News for January 13, 1999

Danish TV claim Riis used drugs in 1995

Jon Jay Neufeld, who regularly reports on Danish matters has sent this excellent report on the small item I carried yesterday. Susanne Horsdal, a Danish journalist also helped me corroborate information.

'Danmarks Radio,' the national broadcasting service in Denmark, presented the first of a two-part series entitled "The Price of Silence" on Danish television Monday evening. The program included previously unshown video footage - some of it 3½ years old - documenting the use of doping ONCE, and Gewiss-Ballan in 1995. Of greatest significance was the possible consequences which the program can have for Bjarne Riis. While the journalists who had produced the program avoided directly accusing Riis of using EPO, they allowed the circumstantial evidence to speak for itself.

The program began with an excerpt from an interview with Willy Voets, in which he explained the care with which he disposed of the evidence of the use of banned substances by Festina riders while he was a soigneur for the now-scandalized squad - packing the used needles and ampules in a bag, which was to be later discarded in an arbitrary garbage can a good distance away from the team hotel.

Apparently not all soigneurs have been as thorough as Mr. Voets, not even after the summer’s doping-plagued Tour de France. Video footage was shown of a soigneur disposing of a bag beside a dumpster outside of a hotel where the team had spent a single night during Giro de Puglia, 30 September 1998, in Besglie. The Danish journalists retrieved the bag and kept the film running while emptying its contents, which included the packaging from a box of Neoton 500, a banned substance, as well as 17 used needles and a single ampule from which the label had been carefully removed. The ampule was later tested at a medical laboratory in Copenhagen, which concluded that the ampule had contained EPO. To make it all the more grotesque, while the soigneur had tried to conceal the bag in a cardboard box beside the dumpster, the used needles had actually been stuffed into a used cycling hat!

Other footage dated from September 7-8, 1995, was from that year’s Vuelta, which was won by Laurent Jalabert. After ONCE checked out of their team hotel (Auriense) the morning of the 6th stage, the Danish journalists apparently gained entry to the hotel room (#322) which had been occupied by ONCE’s team doctor, José Aremendi. Aremendi would seem to have left behind a large bag of garbage in his room, which the journalists dutifully took with them. The nine riders on the team had spent a single night in the hotel. The bag of garbage included 22 used and bloody needles, and 13 different forms of medication. There were also six ampules from which the labels had been carefully removed. In the same bag, labels for Epopen - a product name for EPO - were found, which matched the ampules. The six ampules were taken back to Copenhagen and tested, which indicated that they had all included EPO.

This finding would seem to be in harmony with Alex Zülle’s recent testimony that he has been employing EPO for four years, including during his time with ONCE. Nicolas Terrados, ONCE’s current team doctor, categorically denied having knowledge of any use of EPO by any ONCE riders at any time. Zülle otherwise claims that it was Terrados and Aremendi who had administered EPO to him.

In an interview with Erwann Mentheour, who wore the yellow leader’s jersey in Tour de l’Avenir in 1997, the young rider recounted his experience with doping while riding as a pro - two years in which he used EPO, growth hormone and "other drugs." He spoke of taking the "Belgian Mixture" which was used for training and races without drug control. While he was not aware of the exact contents of the mix at that time, he has since been told that it was a mix of amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and pain suppressants. After switching to the Italian AKI in 1996, Mentheour claims that he became introduced to ‘professional’ doping. Here he was offered EPO and anabolic steroids, "If you would have told me that in order to win the Tour de France I had to drink a liter of motor oil, I would have done it."

Most dramatic for the Danish viewers was information concerning national hero Bjarne Riis - that EPO was being used by Gewiss-Ballan riders in 1995, at which time Riis was with the team. The journalists have apparently come in the possession of papers documenting the testing of Gewiss-Ballan riders’ hematocrit levels in 1995. According to these papers, Gewiss-Ballan riders were tested on 14 January 1995, at which time Riis had a hematocrit level of 41.1% (normal for an adult male). Six months later, on 10 July 1995, the rest day of that year’s Tour, just days after Riis had worn the maillot jaune for the first time, tests indicated that his hæmatocrit levels were then 56.3%.

One month later, while in Denmark for the Tour of Denmark, the six Gewiss-Ballan riders spent the night of 3 August 1995 at Hotel Scandic in the Danish town of Kolding. The morning of 4 August 1995 journalists again made a doping find in a hotel room (#602), where Gewiss soigneur Paolo Ganzerli had slept the night. This time it was a Gewiss bag filled with 12 used and bloodied needles; an ampule which, according to its label and tests, had included Recomon 5000 (a product name for EPO); and three ampules from which the labels had been removed. Subsequent tests proved that two of the ampules had contained EPO.

The program included a recent interview with Ganzerli, who now has his own sports clinic in San Marino, which he has opened since having retired from 15 years as a soigneur in professional cycling. Ganzerli, after being shown footage of the journalists’ find in his room during the Tour of Denmark in 1995, acknowledges his role in the use of EPO while he had been working as a soigneur, claiming that it was normal on all teams at that time, "It was the team doctor, who prescribed it for the riders." Ganzerli continues on his own accord, "It [EPO] is a fantastic form of medicine which is used in hospitals as a substitute for hemoglobin. If it is taken under medical supervision and isn’t misused, then there are no problems with it. I have never heard of a rider who felt badly, fainted, or died from it. There are other things that are a lot worse. There are hormones that are more dangerous that EPO. It has been used since 1988." Ganzerli claims that EPO was used by almost all of the riders with whom he had contact, "It depended on their doctors." Concerning Riis, Ganzerli says, "Bjarne knew about it, but I have never actually seen him take it." And to top it off, the walls of his clinic were decorated with the very yellow jersey which Riis had worn while representing Gewiss in 1995!

Riis remains steadfast in his denial of having ever consumed a banned substance of any kind, "Those aren't my numbers - Anybody can come with a piece of paper. I don't even remember having my blood tested on the rest day of the 1995 Tour. Of course I have never used EPO." Since the program was aired, Riis has demanded access to the papers, which allegedly document his 1995 hematocrit levels. The Dane has demanded to see the papers, and his lawyer has made it clear that they will sue Danmarks Radio in the event they do not provide them with the documents.

The second and final part of the program is to be shown Tuesday evening. It is reported that it will include revelations concerning the use of doping by Deutsch Telekom.

Aart Vierhouten in hospital

Rabobank professional Aart Vierhouten has returned to the Netherlands on Tuesday and will be operated on for a broken pelvis at the end of this week. He injured himself during a training camp in Spain. He arrived at Schijpol (Amsterdam) and was taken to the emlandziekenhuis, the hospital in Amersfoort. After a day in quarantaine, he will then undergo surgery.

Belgium, Otegem, Cyclocross, Cat 2, January 11

 1. Sven Nijs (Bel)                          1.03.10
 2. Mario De Clercq (Bel)                       0.36
 3. Marc Janssens (Bel)                         1.05
 4. Peter Van Santvliet (Bel)                   1.16
 5. Kurt De Roose (Bel)                         1.24

Local rider dies

Perth cyclist Peter Clark was out training on Sunday when he was hit by a car that ran a red light. He was only 20, but had already been WA junior road and criterium champion, and had competed at National level for WA.

It is a sad loss for his family and the racing community of WA. Deepest sympathy.

Dutch Cyclocross Championships at Gieten in 2000

The Dutch Cycling Federation (KNWU) has awarded the 2000 National Cyclecross championships tot he organising committee at Gieten. The Women, Under-23, and Elite races will be on Sunday January 9. On January 8 the championships for Cylosportieven, Veterans and Nieuwelingen will be decided.

The KNWU also decided on the location for the Dutch Road Championships for the next 2 years. They will be held in Gulpen, in the southern province of Limburg. The Under-23 and Women's races will be held on Saturday June 26 next year with the Elite race the following day. In previous years the championships have been held in the nearby town of Meerssen. But the parcours was no longer available because of traffic problems. The KNWU and the current organiser found the course in Gulpen to be suitable.

Extra precautionary measures for the World Cyclocross Championships

The KNWU will take extra precautionary measures for the World Cyclocross Championships which will be held at the end of January in Slovakia. On all buses which will carry equipment they will install extra alarms to discourage theives. Recently the Under-23 and Junior riders have been to Slovakia to race and were victims of theft. To prepare for the World Championships the national coach Kees van de Wereld chose to participate in a race in Slovakia. At a road stop in Bratislava 5 of the 8 bikes, some other equipment and clothing was stolen. The riders had to ride with bits and pieces borrowed from others. The insurance company is now investigating the incident. But parents of a number of riders are now faced with the problem of having to purchase from their own funds new bikes and equipment.

De Vos "a victim" of Champion Adri Van der Poel

When Wim de Vos crossed the finish line in the National Championships on Sunday it was cler that he was not happy. Adri van der Poel, the new national champion, had ruined his chances of taking the title with what he called reckless riding. He snorted: "This is not a fair outcome." His sponser Hans van Kasteren put a protest in immediately. The jury deliberated with the equipment commissaires on hand. After studying the TV pictures of the race they concluded: "Our conclusion is that Van der Poel carries no guilt but the problem is with his equipment. He is the winner fair and square."

De Vos was adjudged a victim of a new equipment post. The organisers had placed separate track on the parcours where the riders could change their bikes. This operates on the same principle as the pit-lane in motor racing. The other participants can then pass easily on the parcours. This method was first tried in a cyclocross race in Paris three years ago. During the World Cup race in Zeddam a few weeks ago the system was tried and it seemed to be satisfactory. However, at Heerlen, the issue surfaced in the dispute between De Vos and Van der Poel over the cause of their collision. It became clear that not everyone was aware and understood the new system. De Vos followed his helper into the change-lane. At that moment, Van der Poel tried to pass De Vos at speed. The equipment helper for Van der Poel blocked the path. De Vos could not stop and he fell against the railings and then to the ground. The race was at that moment decided. Van der Poel kept going and went onto win. 1997 champion, De Vos said: "I had trouble with my ribs. But prior to that I was very strong. The chance was mine and then it was gone.

Maarten Nijland, won the bronze and 1998 winner, Richard Groenendaal, was not the rider of old and could not cope with the muddy circuit.

The Champion was not phased by the commotion with De Vos. He said: "He rode against me. There was no plan to do that. De Vos should not have followed me in the pit-straight. They have not split the parcours for nothing. I was watching De Vos but then I saw him on the ground. It was bad luck for De Vos and the rest of the race. Bad luck for the sport."

The veteran 39-year old Adri Van der Poel found special meaning in the win at Heerlen on Sunday. In 2001, after the World Championship in the Dutch town of Sint-Michielsgestel, he will end his long career. He said: "I will have one year in the National Jersey before the final season. Leading up to the World Championships it is always nice to know that you can still win. This has increased my ambitions for Slovakia. Hopefully I can repeat my success."

In a season that has been dominated by the Belgians, this was a good result for the veteran..