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Tour de France News Flash for July 12, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Two riders have been thrown out of the Tour de France by the organisers on Monday due to the fact that they are under investigation in Italy for alleged doping offences. Italian Stefano Casagranda (Saeco) and Slovenian Martin Hvastija (Alessio-Bianchi) are the riders in question, after Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc learned that they are part of an unresolved investigation in Padova.

At the start of the Tour, all teams signed a code of ethics agreeing to exclude any rider who was under judicial investigation for doping, and Saeco's Danilo Di Luca wasn't even allowed to start the Tour because of this. And in addition to Hvastija and Casagranda, there is also the possibility that Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Pavel Padrnos (US Postal-Berry Floor) could be thrown out on similar grounds.

Cyclingnews has learned that Tour organisers ASO sent out a request late last month to two prosecutors in Italy who are investigating doping cases in cycling, including PM Luigi Bocciolini in Florence and PM Paola Cameran in Padova. The request was to determine whether any riders were still under investigation for doping. Last Saturday, Paola Cameran replied to ASO through the Guardia di Finanza saying that yes, the dossiers on Hvastija and Casagranda were still open. Both riders were involved in two investigations: one was the 2001 Giro blitz (which was closed) and the other was the Padova investigation related to Davide Rebellin, Serguei Gonchar and Ivan Gotti that was shown on Italian TV.

Hvastija explained to Cyclingnews that he was one of the many riders involved in the 2001 Giro blitz in San Remo where police confiscated products from every team hotel. However, the products were tested and none of them were found to be illegal, and the case was closed. The subsequent investigation in by Paola Cameran in Padova started when Hvastija's room was bugged, and a conversation was recorded between him and Endrio Leoni where they discussed the corticosteroid Kenacort. Hvastija denied that the conversation was about either of them taking it, but that years ago some riders used it quite a lot before there was testing.

Padrnos and Zanini unclear

Pavel Padrnos and Stefano Zanini were both implicated in the San Remo blitz investigation conducted by Luigi Bocciolini. Zanini was suspended for seven months for having an unopened syringe in his room. But Bocciolini has not yet responded to ASO, thus it's possible that both of those riders could be considered unwelcome in the Tour.

Cyclingnews spoke with US Postal-Berry Floor director Johan Bruyneel in Limoges about Pavel Padrnos. "I don't know anything about the cases of the other riders, but I'm familiar with Pavel's," said Bruyneel. "It's true he was one of the riders investigated in the blitz of San Remo. What we know is that they found an amino acid, L-Carnitine (legal) in his suitcase. What happened was that one of the filler products contained 0.001 percent of mannitol, which is part of the diuretic family (illegal). Mannitol is also present in things like Immodium and some vitamin C tablets. As far as we're concerned, there is no case. We have no doubts about Pavel."

It's not clear at this point whether or not Padrnos and Zanini's cases have been closed. A reply is expected from Bocciolini shortly regarding the status of those cases. It should be noted that these dossiers can be left open for years without any conclusive evidence, and although investigations may be concluded, they may be left open because of Italian bureaucratic inefficiency and the glacial speed of the Italian justice system.

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