News for November 7, 2000

Festina: Day 11

No sentence requested for Virenque

Public prosecutor Gerald Vinsonneau, today recommended to the court the sentences for the nine people charged in the Festina lawsuit. There was speculation that the only cyclist on trial, Richard Virenque, would not be recommended for sentencing and this proved to be correct. Vinsonneau told the court that there was insufficient evidence that Virenque had played a role in organising doping within the Festina team.

"My view of things has hardly changed," said Vinsonneau, "The accusation against Virenque was that he was an accomplice in organised doping within the Festina team. This does not stand up to the examination of the facts."

"In the context of criminal law, it is possible to regard the users of products as accomplices," he added. Vinsonneau was earlier opposed to Virenque's presence on this trial, however former judge Patrick Keil deemed it necessary.

Earlier in the trial, Virenque confessed to taking the banned substance, erythropoetin (EPO) after denying it for over two years. However, taking EPO is not an offence under French law, and it remains for the Swiss Federations to make a decision on his fate. He faces a minimum ban of 6 months for the confession.

However, the other eight people charged may face jail sentences and fines after the Vinsonneau's recommendations. Former soigneur, Willy Voet, whose car load of EPO and other drugs triggered the whole scandal, may be jailed (suspended sentence) for up to 14 months and fined FF 20,000 ($US 2,500). Former Festina team manager Bruno Roussel, who first made the confession that there was organised doping within his team, faces up to 18 months in jail and a fine of FF 50,000 ($US 6,000).

Both parties' lawyers pled that their clients should not be given hard sentences, because there was so much doping in cycling at that time. "The Festina team were caught but the trial showed it could have been any other team," said Roussel's lawyer Thibaut de Montbrial.

Of the others accused, the prosecutor asked for one year suspended sentences for Joel Chabiron (communications manager at Festina), and Jeff d'Hont (former soigneur of Francaise des Jeux). D'Hont is the one who is suspected of having given doping products to Thomas Davy and Erwan Mentheour, who gave evidence during the trial. Vinsonneau asked that Jean-Marie Dalibot (assistant soigneur at Festina) be given a lighter sentence - 8 months with deferment.

It was requested that the Veynes pharmacist Christine Paranier, who supplied Voet with drugs, be given a 6 months suspended sentence, while her husband (and accountant) Eric faces only 4 months. Finally, Mr Vinsonneau asked that ONCE doctor, Nicolas Terrados be given 2 months with suspension. All the accused may also be fined between 10,000 and 50,000 francs.

The tenth person accused is former Festina doctor, Eric Rijckaert, who could not be present at the trial for health reasons. The judgment is expected to take at least a month.

Damages claim by customs

Prior to Mr. Vinsonneau's indictment, a lawyer representing French customs requested that Voet, Roussel, Chabiron, Dalibot and Dr Terrados pay FF 1.2 million ($US 150,000) in damages for illegally importing goods. The sum is equivalent to three years of drug trafficking and will have to be shared by the above parties.

Buffet says 'keep the urine'

French minister for Sport and Youth, Marie-George Buffet, believes that it is not necessary to destroy the urine samples that were taken during the 2000 Tour de France for EPO testing. The UCI said last week that they would not keep them beyond November 15, as a stand-alone urine test had not yet been validated. One reason given was the desire that the results from this year's Tour de France would no longer be in doubt.

At a meeting of European sports ministers, Buffet said that there was "no reason whatsoever to destroy the samples. They are fully protected."

Aitken injured

Olympic gold medallist Brett Aitken last night succumbed to a knee injury during the 6 Days of Dortmund, forcing his neutralisation in the race. Although he and his partner Scott McGrory managed to win the first madison of the night, they slipped to last position in one of the following events, the REWE chase. They were not able to race in the paired kilometre time trial either. It is not known yet how bad the injury is.

Argentinian race cancelled

Click for larger image
Grzegorz Wajs
Photo: © cyclingnews

Emilio Guindon reports from Argentina that the Circuito Mar y Sierras in Argentina, scheduled for the last weekend in November, has been cancelled by the organiser. The 2.6 category race was to run for two days (November 25-26). However the organiser will concentrate his efforts on the Tour of Argentina next year, which was conducted in controversial and tragic circumstances this year with respect to traffic control.

Polish rider, Grzegorz Wajs (Mroz) won that race, and Wajs also currently leads the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic. He faces one of his toughest tests today - a 156 kilometre stage from Port Stephens to Bumble Hill, followed by an evening 30 km criterium in Terrigal.

The stage to Bumble Hill will be held in honour of the late Darren Smith, who won it 10 years ago, but was tragically killed by a truck after the Barcelona Olympics. His mother Jane will be presenting the winner's trophy today, after being flown down from the Gold Coast especially.

Movements in US women's teams

By John Alsedek, correspondent

Though nothing has been confirmed as of yet, 2001 has all the earmarks of being a banner year for women's cycling in the United States. is gearing up for a strong European campaign; the Saturn and Timex squads are rumored to be merging to create a women's super-team; and up-and-comers 800.COM, Jane Cosmetics, and Procter & Gamble all look to be vastly improved. ,p> Therefore, it comes as even more of a shock that investment company Charles Schwab has decided to withdraw from sponsorship of its women's cycling program. Despite being quite satisfied with the Charles Schwab Women's Professional Cycling Team's results in 2000 - they won both the Olympic Trials Road Race and the U.S. Criterium Championship - Schwab senior management did not feel that the team meshed with their corporate sponsorship goals. Team manager Julie Schwab released this brief statement:

"On behalf of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. I would like to thank the athletes, staff, sponsors and fans who helped the Schwab cycling team achieve its incredible success in 2000. The dedication, talent, and professionalism exhibited throughout the season by both the staff and athletes allowed Team Schwab to achieve incredible successes."

"Additionally, without the generosity and support of industry sponsors and fans the Schwab Cycling Team would have never been able to offer such a comprehensive program to its athletes and cycling community. We are sincerely grateful to the following individuals and companies who made the Schwab Cycling Team possible: Heather Albert, Katrina Berger, Catherine Cardwell, Elizabeth Emery, Marie Holjer, Nicole Freedman, Leigh Hobson, Sandra Kolb, Laura Van Gilder, Myke Berna, Armin Rahm, Kern Taylor, AXO Cycling, Bell Helmets, Ciclosport, Clif Bar, Continental Tires, Phil Marques-Photography and web design, Phil Milburn of USA Cycling, Selle Royale, XLM corporation, DEAN Bikes, Voler-cycling apparel, ELITE-Trainers and bottle cages, Golden Ratio-Massage Tables, Off the Front handle bar tape, Pace Sportswear, Rohloff chains, Rudy Project-Technically Cool Eyewear,Sixtus, SmartFuel, Sock Guy, Sun Rims/Ringle, Syntace; TIME, USAmateur-Travel, Wrench Force, Yakima and Zoic."

"We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors"

Galdeano: I'm innocent

Spanish cyclist, Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (Vitalicio Seguros) has claimed that he is innnocent of doping, after he tested positive for the steroid Nandrolone last month. Galdeano's teammate Jan Hruska also tested positive for Nandrolone, and was given a suspension by the Czech Federation.

The Vitalicio Seguros team said that the substance may have been contained in nutritional bars that they had imported from the United States. This was also noted by the UCI in August when the tests were revealed.

"I am convinced that it was the fault of the bars," said Galdeano. "If the opposite is shown, then I would be the first to fulfill the sanction. I don't want it to be delayed, because I want to shine in the Spanish national champions jersey from February. I am innocent, and so are the team and the doctor."

Galdeano was left off the Spanish team to contest the World's in Plouay, and it was thought that this was the real reason. However, he said that it was because he had injured his ribs in a fall during the last stage of the Vuelta and they still hurt.

Galdeano will join the ONCE team next year, who have supported his claim to innocence. His case is due to be resolved during November.

Euskaltel goes French

Spanish team Euskaltel-Euskadi will join the first division next year, by virtue of finishing at the top of the division II ranks this season. Its big aim is the Tour de France, and it hopes to promote its name in France.

Euskaltel is a Basque telephone company, while Euskadi simply means 'Basque' in the Basque language, reflecting support from the Basque community. The team has been given a big budget increase by the Basque Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism for next season, who have provided an extra 50 million pesetas ($US 250,000) per year for the next three years. The team's total budget will be 550 million pesetas ($US 2.9 million) per year.

Although the team recently lost PR man Gerard Rué to Festina, it has hired Nicolas Pescheux to replace him. Pescheux is the son of Jean-François Pescheux who is the Société du Tour de France's technical director. The team will be known as Euskaltel-Pays Basque when competing in France, in order to promote tourism to the Basque region.