News for June 18, 1999

TVM fallout

The directors of TVM have decided to end its sponsorship of the cycling team of Cees Priem. This follows the decision to ban the team from the Tour de France. Tour Director Jean-Marie Leblanc stopped the team participating in the race because of its connection with drug taking. Ajan Bos, commercial director of TVM said: "Perhaps it is time for us to look at alternatives. Cycling is now only ever receiving negative news. Being associated with team now is not longer good for our truck insurance business."

The contract with TVM and co-sponsor Farm Frites was due to end this year anyway. Bos said he is telling Priem now so that he has enough time to talk to possible alternative sponsors.

TVM manager Cees Priem was bitter about the decision but laconic. He said: "I can no longer go to France. Now I may not stay in the sport." The Dutchman spoke of the decision by the Tour organisers and said that they said that it was because of the association with team doctor Andrei Michailov. But Priem said that: "He no longer works for the team. We have no contract with him now."

Priem who was in Italy for business said: "If we don't ride the Tour we must not think that there is it. We have had a good season so far. The early season was not so good. But we won two stages in the Giro and we are third on the UCI rankings. If there is no Tour then we shall ride elsewhere.

TVM riders were not talking yesterday. Belgian Johan Capiot said: "It is up to Cees Priem. What he has said I don't know."

Tour de Suisse fallout

The blood tests were administered on all the riders in the peloton and they were done after a request by the Tour Director Steinegger. The tests were more like raids and gave riders no chances at all to influence the results. Among the four were Zimbabweís Timoty Jones and Italian Massimo Gimondi both who ride for the Amore e Vita Giubileo team. The team is managed by Ivano Fanini, who from the start has been one of the individuals leading in the struggle against doping.

When he heard the news, Ivano Fanini decided to fire Jones and Gimondi (Feliceís nephew). Fanini decided to fire Jones and Gimondi but has given them the possibility of returning to the team if they provide the name of who supplied them with the doping substance. In addition, the owner of Amore e Vita wants to denounce the two riders to the relevant judicial authorities and is also asking them for compensation for the damage they have caused to the image of the team. Fanini says that his team already suspended six riders and a manager in 1998 for suspicion of doping and that this year he had already fired Filippo Meloni.

Fanini added: "The suspensions at the Tour de Suisse are an example that even with the anti-doping rules imposed by the teams they have taken doping substances on their own, without the knowledge of the directors. They are doing this to be competitive and obtain bigger future contracts."

Meanwhile, Saeco-Cannondale have announced in Rome that they have suspended Austrian Harald Morscher for an indefinite period after he was thrown out of the Tour de Suisse. The decision was announced to the press by manager Claudio Corti. Morscher needs to provide the team with an explanation for his high levels and pending the Austrianís explanation, Saeco will decide his future with them.

Pantani fallout

Italian Marco Pantani has appeared before the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and made statements to its anti-drug enquiry. The meeting was in the northern Italian city of Bologna. Pantani appeared for 2 hours. He told the press afterwards that it was normal that they would want to hear from him. "I didnít say anything new. I only gave a description of what happened and the way the samples were taken and the problems that cycling now has."

The Italian rider said: "Iím still upset because I maintain that Iím clean and something hasnít worked. Maybe I will try to prove that the analysis are not as infallible as it is thought." Would he be racing soon? "I don't know."

There are also reports that Pantani may have had a hematocrit level above 50 per cent in November 1995 when he suffered the accident at Milano-Torino, which kept him in the hospital for many months. Legal sources are seeking confirmation from the doctors at the Torino hospital where Pantani was admitted. According to these legal sources, at the time of the accident, Pantani had a count even higher than the 52% that was detected recently in the last Giro díItalia. The doctors explained to district attorney Guarinello that they noticed the anomaly when they tested Pantaniís blood before Pantani underwent surgery to reduce the fractures he suffered in the accident.

Ullrich fallout

Jan Ullrich has told a German newspaper that: "I am shattered. Why these allegations?" He thinks that the cycling world are jealous of him and Team Telekom. He said: "That is why they make presumptions and invent slanderous speculation. There is never any proper evidence provided. They seek to destroy me and Telekom. But that is not going to happen. I can assure my fans of one ting. When I wake up in the morning I can look into the mirror without a guilty conscience. I have not been using drugs. I am not using drugs and I will never use drugs. I am clean. With the help of my manager Wolfgang Strohband I am now thinking about taking legal action for defamation and damages. I asked myself - Do I have to cope with these insults and presumptions only because I am the first German won the 95 years old Tour de France? I will not allow anyone to take away my sporting success. I worked and trained hard, very hard to achieve that.

Anyone, who does not believe this should stay on my back wheel for one week. There are also people who decry my strategy. They say I should not just concentrate my efforts on the Tour de France only. I have learned from Peter Becker that it is best to plan carefully. That's why I focus myself on a maximum of two highlights a year. This season these are the Tour de France and the World Championships. Because I ride always clean I am not able to do more. I have said it already a thousand times and I say it again: I do not poison my body. I want to continue to stay healthy after my professional career. If I felt that I needed drugs to cope with the torture of cycling I would stop immediately.

However things are not looking so good for Ullrich after he abandoned the Tour de Suisse. Jan Ullrich went to a specialist in Freiburg on Thursday and has been diagnosed with a damaged cartilege in his knee. There is also bleeding in the joint. The Telekom doctor Schmid said: "He has to take complete rest for two days, than we will see again."

Mapei team for the Tour (presuming it is still on)

Tom Steels (Bel)
Axel Merckx (Bel)
Bart Leysen	(Bel)
Davide Bramati (Ita)
Gianni Faresin (Ita)
Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita)
Daniele Nardello (Ita)
Luca Scinto (Ita)
Manuel Fernandez Gines (Spa)
Pavel Tonkov (Rus)
Tobias Steinhauser (Ger)

Rabobank team for the Tour

Michael Boogerd (Ned)
Leon van Bon (Ned)
Maarten den Bakker (Ned)
Koos Moerenhout (Ned) **
Beat Zberg (Swi)
Niki Aebersold (Swi)
Marc Wauters (Bel)
Rolf Sorensen (Den)
Erik Dekker (Ned) or Robbie McEwen (Aus)

** this selection is in doubt. Moerenhout will leave the team soon after receiving a better offer. Other news from Rabobank is that Erik Dekker has agreed on a new contract with Rabobank for another year.

Spanish minister calls for French help

The education minister in the Spanish Government, Mariano Rajoy has asked the French education minister to help ONCE clear up its soured relationship with the Tour de France organisers. The manager Manolo Saiz and team doctor Nicolas Terrados were banned from the Tour. Rajoy, is acting because he is responsible for sport's in Spain. He said: "I am not happy with this outcome. I spoke to Manolo Saiz yesterday to tell him that. I've sent a letter to ask for the mediation of the French minister. I know this decision has been taken by the Tour de France but they can't exclude Saiz for making critical comments."

Meanwhile, ONCE have not yet decided whether to ride in the Tour and are seeking legal opinion.