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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Tour de France news for June 2, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Saeco suspends Simoni, waits for Tour decision on Monday

After testing non-negative to cocaine metabolites for the second time in the space of a month, Italian cyclist Gilberto Simoni has been officially suspended by his team, Saeco-Longoni Sport.

Simoni attempted to explain his actions after his first non-negative urine test that was conducted at a doping control after the Giro del Trentino on April 24, where he cited carbocaine that his dentist had administered as the only possible reason.

However a second separate sample that was taken on May 21 following the ninth stage of the Giro from Tivoli to Caserta, also tested positive for cocaine, which was announced by his team on Friday.

In the interests of maintaining open communications, the Saeco team issued a press release today explaining their decision:

"This substantially modifies the situation created after the first case an out of competition test taken before the Giro del Trentino. The team after deciding to spontaneously retire the rider from the 85th Giro d'Italia for obvious reasons, was waiting for the subsequent second analysis or any other kind of explanation eventually supplied by the rider which would allow them to make a complete evaluation of the case before taking any kind of decision."

"Obviously the communication received yesterday from the UCI - which the team decided to give to the press to show their full and clear honesty, substantially changes the state of things."

"A case of non-negativity - verified this time during the Giro d'Italia, in one of the normal tests taken at the end of each stage, places every objective explanation regarding the Giro del Trentino case in doubt, especially considering that the substance which the rider has apparently used is the same."

The team desires to "clear up the strange events which have absolutely have no links to the team's management of the rider, it is obvious that in consequence of the latest events the desire to continue a relationship with the rider have been affected, especially considering the serious moral and material damages the whole case is creating for the team and its sponsors."

"As a result the Saeco-Longoni Sport team makes note of having acted to suspend rider Gilberto Simoni and freeze his salary until a clear and substantial explanation of the case."

Team manager Claudio Corti added that "I saw Simoni last night in Rovereto. He gave us his version of events and we've taken out decision. I don't want to enter into details but it's not our intention to defend him. He's got to explain things, say what has happened and accept his responsibility."

For his part, Simoni admitted that he had been "thoughtless, ingesting some imported products" but did not lay the blame on his team. "They had nothing to do with it, and do not have any responsibility."

His lawyer, Stefano Trinco said "Gilberto has nothing to do with the world of drugs. The cause of Simoni's double positive in the two anti-doping controls we will argue is related to natural food products imported from South America. An incredible story, but one that we will do everything in our power to prove to the relevant legal and sporting bodies."

While this happens, there is the non-trivial matter of their Tour de France selection. Jean-Marie Leblanc has indicated that without Simoni, he may refuse their selection, as this was one of the strongest arguments to give them a wild card. While their other main rider, Danilo Di Luca, is capable of winning a stage, he is not a rider for the general classification.

The Societe du Tour de France and Jean-Marie Leblanc will make their decision on Monday, June 3.

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