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First Edition Cycling News for July 1, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Ullrich "shocked"

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In his first public statements since his exclusion, T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich has said, "I am shocked. I still don't have anything to do with this affair."

According to T-Mobile, Ullrich sees himself "as a victim. I was in peak form and now I could cry, because I have to head home." The 32-year-old will now return to his home base in Switzerland, to get a few days of peace and quiet. "Together with my lawyers I will then set out to prove my innocence."

Ullrich said that after the decision was made public, his teammates considered not racing the Tour de France out of solidarity with their captain. "But I told them to do it with a vengeance now. I want them to fight for me at the Tour."

Oscar Sevilla also gave his comments. "It's with a lot of sadness that I am leaving the Tour de France," he said. "I can understand why my team would take such a precautionary measure, even if its hard. I am remaining calm but now I am set to return to Spain in order to prove my innocence".

Frommert explains further

Christian Frommert, director of sports communications at T-Mobile, has given more details on why his team excluded Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla, and Rudy Pevenage from the Tour in the wake of the Operacion Puerto affair.

In an interview on t-mobile-team.com, Frommert explained, "We received documents from the Tour organisers A.S.O. this morning, which raised substantial doubts about the recent statements of Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage. Our stance was always unequivocal: If we are presented with evidence, which leads us to doubt the credibility of one or other of our riders, then we act upon it immediately. That is the case now.

When asked what the documents contained, Frommert replied, "They clearly point to contact between the implicated trio and the doctor at the centre of the probe, Eufemiano Fuentes. Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla as well as Rudy Pevenage have denied this so far and also testified to it in a written statement. There are clear guidelines arranged with the riders, which leave no room for interpretation. This was also clear to Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage. So we had to react."

Team manager Olaf Ludwig informed the riders and Pevenage just after 9:30am. "I was not there myself, but I had the chance to talk to Jan Ullrich at midday," said Frommert. "Of course, he was feeling down and continued to insist on his innocence. I made it clear to him that there were no alternatives given the facts at hand.

"We suspended Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage for the time being. Of course, it's up to them to prove their innocence."

When asked whether this will have an impact on the team's sponsorship, Frommert said, "The commitment is not directly affected by this. However, the decision-makers at T-Mobile will meet after the Tour to discuss about the situation. With the measures taken today, we are living up to our responsibility towards making cycling a clean sport."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Alejandro Valverde speaks

On the eve of the start of the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) held a press conference in Strasbourg. In the absence of a few big favourites, Valverde is now very much in the running for the overall, even if his name has tenuously been linked to the Operacion Puerto affair, but without sufficient evidence to cause his team to remove him from the race.

"First of all I want to do well in the general classification," he explained of his ambitions. "I don't know if I will finish fifth, fourth, third or second, but I want to do well. And of course I also would like to win a stage. I am convinced my second Tour will be a nice one and most of all a very important one."

Valverde described the parcours as "...a hard one, most of all the stages in the Pyrenees and in the Alps of course, but some other stages before reaching the mountains could be difficult ones too. I can't say that it really fits me because of the long time trials, but it is quite ok for me!"

In the time trials, Valverde admitted that he has improved. "In the Dauphiné Libéré, there was a 43 kilometre long time trial, a one that was really suited to the specialists, and I finished 9th, not bad at all. Of course I still have to work to be able to achieve better results, but it is no longer a problem like it was before."

Is there a stage that you really would like to win? "Any mountain stage, but of course my dream would be to win the one with the finish in Pla de Beret, because it is in Spain and for me it is special to win there. I also think that the course is particularly a good one for me."

Valverde rated his team as being strong. "Karpets, Pereiro, Arroyo and Zandio will be very helpful in the mountains. And according to the situation, maybe they will get a chance to do something by themselves. As for the other riders, they will be very important in the flat stages and they too will have the possibility to go for a stage win. I think we start with a really competitive team."

Before reaching the mountains, there are several difficult stages, such as the one in Valkenburg for example. "We will have to be very careful with such stages indeed, because they are harder than they maybe look. The one finishing in Holland is very similar to the Classics of the Ardennes and of course you know I like that! It would be nice to already win a stage there!"

Valverde was also asked to comment about the Puerto affair. "The Tour starts in a very strange way of course, with so many problems even before the start. I came here with a beautiful dream in my head, but of course with that whole thing, you don’t know what to think. Anyway we have to go on and wait and see what will happen in the next hours."

With the race be completely different without Jan Ullrich? "Of course it will! The T-Mobile team was supposed to control the race as being the biggest favourite, but now everything is different. I think that in a first time we will have to see what happens one day after the other. What I really hope is that the winner, even if I at the moment have no idea who it will be, will be considered as a real winner who deserved to win the Tour, and not as somebody who won just because the other ones were not there. This is very important for the future of cycling."

Is there a solution against doping? "I don’t know what the solution is. If I knew that I would already have told you. I really hope there is one. We need that. But cycling is bigger than doping and even if we are going through a bad moment, we have to go on and try to concentrate on the race."

Víctor Cordero: "I could take the same decision as Tour"

The general director of the Vuelta a España, Victor Cordero, said today in Strasbourg that "If the legal and ethical principles, and the rules are respected, the Vuelta a España will act against doping just like the Tour."

Cordero added that, "What is happening in the Tour, we see it in a similar way in the Vuelta a España, because we have also invited two teams and, if they are implied in some similar scandal, we will exclude them. We will have the advantage of having more time to know the Operation Puerto dossier, and will try to apply justice."

Cordero assured that the Vuelta a España will value the invited teams, and with respect to the ProTour ones, in case of problems, "we will put to them into the hands of the UCI and of the CAS. The only thing that has been done has been to apply an ethical code; any investigated cyclist will not be registered in the Vuelta."

Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

Armstrong wins battle against the Sunday Times

Lance Armstrong has settled his libel case with the The Sunday Times libel case, reports the Associated Press. On Friday, London's High Court ruled that an article published in the newspaper in June 2004 "meant accusation of guilt and not simply reasonable grounds to suspect." The judge said that the article strongly implied that Armstrong had taken performance enhancing drugs, and that the Sunday Times would have had to defend that position if the case went to trial.

Both parties agreed to settle the matter out of court, with the Sunday Times issuing a statement apologising to Armstrong.

Santos González explains

Santos González (3 Molinos Resort Murcia) received a warning and a disqualification from the Spanish cycling federation after testing positive for triamcinolone acetonide in the Vuelta a Murcia this year, where González finished first on the general classification. González wasn't given a heavier penalty because the substance appeared in his health booklet.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)