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News for June 25, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Millar confesses

According to Friday's edition of L'Equipe, World Time Trial Champion David Millar (Cofidis) has allegedly confessed to taking EPO. Millar allegedly made the confession to French police while he spent 48 hours in custody in Biarritz this week.

L'Equipe reported that empty ampoules of Eprex (EPO) were found by French police in Millar's house whilst he was being detained, writing "Millar recognised that he used Eprex (erythropoetin) in the practice of his profession which puts him in the same position as a positive rider in the eyes of the UCI."

If this is the case, Millar will likely be charged by Nanterre judge Richard Pallain, who is heading the investigation into the Cofidis team, with illegal possession and use of toxic substances. So far, eight others have been charged in the affair which began early this year: Cédric Vasseur, Philippe Gaumont, Robert Sassone, Médéric Clain, Marek Rutkiewicz and Daniel Majewski (all riders), Boguslaw Madejak (ex-Cofidis physiotherapist), Oleg Kozlitine (former directeur sportif of Oktos).

Millar out, but not out of the woods

David Millar was released from police custody Thursday after having been held for questioning since Tuesday night when he was met at a restaurant in his home of Biarritz by French police. Millar was called in for questioning as a witness in the drug trafficking investigation which has surrounded the Cofidis team since January. Police also searched Millar's home.

According to an AFP report, sources close to the investigation have indicated that Millar may soon find himself under formal investigation, however no announcement has been made by the judge Richard Pallain, in charge of the ongoing investigation.

"This isn't about Millar, it's a follow-up to the Gaumont affair," Cofidis team manager Francis Van Londersele told AFP. "I find it regrettable that they wait this long to question someone, several days before the Tour de France."

Cofidis suspended two of its riders, Médéric Clain and Cédric Vasseur, immediately after they were placed under formal investigation in the same case. Clain was later fired after he admitted to having purchased (but not used) certain banned substances. Vasseur maintained his innocence and at the beginning of June was allowed to race once again.

The team appears to have shifted its stance somewhat, preferring now to count on riders' innocence until proof is offered that they may have violated team rules or crossed any legal lines concerning doping substances. Cofidis is the only major French team which has not yet signed the charter of AC 2000, the association of French professional teams. Under the charter, any rider placed under investigation must be suspended from competition.

T-Mobile announces Tour team

At its official presentation in Bonn on Friday afternoon, T-Mobile has named the nine riders that will take part in the Tour de France. Led by Jan Ullrich, who in six Tours has finished first once and second five times, the team contains Rolf Aldag, Santiago Botero, Giuseppe Guerini, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Sergei Ivanov, Daniele Nardello and Erik Zabel. Overall, the team is weighted towards helping Ullrich as much as possible, with particular emphasis placed on the team time trial and the mountain stages.

"We have prepared well and we have a good team, despite missing Vinokourov and Steinhauser," said Ullrich at the presentation. "We'll have a very strong team at the start and we'll try our best."

Ullrich reiterated his satisfaction with his one second win in the Tour de Suisse, saying that it was proof that his hard training had paid off. He added that he saw "four or five" favourites for the Tour. "Hamilton, who has a very good Phonak team; Mayo, who was very strong in the Dauphine; Heras and Ivan Basso, who has improved his time trialing. These are my favourites, but of course Lance is the one to beat."

A key man for Ullrich in the mountains looks likely to be Giuseppe Guerini, who showed his climbing prowess during the Tour de Suisse. "I think that we have a very strong team in the mountains," said Guerini, who didn't think the mountains would pose as much of a problem to Ullrich in 2004. "I think that Jan is stronger than in other years."

Ullrich releases autobiography

Jan Ullrich is a busy man, having officially released his autobiography, Ganz oder gar nicht (All or Nothing) together with author Hagen Boßdorf presented the book in Cologne's Hyatt Regency on Thursday evening. The book describes the highs and lows in his personal and professional life, including the time he tested positive for amphetamines after taking ecstasy at a nightclub in 2002, as well as his love for chocolate.

After the book launch on Thursday and the T-Mobile Tour presentation today in Bonn, Ullrich is now getting ready to ride the German Championships on Sunday in Freiburg.

Euskaltel aiming for another orange tide

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team is aiming for a repeat of the "orange tide" during the mountain stages of this year's Tour. Next week, the team will distribute thousands of orange t-shirts to its fans who traditionally line the roads in the Pyrenees in the last half of the Tour. The t-shirts are similar to previous years, and are distributed free following sms and email requests to Euskaltel.


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