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Cycling News and Analysis

News for July 22, 1999

Tour News

Still no French victory!

This is the first Tour where there has not been a French stage winner after 16 stages. The previous worst performance by French riders was in 1966 when the French had to wait until Stage 15 before Raymond Poulidor won a stage. In 1993, Pascal Lino won on Stage 14, Stage 11 for Roger Pingeon in 1969, Stage 10 forJacky Durand 1994, Stage 9 for Jerome Simon 1988, and Jacques Esclassan 1976, Stage 8 for Jean Frechaut 1938 and Jacky Durand 1998, and Stage 7 for Jacques Anquetil in 1963.

Jay Sweet gets no reprieve this time

Jay Sweet was allowed back into the race after he finished outside the time limit on the way up to Sestrieres because the organisers admired his fighting spirit. However, he was not so lucky after the first stage in the Pyrenees on Tuesday. He was eliminated from the Tour. Other riders to go close were Tom Steels and Erik Zabel who came in within a minute of elimination which stood at 38.22 down on the leader Escartin. It was also Escartin's first Tour victory after 8 Tours.

The full Le Monde Article from Tuesday

"Corticoid traces in tests on Lance Armstrong after Stage 1"

This article was published in the French daily, Le Monde after what they claim is an investigation they performed into urine testing during the current Tour de France. They claim their findings "prove that the American leader of the US Postal team used corticoids."

The translation follows:

Saint-Gaudens (Haute Garonne) from our special correspondents, July 20, 1999.

Lance Armstrong, the yellow jersey holder in the 86th Tour de France was tested on July 4 at 17.00 after the first stage of the Tour between Montaigu and Challans. The test was done by the Laboratoire national de lutte contre le dopage (LNLD) at Châtenay-Malabry (Hauts-de-Seine), and they detected traces of triamcinolone acétonide, a synthetic corticoid in the urine. However, the analysis was not declared positive, the testosterone ratio for epitestosterone being too low to warrant a positive finding. It was 0.2, when the limit after which a positive test is returned is fixed at 6.

The presence of the corticoid traces in the urine contradicts the statements made by Armstrong. On Monday, July 19, during the rest day in the Tour, the American affirmed at his press conference that he had not had any medical treatments since December 13, 1996, the date of his last treatment of chemotherapy. The rider had been a victim of testicular cancer which was diagnosed in August of the same year. The yellow jersey holder gave the assurance that he had never taken any corticoids. What is more, in the official report that followed the test, Lance Armstrong had written under the heading "Drugs Taken" - Nothing.

Since the start of the Tour, corticoid traces have been detected in the urine of other riders. In an article with the daily newspaper L'Humanité on Tuesday July 20, Jacques de Ceaurriz, the director of the LNLD, estimated that, of the hundreds of samples taken since the prologue, "20 to 30 cases" would reveal the presence of corticoids. But the traces were below the threshold ratio of 6.

Belgian rider Tom Steels (Mapei-Quick Step) was tested on July 5, and recorded a ratio of 1.8. Italian Michele Coppolillo (Mercatone Uno) was tested on July 6 and recorded 1.6. His compatriot Mariano Piccoli (Lampre), the early holder of the polka dot climber's jersey, was tested on July 7 and recorded 1.3. Another Italian, Daniele Nardello (Mapei-Quick Step) was tested on July 8 with a rate of 1.7. In each of these riders the same synthetic molecule was detected - triamcinolone acetonide.

This synthetic molecule is a less aggressive corticoid and is used as a diuretic for the patients suffering from kidney and cardiac diseases. According to a specialist who we questioned: "This drug does not have any use, two years after a bout of chemotherapy. It is an immuno-depressor which in the long term depresses the immune system." The same doctor continued: "On the other hand, if the urine tests detect this product, it is undoubtedly, an indication that the patient has taken it. There cannot be any confusion between the body naturally producing the substance and taken it exogenously."

Another corticoid was detected in the urine of a French rider. The presence of cortivazol was detected on July 6, in Christophe Rinero (Cofidis). The ratio was 7 and therefore higher than the postive test threshold. No sanction was however taken in this case because the use was allowed under a medical clearance. "Christophe fell during Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and hurt his patella. The traumatic injury required an arthroscopic examination in May", explained Jean-Jacques Menuet, the Cofidis team doctor.

The rider "consulted a sport's medicine doctor in his local area" who prescribed him a series of injections of Altin (a substance containing cortivazol). The injections were carried out at the "end of May and Christophe stopped riding for 6 weeks", continued Jean-Jacques Minuet. "No other alternative to the use of Altin was desirable. I would have given him the same treatment. This action was impossible to avoid and did not aim to be a performance-enhancement measure. If one cannot look after the best interests of the riders any more then I will quit", Jean-Jacques Menuet said and he reaffirmed his concern that he was not practising any illegal performance enhancement.

"The majority of our riders are actually in the red in this Tour, he said, with some of them recording hematocrit levels below 36%."

The detection of corticoids is a new thing in the 86th Tour de France. The laboratory of Châtenay-Malabry, after a year's work, perfected a test 10 days before the start of this Tour. Put to the the UCI, the method was accepted by them. The President, Hein Verbruggen, informed teams on the 2nd of July, the day befre the start of the Tour at Puy-du-Fou.

The UCI "prudent":

The system requires observing the spread of carbon isotopes in cortisol, a hormone naturally secreted by the body. This isotopic spectronomy enables anomalies to be detected, anomalies which attest to the presence of exogenous corticoids.

Hein Verbruggen affirmed that he was not aware. "It's the medical commission charged with anti-doping which, at the UCI, treats these issues. The Doctor Léon Schattenberg, head of this commission was not able to be contacted on Tuesday 20 July. "At the UCI, we are more prudent than in France" indicated Hein Verbruggen. "We respect medical secrecy. It is disappointing to note that this rule isn't followed by French doctors. In the end, this practice will end up going against us. We will lose the confidence of the riders who accept having these strict medical controls on the condition that we will not publish confidential information."

For the moment, the UCI is refusing to comment on the fundamental questions. In this Tour de France, there seems to be a resurgence of the use of corticoids, as noted by Armand Mégret President of the Medical commission of the French Cycling Federation, in an interview in Le Monde.

A doctor we interviewed has a hypothesis concerning the low levels found in the riders' samples: "If they are late corticoids, the low levels is not surprising, since their spread in the body happens more slowly and their tracability becomes harder."

Post-Tour Criteriums

Michael Boogerd decided to do ride a very quiet Post-Tour schedule. He has signed only 5 contracts to race in the traditional criteriums in the Netherlands: Boxmeer, Wateringen, Roosendaal, Surhuisterveen and Emmen.

Lance Armstrong will ride in 4 Dutch Criteriums: Boxmeer (July 26), Chaam (July 28), Heerlen (July 30) and Roosendaal (August 2)

Lance Armstrong doesn't come cheap though: He is charging 73,000 Dutch guilders (plus 10 percent for the manager) as well as a rider to help him in the form of George Hincapie. Excluding Hincapie, Lance's share of the money will still be 60,000 guilders.

Marc Lotz has 11 contracts for races after the Tour de France. Before this Tour his start money demand was 800 guilders but after his 8th place in the stage last Thursday it has gone to 1500. Last Monday it rose again (during the rest day!) to 2500 guilders. He will ride at: Boxmeer, Stiphout, Chaam, Wateringen, Heerlen, Steenwijk, Roosendaal, Surhuisterveen, Maastricht, Oostvoorne and Emmen

Of the 5 races that Michael Boogerd is riding he is charging 20,000 per criterium as a result of his 2nd place in the UCI rankings and his victories in the Amstel Gold Race and Paris-Nice.

The other Rabobank Tour riders will start in 5 or 6 races (Dekker, Den Bakker and Jonker in Heerlen and Patrick Jonker will start in Maastricht too). There is no interest in any of the TVM riders anymore. Sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens has only 2 contracts after the Tour in the Netherlands: Stiphout and Chaam.

Two years ago Tour winner Jan Ullrich came to race for 75,000 guilders (all in including Erik Zabel plus 4 teammates).

Netherlands, Alkmaar, Dutch Track Championships

Men:

1 km ITT:

 1. Slippens     1.05.81
 2. Lust         1.07.94
 3. Den Braber   1.08.19
 4. Benjamin     1.08.51
 5. Bos          1.09.57

Robert Slippens won his 4th Dutch kilo championship with a new track record of 1.05.81 in not ideal conditions. The surprise of the meet was the performance of Jan Bos (the world champion speedskater) who raced for the first time on the track and came 5th. His world 1000m speedskating time is 1.08.55 (Calgary, February 21, 1999). So he is still faster on his skates than he is on his bike!

Old riders die

Adolf Christian (Austria, 66) died in Vienna after a fall. He was third in the Tour de France in 1957 behind Jacques Anquetil and Marcel Janssens. He is still the best rider from Austria in the history of the Tour de France.

Piet van den Brekel (Netherlands, 66) died after a cardiac arrest on his bike. He started in the Tour de France 1956. In 1952, he was the world amateur champion but was declassified because he changed his bike.


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