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Second edition news for March 30, 2000
Eric Rijckaert's new book
Former Festina doctor, Eric Rijkaert has released his new book "De zaak-Festina" (The Festina affair), coming after soigneur Willy Voet's volume "Massacre a la Chaine". In it, Rijkaert discusses the problem of doping from an insider's persective, much the same as Voet did. Rijkaert spent 100 days in a French prison cell whilst suffering from lung cancer, and wanted to publish a book to further the cycling public's knowledge of the doping debate. Also, he wished to give his view of the case, and to defend himself outside the courts. The court case has yet to be finalised, and has been rescheduled for hearing in Lille at the close of this road season in September or October.
In the book (published in Flemish only), he does not dish out a lot of criticism to Voet or Bruno Roussel, former Festina team director, but he is fairly cool when it comes to the French Justice system, the International Olympic Committee and the national sporting federations. He accuses the latter as being "hypocritical" when it comes to the regulation of the doping debate. He has not had a lot of contact either with his former colleagues since his incarceration and release, but has left open the possibilty, "as long as it doesn't involve the French judicial system," he said at the release of the book in Tielt, Belgium.
"De zaak-Festina" gives details of the types of products that he used to administer, and how they worked. Rijkaert says that he did not use cortisone or PFC's, because they were too dangerous for riders' health. However he states, fairly remorselessly that EPO can be used safely, provided it is under a doctor's control. Rijkaert was known amongst the riders as "Dr Fiat Punto" after the famous Italian "Dr Ferrari", who is currently being investigated by Italian justice.
He doesn't believe that it was necessarily cheating to use EPO, nor was it unethical at the time. Reason? He believes that the Festina team were singled out in 1998, as in his view "many of the other top teams were using it, as well as in other sports."
In terms of ethics, it was his job to ensure that his riders were in top shape to survive a three week marathon, and he had to give them the best medical program possible. "I stand by my position that it's better if riders have the advice of a doctor, rather than experiment themselves," he said. Technically that may be correct, but it certainly does not discrourage doping.
He believes that the athletes are primarily responsible for drug taking: "They are the ones that push, and they want the drugs. The doctors can be collaborators, but they are not the primarily responsible."
Martinez down but not out
Euskadi Euskaltel's Alberto Martinez was one of the most seriously injured in last weekend's fall in the Criterium International in France. Approximately 30 riders came down as a result of a gasoline spill on the road and Martinez was one of the worst injured. (American Bobby Julich was another, and as we all know by now, he immediately announced his retirement...from the race).
Martinez received 50 stitches in his face, and has not been able to train since. However, he wants to get on the bike as soon as possible in order to participate in the Tour of the Basque country which begins next Monday. He described the fall to Spanish press as follows: "I slipped in the fall, as is normal into those in front of me. I threw myself into the ditch on the side of the road thinking that falling into the grass would cause less damage. But, I landed on someone elses bicycle which opened up my face," he explained. However, he thinks that he was lucky to have hit the bicycle with his face - if it had been the ground, "I would have been left without teeth," he said.
He had intended on training yesterday to determine whether the wound hampered his breathing at all, but he was not able to. "Cyclists, like any sportspeople, want to train as soon as they can. As I have no injuries in my body, I am going to try and mount my bicycle. I do not know if the wind on my face will be painful, but there's one way to find out. In this sport, you cannot lose many days of training. So I'll have to try," he said.
The Guipuzcoan has had a good season this year - third overall in the Tours of the Valencian Community and Murcia, and second in the GP Telekom in Portugal. "You always say that these things come at the worst moment. I was riding really well and I had many goals - the Criterium International and the Tour of the Basque Country, which I still hope to do. It's annoying but it would have been more so had I not managed to acheive anything this season," he concluded.
Tonkov prepares for Giro
While others seem to be avoiding the Giro in favour of the Vuelta and the Tour, Russian Pavel Tonkov has it set firmly in his sights this year. He won the race in 1996, riding for Panaria-Vinavil and has commenced training in the Spanish mountains with his Mapei teammates. Axel Merckx, Davide Bramati, Paolo Lanfranchi, Chann McRae and Fred Rodriguez are all there with him.
He told La Gazetta dello Sport that "Last year, the experience I gained from training in the Sierra Nevada was positive. I will start from the same point with the hope to dispute the Giro from the point of view of a protagonist. I'm not hiding" my objective for 2000 is the Maglia Rosa," he said.
Hel van het Mergelland
This category 1.5 Dutch race scheduled for April 8 originally started as a training race for juniors, espoirs, and women. In cooperation with Frans Maassen, the Rabobank junior team manager, the organisers have gone for a new concept in 2001: a juniors race in the morning, followed by an afternoon race for espoirs. This year, however the Hel van het Mergelland will be run in the "old style": 181 km, 28 climbs, a total of 35.8 kilometres of climbing.
The following teams will start, with noted riders in parentheses:
Farm Frites (Koos Moerenhout, Michel Lafis, Glenn Magnusson)
Rabobank (Ronald Mutsaers, Bram de Waard)
WV De Grensstreek (Roel Egelmeers)
Cipo and Armstrong train
On Tuesday, the Lion King, Mario Cipollini and Texan Lance Armstrong were spotted training together - a fair way from their respective homes - on the Costa Azzura. Cipo lives in Montecarlo, while Lance lives in Nice.
We've been trying and have been assured that they're on the way.