The power freaks from the Société du Tour de France have now reacted to the expulsion of Urkainian Sergueï Honchar from the Tour de Suisse after failing a blood test by banning his team - Vini Caldirola from the upcoming Tour. They have been replaced by another Italian team Cantina Tollo-Alexia Alluminio, who were the first emergency team. There are three wild card invitations - US Postal, Big Mat-Auber 93 and Lampre-Daikin.
A press release from the Société du Tour de France on Friday morning said: "The Tour rules stipulate that the organisers can prevent a team from participant for a number of reasons. The Vini Caldirola team has been refused entry to the race. The leader of the team Ukrainian Sergueï Honchar is unable to ride for 15 days after being expelled from the Tour de Suisse."
The Vini Caldirola team was expelled because of their drug association. Apart from Honchar, the other leader Italian Francesco Casagrande was suspended for 9 months after testing positive while at Cofidis for steroid use. The point that has to be raised though is that Honchar has not tested positive to anything. The UCI have not declared him a drug taker. He failed a health test. The high reading may indicate EPO abuse. But then again it may not. Until the authorities are going to bite the bullet and accuse these riders of EPO use then the power freaks at the Tour de France office should treat all teams and riders the same. Who are they kidding in all of this. It is clear that the whole sport is tainted and has been for years. Nothing much is different except the cops are now involved and also the public are discovering that their heroes are mortal after all. So what! It is so easy to pick of a Dutch team and a Spanish doctor and then claim you are doing something about the problem. Meanwhile car and soft drink companies continue to line the pockets of the organisation. If they really wanted to do something about this they would not hold the Tour this year and really clean the sport up.
Several other Vini Caldirola riders have been linked with drugs. Swiss rider Mauro Gianetti, who was second in the worlds in 1996 and winner of LBL was mysteriously hospitalised in Lausanne last year and left La Française des Jeux under suspicion of doping. Filippo, his little brother was suspected of doping after the Giro. And finally, Australian Mathew White was suspended for 2 months for Ventoline use and Italian Valentino Fois left Mapei in 1998 under odd circumstances.
The team leader at Cantina Tollo-Alexia Alluminio, the new team coming in, is Dane Bo Hamburger, who was the silver medallist at the 1997 worlds was with Casino last year. That team was strongly suspected of doping last year when it dominated.
Dr Mabuse analysis
It was announced in Paris in the early afternoon of Friday that the analysis of 10 syringes found in the apartment of Bernard Sainz, aka Dr Mabuse, who is one of two major players in the French doping scandal, has revealed traced of steroids and corticoids.
The tests were done on material taken from the office occupied by Sainz on May 7. His alleged accomplish, sport's lawyer Bertrand Lavelot was also taken into custody on that day. Investigating judge in Paris, Michèle Colin ordered the analysis. Most of the materials in the bottles contained mixtures of caffeine, alcohol and vegetable extracts. They thus had the appearance of homeopathic remedies which is what Sainz had claimed. The advocat for Sainz, Bernard Gombert said that the syringes were intended for horses (Sainz is a horse trainer)
Gombert said the syringes were used: "Exclusively for the treatment of tired and sick horses in Normandy."
TVM may seek court actions
The TVM riders are considering a civil action against the decision to refuse them to start in the Tour de France. Their spokesperson Jeroen Blijlevens explained their plans to the press: "'We - the riders - have four points. The right to work, the right to defend our position, the arbitrariness of the selection and the monopoly position of the Tour organisers. We will be doing all we can to start in the Tour."
Team bosses plan campaign
This weekend the team managers of the big cycling teams will meet in Switzerland and plan a campaign against Jean-Marie Leblanc. They are angry about the TVM-case. The initiators of the protest are Manolo Saiz (ONCE), Patrick Lefevere (Mapei), Alain Bondue (Cofidis) and managers like Theo de Rooy (Rabobank). They want to take a united position. Lefevere said: "It will become clear whether we are prepared to take some drastic actions or choose to negotiate with Leblanc."
Cees Priem commented on the meeting: "After Wednesday every team realises that they could be next. It is also clear that when you are under suspicion you get a heavier punishment then when you are found to be guilty."
Lefevere continued: "It seems that they are not listening to us. We were clear in our statement to Leblanc. Now we'll show him that he can't walk over us. Without the riders there is no circus. What is the position of the UCI at the moment? It seems the Tour de France is above the UCI. And Leblanc takes the law into his own hands."
Theo de Rooy: "The scandals at the Tour cannot happen again. We all want to start on July 3. Our sponsors want that too. But at this moment it's important to get some clarity about the future."
Lefevere: "Okay, it's important for our sponsors for us to start in the Tour. But this is the moment to give a signal to the organisor that he has to listen to our point of view. Therefore it's important to get a combined position. A possibility is to reject the Fiat cars and the Coca Cola bidons."