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News for June 11, 2001
84th Giro d'Italia news
Mario Cipollini (Saeco) out-sprinted Danilo Hondo (Telekom) to claim his fourth stage win in this year's Giro. It was a thrilling finale to a traditional final stage parade that featured a Lampre team sporting blue and pink dyed hair and the peloton allowing Bonjour's 'last man standing' Thomas Voeckler to win the final Intergiro sprint.
But in post-race interviews one subject was unavoidable: drugs and the police raid on Wednesday night last week that has resulted in 68 riders being listed by police as suspected of the use and possession of performance-enhancing drugs.
Gilberto Simoni (Lampre, first GC)
"We have been through a terrible time. We faced our responsibilities and set out again in the hope that something will change. If the Giro had finished in San Remo, my victory would have been empty. I am happy that the other riders wanted to continue the race. We all hope for a clean sport of cycling."
"I do not want to comment on what happened to Frigo. Fortunately I did not gain anything because of his withdrawal; I was already in the pink jersey."
Responding to those who had cast doubt on his own ethics, Simoni said, "My conscience is clear. I know the sum of work and fatigue I needed to get here. I arrived at the beginning of the Giro with 20,000km behind me. I had the total support of a great team."
"I will remember this as a great victory. I have achieved a childhood dream, a dream I've had since I saw Francesco Moser win the Giro in 1984. Today I feel the greatest satisfaction of my life."
Abraham Olano (ONCE, second GC)
"The result is very satisfactory. I know that people questioned my ability in a grand tour, but I went the distance for three weeks. The race has given me great confidence. At the weekend I will practice on the track at Saint-Sébastien in preparation for the hour record."
Unai Osa (iBanesto.com, third GC)
"Third place is very encouraging for the future. I rode an attacking race, even if it were risky.
"I regret the cancellation of the Fauniera stage that I had been counting on. In Saturday's stage I tried to follow Simoni, but nothing could be done against him. I finished the Giro in form."
Mario Cipollini (Saeco, stage winner)
"I won the royal stage and I gave my response on the ground to the criticisms that I received this week. The public still believes in us after the disturbance. That encouraged us. I hope that we will continue to work in the interest of cycling."
Jan Ullrich (Telekom)
"A three week race like Giro, it is really good for me. I am happy, I will leave the Giro in good form. It was a good experience. I will go home for a few days, then I plan to go and reconnoitre the large cols and time trials of the Tour de France. After that I will stay at home with my coach. I do not have a stage race in my program before the Tour."
Gilberto Simoni bio
Born: August 25, 1971 in Palu di Giove, Italy
Major wins and placings
1 stage, Giro del Trentino
3rd Giro d'Italia
3rd Giro d'Italia + 1 stage
1st Giro d'Italia + 1 stage
Thierry Bricaud (directeur sportif, Bonjour) comment
"Of course, we thought at the beginning that we would do better. We accumulated bad luck, with several falls in the early stages that caused riders to abandon. Then, illness and injury for Damien Nazon and Jean-Cyril Robin on whom we had been counting. Finally, the two thefts of bicycles.
"There is a certain satisfaction that our neo-pros have experienced a three-week Grand Tour, but it was time for the Giro to end. The atmosphere was heavy."
70 riders to be investigated
The aftermath of the San Remo police raids will hit home later today in Italy, when 70 cyclists (over half the peloton that finished the Giro) are called up to the Florence court to explain why they were in posession of restricted and illegal medicines. It's expected that some of the names will be revealed today.
Most of the products seized were stimulants such as caffeine, however there is evidence that harder drugs have been found. It is believed that one "informant" in the peloton helped in the police tip off, and he also pointed out the use of a new experimental drug called RSR-13, a synthetic hemoglobin modifier, currently undetectable by the UCI and will disappear from the urine five hours after its use (see separate article).
In addition, many unlabelled vials of products were found and they will need further analysis.
After the Wednesday night raid, the investigators have commented that the results are "very interesting." Tomorrow, prosecuting attorney Luigi Bocciolini will begin to call athletes, doctors and directeurs sportifs to court for questioning.
Ferretti on Frigo
Giancarlo Ferretti, team manager of Fassa Bortolo, quoted in Corriere della Serra. On Frigo: "The most educated, diligent, punctual, always smiling, never in bad humor, how is it possible that I sent that boy home?"
"I tried to understand, because Commesso also committed this error. It was shown, like the others that there was no medicines except for social drugs. If you carry drugs you must declare them and be able to show the prescription, any type of drug. I have preached and prayed a lot. Patience, if you don't win, endure."
Was Frigo acting alone? "Do you mean: that there are others. I imagine, yes."
Or is there someone who tempts the riders to dope? "I do not know who that is, even if I have been in this environment for 40 years. There are persons outside the sporting fields. In that case I must say that there are many riders who hide prohibited products from their team leaders, the directors, and even their teammates. They do it alone, after having received some counsel from goodness knows who."
Why do they risk their health? "Because they think to make a beautiful nest egg in 2-3 years, and disease is only a single fear when it arrives."
There are many like Dario Frigo who will arrive in Milan though. Do you not regret firing him? "I have suffered and I still suffer from this decision. Sure it is likely that at the end, there will be a disparity. But there is a contract here, there are internal regulations, there are duties for all of us, the riders, the team doctor, the social doctor, the mechanics, the masseurs, the director and his assistant...And there are all the companies."
"What's the point of making rules if we don't apply them? I could not pass this over. I know that the boys have understood".
Godefroot fears Tour knock-on
Telekom team manager Walter Godefroot says he is worried the raid on the Giro will force the organisers of the tour de france to look again at the list of teams planned to start in july. "Perhaps some of them will not be able to start," he said.
"These events harm the sport of cycling. We are normal sportsmen and not criminals," added Godefroot. Nevertheless, he said he was "100 percent behind the work of the authorities. Sport has a function providing models for the youth and the procedures against doping cannot be strict enough." Godefroot pointed out that the drug problem was pervasive in sports and no other sport was as thoroughly controlled as cycling.
Italian police weren't just looking for the usual suspects of the doper's toolkit when they raided the Giro d'Italia last week. The carabinieri were specifically in search of the latest performance-enhancing product, known as RSR-13. Another product was Emassit (HemAssist), which was the substance found in Dario Frigo's hotel room, according to Italian media reports over the weekend.
RSR-13 is still undergoing experimental trials for legitimate uses in cancer therapy and is therefore not an easy substance to obtain. It is expected to be released on the commercial market in 2007. According to Pierluigi Fiorella, cardiologist and member of the medical commissions of the Italian cycling and athletics federations you'd need a very well-connected dealer. RSR-13 is not available in Italy, according to reports, but was sold in the US, Switzerland and "via the Internet."
An allotropic haemoglobin modifier, RSR-13 works by forcing the blood's haemoglobin to release more of the oxygen it carries. This is unlike previous blood doping products such as EPO that increase the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, and it may take a very close reading of the rules to determine if RSR-13 is currently covered by the UCI regulations. The new regulations (July 1) will certainly prohibit it.
HemAssist is diaspirin crosslinked hemoglobin (i.e., you're adding hemoglobin directly to the blood stream). It has been in clinical trials in Europe since mid-1995, but may have been withdrawn from the market due to lack of efficacy. [Thanks to Dr Michael J. Owens for the clarification]
Frigo to speak out
Dario Frigo, who was sacked from his Fassa Bartolo team after last week's police raid on the Giro d'Italia, has announced he will give a press conference on Wednesday. According to the Reuters news agency Frigo plans to tell all about doping in cycling.
Italian Olympic Committee calls special meeting
In the aftermath of the Giro raid, the Italian Olympic Committee will meet in Rome on Tuesday in a special session on to discuss solutions to the problem of drug use in cycling.
Ochoa makes first appearance
Javier Ochoa made his first public appearance at the weekend since being seriously injured in the February road accident that killed his brother and Kelme team-mate Ricardo. In a ten-minute appearance for press and TV, Ochoa smiled and waved at photographers and took his cap off in a gesture of tribute to the doctors who have aided in his recovery.
Ochoa, who is still confined to a wheelchair, was accompanied by his fiancee Beli Terneros, his mother María Palacios, and his representative Juanjo Rementeria. His older brother Andoni explained that there had been no "dramatic changes" to Javier's condition because "this is a long process and there are no very spectacular changes." Javier has gained weight, Andoni said, and is now around 60kg, closer to the 65kg he weighed after last year's Tour than the 50kg he had dropped to while in a coma after the accident.
Andoni said the family did not want Javier to return to cycling. "Not because we do not want him to ride but because he would have to train for eight hours at a time on the bike and he will be constantly thinking about Ricardo." Andoni said Javier had not yet fully assimilated the death of his twin brother.
The doctors expect Javier to spend the next six to eight months in hospital, said Andoni, but to see that he is improving "little by little" is comforting for his family.
Major Races and Events
Results: local racing
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