de France as their major road preparation for the World MTB Championships, and with the form Mary displayed with the ACT Academy team back in April, her support to the team will be a welcome asset.
Unfortunately, due to Kim Palmer's injury in the Giro d'Italia, she will be returning to Australia soon, and has been a late withdrawal from the Australian team. After recommendations from neuro-surgeons in Germany, and follow-up consultation with an Australian neurosurgeon, it has been decided that Kim give her delicate injury a chance to fully recover, without running the risk of further nerve damage to her arm.
She has been replaced by 1996 Australian Criterium Champion, Kristy Scrymgeour, who performed extremely well for the team in her first-up start for the Australian team in the recent Giro d'Italia. Her bunch skills and tactical nowse in fast finishes helped Anna to a brilliant 3rd stage win, and will again will be a welcome addition.
The AIS-Australian team has been racing confidently this year, and in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in September and World Championships in October, the team are confident of a strong finish to their 1998 international campaign.
Thuringen Rundfahrt, Germany, July 29 to August 2 Trophee International, World Cup #4, France, August 9 Tour de France Feminin, France, August 11-22.
Juanita Feldhahn, Qld Tracey Gaudry, ACT Kristy Scrymgeour, NSW Liz Tadich, Vic Anna Wilson, Vic Geraldine Denham, Vic (Thuringen Rundfahrt) Mary Grigson, ACT (Tour de France Feminin)
For the Tour de France Feminin, the following details are available for hotels and contacts.
August 7 and 8 Auberge F.U.A.J. Jacques Coeur, BOURGES Phone : + 33 248 655146 Fax : + 33 248 245809 August 9 and 10 IBIS Montlucon, MONTLUCON Ph : + 33 470 284842 Fax : + 33 470 285862 August 11 Auberge de Jeunesse du Volcan, Le MONT DORE Ph : + 33 473 650353 Fax : + 33 473 652639 August 12 Notre Dame de France, LOURDES Ph : + 33 562 949145 Fax : + 33 562 945721 August 13 Les Peyrieres, RODEZ OLEMPS Ph / Fax : + 33 656 82052 Augst 14 and 15 Climat de France, MONTFAVET Ph : + 33 490 881500 Fax : + 33 490 893679 August 16 IBIS Prado, MARSEILLE Ph : + 33 491 257373 Fax : + 33 491 256302 August 17 Centre International De Valbonne, SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS Ph : + 33 492 965200 Fax : + 33 492 965299 August 18 Du pre VERT, GAP Ph : + 33 492 524584 Fax : + 33 492 520691 August 19 Koening, BARTENHEIM Ph : + 33 389 683029 Fax : + 33 389 682698 August 20 ODCV Chalet d'Artimont, La BRESSE Ph : + 33 329 254272 Fax : + 33 329 256456 August 21 and 22 Auberge de Jeunesse, STRASBOURG Ph : + 33 388 455420 Fax : + 33 388 455421
Malmedy, France, MTB Cross Country Cup: Men 1. Van den Abeele (Bel) 2. Paulissen (Bel) 3. Richard Groenendaal (Ned), 4. Van Mil (Ned)
Note: Bart Brentjens fell and broke his collar bone for the second time this season. He now will miss the European Championships.
Women 1. Laroy (Bel) 2. Geysen (Bel) 3. Ravenstijn (Ned) 4. Lensen (Ned) Stettin, Poland, European Track Championships: Men's Omnium: Pursuit: 1. Narsnichi (Pol) 3.28,823 Scratchrace: 1. Vonhoff (Ger) Miss and Out: 1. Pollach (Ger) Points: ? Final Standings: 1. Pollach 2. Vonhoff 3. Narsnichi Women's Omnium: Pursuit: 1. Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Ned) 2.29.813 Scratchrace: 1. Silicoessareva (Rus) Miss and Out: 1. Zijlaard-Van Moorsel Points: 1. Silicoessareva 2. Zijlaard-Van Moorsel Final Standings: 1. Silicoessareva 2. Zijlaard-Van Moorsel 3. Samonvalova GP Boekel, International Women's Race: ITT: 1. Vermast (Ned) 4.7 km in 6.41 2. Teutenburg (Ger) 0.05 3. Janita Hulzebosch (Ned) 0.08 Stage 1: 1. Debby Mansveld (Ned) 120 km in 2.30.10 2. Müller (Ger) 3. Vermast (Ned) Final GC: 1. Vermast, 2. Mansveld 3. Teutenberg Bovenkarspel, West Friesland Championship, Elite: 1. Degelink (Hoogkarspel) 110 km in 2.39.10 2. Gorter (Vierhouten) 3. Wagenmaker (Hoogkarspel)
1. Stuart Dangerfield 1.13.00 2. David Miller 1.14.22 3. Tim Buckle 1.14.53 4. Colin Sturgess 1.15.53 5. Matt Bottrill 1.15.54 6. Kevin Dawson 1.15.57From Paul Curran, England
Bradley Wiggins won the world junior pursuit title in Cuba last week. Tonight, he presented the winners of the girls and boys juvenile events with their medals and flowers. Those with a long memory may think the name "Hallam" is familiar. Ian Hallam was a respectable trackie for the GB team in the 1970's. I understand Ben is his nephew.
In the heats for the 20 km scratch race, top sprinter Peter Jacques crashed heavily, bloodying his nose, but remounted to lead out the final sprint and take second place (final Saturday night).
Girls Under 16 500 m time trial (new event): 1. Nicole Cooke (Cardiff Ajax CC) 41.673 (43.193 km/h) 2. Laura Hewitt (Mossley St Joseph CRT) 42.764 3. Femke van Schelven (Mossley St Joseph CRT) 43.329 4. G. Chapman (Beeston RC) 43.750 5. Claire Dixon (Mossley St Joseph CRT) 44.250 Boys Under 16 500 m time trial: 1. G. Holland (Brixton Cycles) 35.958 2. K. Story (Team Brite RT) 36.879 3. R. Sutcliffe (Team Brite RT) 37.216 Junior 1000 m time trial: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Team Brite RT) 1.08.215 (52 km/h) 2. Ben Hallam (Team Brite RT) 1.10.025 3. G. Wiseman (Team Lusso) 1.10.277 Open 20 km scratch race: 1. Rob Wood (Harrods-Giant) 2. Peter Jacques (City of Edinburgh RT) 3. T. Gibb (Condor Cycles) Veteran Scratch race: 1. Mark Zaschke (Mid-Anglia Wheelers) 2. N. Giles (CC Lancashire) 3. A. Trueman (Twickenham CC) Women's 500 m time trial: 1. Wendy Everson (British Cycling Federation) 2. J. Forrester (Condor Cycles) 3. M. Szubrycht (Universal Cycling Club) 4. Sally Boyden (Clarkes Contracts CRT) 4000 metres team pursuit: 1. Team Brite RT (Matt Illingworth, Rob Hayles, Brian Steel, & ?) 2. Harrods-Giant 3. City of Edinburgh RT Girls Under 16 sprint: 1. Nicole Cooke (Cardiff Ajax) 2. Laura Hewitt (Mossley St Joseph's CRT) 3. Femke van Schelven (Mossley St Joseph's CRT) Junior 3000 metre pursuit: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Team Brite RT) Women's 15 km scratch race: 1. Melanie Szubrycht (Universal Cycling Club) 2. Sally Boyden (Clarkes Contracts CRT) 3. Angela Hunter (Team Ambrosia)
This turned into an interesting episode. The final had to be re-run due to a crash on the very last bend in the first final. Five riders came down heavily at very high speed, including 2 riders from the Team Brite RT, two from VC San Raphael, and defending champion Peter Jacques. One rider's forks snapped off in the crash, leaving nasty jagged metal ends. Lots of lost skin, but (amazingly) only one broken collar bone.
Several riders blamed Jacques, and in the re-run of the race there appeared to be a determined effort by several riders to block him. Twice in the final lap Jacques was forced right up to the very top of the track (by different riders).
The order across the line was:
1. Craig Percival (Team Brite) 2. Alwyn McMath (CC Lancashire) 3. R. Darley (Brixton Cycles) 4. R. Kennedy (Chesterfield Coureurs)
The judges initially announced that Alwyn McMath had moved off his racing line, and been relegated to last place. However, an appeal was placed with the judges, so they have said they will announce their decision tomorrow (Monday).