News for November 24, 2000

US Postal investigation official

French justice authorities have announced that there will be a legal investigation into the US Postal team, following allegations of doping. The team is charged with "infraction of the law on the prevention of the use of doping products, inciting the use of doping products and breaking of legislation regarding toxic substances." The investigation will take place in Paris, headed by judge Sophie-Helene Chateau.

The decision to launch a full investigation comes after a preliminary enquiry was made in October. At this time, an anonymous note was sent to a Parisian Public Prosecutor regarding 'suspicious' footage filmed by France 3 TV during the 2000 Tour de France. The footage showed France 3 reporters following a garbage disposal unit, allegedly originating from the US Postal enclave. After the garbage had been dumped, the journalists took the bags back with them for further analysis.

On November 8, French weekly La Carnard Enchain reported that one of the products in the bags was Actovegin, a Norwegian substance containing extracts of calf serum, intended for improving blood circulation. However, this is not a banned substance (yet) on the UCI list although experts say that it has several EPO-like properties. It is not sold in France. In addition, several members of the US Postal team have denied any knowledge of the drug.

Analysis of the other products was not made public, however public prosecutor Jean-Pierre Dintilhac and the Drug authorities of the Parisian Criminal Investigation Department have decided that there was sufficient evidence to continue the investigation at a higher level.

Co-team manager of US Postal, Dirk Demol, told Belgian teletext that he had no idea of what was going on. "You are the first to tell me," he said. "I'm very close to Johan Bruyneel, but he hasn't contacted me yet."

Demol added that nobody of US Postal has been questioned yet by the French.

Heras and Rubiera to USA

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, US Postal new recruits, Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera, will travel to Austin, Texas for a team training camp on December 1. There they will meet the entire team, headed by Lance Armstrong, and it will be the first time that all will be gathered together. Team goals and training programs will be discussed for 2001, as well as the obligatory team photos.

Heras will officially terminate his contract with Kelme on December 31, and is still trying to come to an amicable departure with the team.

Van Petegem's problem

Peter van Petegem's future with the new LeMond team (which will be sponsored by Viatel, according to several sources) is not yet assured, despite him being confirmed as a team member for 2001. The problem is that he has one more year with Farm Frites, and they don't want to let him go. He needs to come up with BEF 14 million ($US 300,000) to buy out his contract, according to Belgian daily, Het Laatste Nieuws.

His lawyer is seeking a way out of the contract via the Netherlands Arbitration Commission, and this will have to be resolved before he is confirmed with the US team. If not, then the team may stick to its original plan of launching in 2002. In addition, Van Petegem wants to sue Farm Frites for BEF 40 million ($US 900,000) in damages, claiming that they caused him to lose a potential contract with Mapei next year.

Memory Card no longer

MemoryCard, Denmark's largest cycling team, will no longer exist under that name next season, but it is still unclear which sponsor will join with IT Company CSC to complete the team. It is also undecided whether Bjarne Riis will buy John Trolle's (director of MemoryCard) shares in Professionel Cycling Denmark (PCD - the company behind the Team). The only thing that is sure is that Trolle's influence on the team is already considerably diminished.

Last Tuesday the Italian industry leader Olivetti pulled out as possible naming sponsors, but the managing director Preben Hingeberg would not rule out Olivetti's interest in a minor sponsorship. One party left is ISP World Online who met with Bjarne Riis and CSC regarding sharing the naming rights to the team.

"We had a good meeting with World Online and will continue to talk this week. As it stands today, a solution is not found but I am confident a realistic solution can be found by the first of December," said the managing Director of CSC, Asger Jensby to Berlingske Tidende.

Bjarne Riis, who is a director in PCD, still hopes for a faster solution, but does not expect to have it announced before the weekend. "I hope to present the solution within a week and truely hope to reveal the new co-sponsor soon," said Riis.

Jensby did not avoid the fact that John Trolle and Memory Card Technology (MCT) are on the way out of the team even though Trolle still has shares in PCD and MCT may continue in a minor sponsors role - if Trolle can afford it.

"He doesn't have the money to continue as a primary sponsor, so we have offerred him a place on the jersey but we need to be sure that MCT can afford it and it is not the most credit worthy company at this time. If we cannot be assured of MCT's sponsorship, they will be removed - you have to pay for those things you want," said Asger Jensby.

On Tuesday John Trolle wasn't too keen to discuss the actions of the team. "I do not want to talk about the sale of my shares to Riis, but I don't think that MCT will be a primary sponsor next year. An agreement has been reached except for a few small details which I hope will fall into place over the next few days," said Trolle.

"One of the things that remains to be sorted out is the $US $300,000 shortfall from this year that must be paid. CSC do not wish their sponsorship dollars used to cover old expenses. It is clear that it is PCD's job to balance the books but it is dependant on a collective solution where both the missing money from this year and the new sponsors are invloved. I cannot discuss the arrangements now, we have decided to pick up the pieces," said Riis.

Spar-OKI in trouble

The Belgian second division team, Spar-OKI is facing financial difficulties, and may not continue into next season. The team have lost their head sponsor meaning that manager, Gaspard van Peteghem, is unable to pay the required bank guarantee to the UCI by December 2.

New Dutch coach

Herman Snoeijnk is the new Dutch national women's coach after Jean-Paul van Poppel stopped after the Olympics in Sydney. Snoeijink is currently the national cyclocross coach. He was responsible for the espoirs and the juniors on the road, but the KNWU will look for another coach for these two groups. Snoeijnk signed for two years.

In other Dutch news, former national amateur champion, Erwin Kistemaker and Wilfred Haan, have received their international jury member diplomas in Vienna.

Wielinga signs

Rabobank amateur Remmert Wielinga has signed with the Italian team, De Nardi Pasta-Monte Grappe for 2001. Wielinga (22) didn't get a pro-contract and was looking for another team. He is the Dutch U23 time trial champion, and also finished second in the national championships road race in this category. He will emigrate to Italy in January.

AIOCC meet in Paris

The AIOCC, the International society of race organisers, will have a meeting on Friday in Paris. High on the agenda is the changing of cycling's image, with less races being an important issue. On the other hand, organisers have to pay more money, which, for the big races is not too difficult. This means a 10-20 percent increase in outlay, due to higher costs and prize money.

In Belgium the AIOCC hope to organize the category 4 kermesse races throughout 2001, but this will be the last year. The "Conseil du Cyclisme Professionnel" started a year ago and they represent the professional sector in the UCI, with members from the sporting groups, riders and organisers. The last group is represented by Jean-Marie Leblanc (Tour de France) and Carmine Castellano (Giro), neither of whom have problems with the increasing prizes.

Pérez re-elected as president of RFEC

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) will re-elect their current president, Manuel Pérez Rubio, for another four year term. Pérez has been endorsed by 99 of the 136 eligible voters on the federation, and will face no other opposition. He has been president since 1997, following a controversial election where there were several "irregularities" in the election process. José Grande was chosen for the position, but he only lasted 6 months when Pérez successfully carried out a censure motion against him.

The official election and confirmation will take place on Saturday, November 25.

Pezzo awarded

Dual Olympic Mountainbike champion, Paola Pezzo, will be presented this Sunday with an award by the Cicloturisti club of Conselve, in Padova. Pezzo, along with Katia Longhin and neo-pro Alexander Brendolin will receive awards for their activities within the sporting group over many years.

Damesronde van Drenthe 2001

The Dutch women's race, Damesronde van Drenthe have found a new sponsor for 2001. The race, scheduled for April 7, will be sponsored by Novilon after a contract was signed on Wednesday in Het Kasteel te Coevorde, witnessed by mayor (and former rider) Be Jansema. In addition, there are special sponsorships by Playland and ESSENT for the race.