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First Edition Cycling News for June 26, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Spanish media uncover Operación Puerto investigation details

By Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish newspaper El País has revealed details from the ongoing investigation of the latest doping scandal in cycling, "Operación Puerto". After getting a hold of confidential judicial documents, the paper published three pages of inside information, according to which Eufemiano Fuentes as well as Manolo Saiz were the heads of a criminal network that supplied "treated" blood and numerous doping products to 58 national and international elite cyclists, amongst which 15 were from the former Liberty Seguros team.

According to the investigation documents, the criminal network comprised the following persons: Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, Manolo Saiz (manager of former team Liberty Seguros), José Luis Merino (Chief of Haematology of Madrid hospital La Princesa), José Ignacio Labarta (assistant director of team Comunidad Valenciana) and Alberto León Herranz (former cyclist and supposedly a courier in the network).

In the secret court testimony by Manolo Saiz, the former team manager (who still holds more than half of the company that now manages team Astana-Würth) reportedly admitted that his team began to work with Eufemiano Fuentes in March 2004, but on "the insistence of Roberto Heras". Later, more cyclists requested the collaboration of Eufemiano and Sáiz, but this relation was cut short after the 2005 Dauphiné Libéré, in which Isidro Nozal exceeded the UCI-imposed value of 50 for haematocrit.

"I have a debt with Eufemiano, but I did not pay it due to the case of Nozal," Sáiz explained to the judge according to El País . "I owed him 60,000 Euros, but only for his advice." Spanish investigators also seem to have established a link between the Madrid network and professional cyclists riding the Giro d'Italia in May: a courier presumably came to Madrid before the first mountain stage to transport bags of blood.

The forbidden substances found during the anti-doping raid included EPO, growth hormone and anabolic steroids, but also other products. In the two Madrid laboratories searched, Guardia Civil investigators found "a great variety of refrigerated pharmaceutical products, some prohibited in Spain and produced in Eastern European countries like the growth hormone Jintropin, which is illegally produced in China and distributed in the Internet."

Also found were accountancy tables, presumably used to book the transactions. For example, one table "created by the accused" featured the initials "B L K", and right next to them the sum "450 Euros". Names like "Guri, Jorge, Zapatero, Etxebarria" were listed, with various monetary sums and the columns entitled "payment made" and "yet to pay".

The criminal network also managed the treatment of large quantities of blood for autotransfusion. Using pharmaceutical and mechanical means, the bags of blood were "washed" and "concentrated in red blood cells." These services allegedly cost the cyclists €40,000 annually. Haematologist José Luis Merino even asked the Spanish military forces to supply him with 50 boxes of physiological serum to wash the blood, and received great quantities of glycerol to conserve the frozen blood from public transfusion centres - all of which were furnished to him in good faith.

"The offer [to Merino] of the washing solution was made to prevent us from having to destroy it before its expiry date," said Juan Manuel Montero of the Spanish Armed Forces. "And it was delivered to him with the firm conviction that it would be put to use in the hospital of La Princesa, given that the personnel and the vehicle that collected the 50 boxes belonged to that centre."

Spanish championships not ridden after rider protest

No more than 500 metres were ridden by the Spanish professionals in their national road championships in Móstoles, near Madrid. The majority of the riders decided to stop in protest after El Pais published some confidential information regarding "Operacion Puerto", which implicated 58 cyclists in the biggest doping affair ever to hit Spanish sport. Among those implicated were several riders from the Astaná-Würth team, as well as its former manager Manolo Sáiz, and also the ex-director of the Comunidad Valenciana team, Ignacio Labarta.

"The decision was unanimous, because we are not prepared to undergo this orchestrated harassment," said one cyclist. The riders held a meeting before the race, and voted to stop. They were supported by the president of the Association of Professional Cyclists, José Rodríguez, although the Spanish Federation, which also took part in the meeting, did not support it.

The Spanish Federation issued a press statement offering its "excuses to the cities of Móstoles, Arroyomolinos and Moraleja de Enmedio, as well as the organizers of the championships... RFEC and its championships have been the victims of the decision taken by the riders to strike, which we did not share. In any case, the Spanish federation will continue to bend over backwards, as it always has done, in defense of the rights of the cyclists."

Given that no race was ridden, Juan Manuel Garate (Quick.Step) will keep the Spanish champion's jersey.

Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

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

LeMond: "Armstrong threatened my life"

Former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has given French L'Equipe newspaper an exclusive interview, published on Sunday, June 25, 2006, in which the American has taken a stand against Lance Armstrong, the UCI and the Vrijman report. LeMond said that Lance Armstrong has threatened him for having criticised the seven-time race winner's collaboration with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari. LeMond, who won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, 1990, said that he was pressured by Armstrong in 2001 after saying that he was disappointed at the Texan's association with the controversial preparatore.

"Lance threatened me," he said. "He threatened my wife, my business, my life. His biggest threat consisted of saying that he (Armstrong) would find ten people to testify that I took EPO."

In the interview, LeMond continued by holding the UCI responsible for their failure to deal with the problem of doping. "This problem goes beyond Armstrong," he said. "The Spanish scandal is another example, the entire system is corrupt, the UCI is corrupt."

LeMond also referred to the Vrijman report, named after the expert commissioned by the UCI to probe the L'Equipe allegations of doping against Armstrong. "The report should have come from WADA or the French Ministry of Health," he said. "But it doesn't change anything if you catch a rider because Lance is now retired and it continues." LeMond added that Armstrong as a person was consumed with ambition: "He needs power - with money, or with women. He will never find happiness."

June 27, 2006 - Carmichael defends Armstrong, Armstrong answers L'Equipe & LeMond
June 26, 2006 - LeMond: "Armstrong threatened my life"
June 19, 2006 - Armstrong calls for Pound's exit
June 18, 2006 - Lance Armstrong's open letter against Dick Pound
June 4, 2006 - UCI hits back at WADA
June 3, 2006 - WADA slams the Vrijman report
June 2, 2006 - L'Equipe stands by its story, UCI supports Vrijman's findings
June 1, 2006 - UCI, WADA and Armstrong react to Vrijman's report
May 31, 2006 - UCI lawyer asks for Armstrong's name to be cleared
May 14, 2006 - Two more weeks for Armstrong investigation

Zabel out for 7th Green jersey

In the absence of Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel will be the sole leader of Team Milram in the upcoming Tour de France. The 35 year-old will be joined by teammates Marco Velo, Fabio Sacchi, Mirko Celestino, Marco Velo, Maxim Iglinsky, Andrei Grivko, as well as fellow Germans Ralf Grabsch, Christian Knees and Bjorn Schröder.

"It's our goal to battle it out for the green jersey," said Zabel, who already won the jersey of best sprinter six times in the past. It will be his 12th Tour de France.

Agritubel for Tour de France

Only hours after the French National Championships, Continental Pro team Agritubel has announced its rider line-up for the Tour de France, starting less than one week from now from Strasbourg. The team invited by Tour organiser ASO will focus on its climbers, with the nominated five Spanish and four French riders averaging 28 years of age. The riders are: Juan-Miguel Mercado, Manuel Calvente, Cédric Coutouly, Moises Duenas, Eduardo Gonzalo, Christophe Laurent, José-Alberto Martinez, Samuel Plouhinec and Benoît Salmon.

Quick.Step contract news

Team Quick.Step has announced that Wouter Weylandt will stay with the Belgian squad for the next two seasons (2007-2008). The young Belgian rider has signed his contract yesterday evening before the Belgian National Championship. Also Serge Baguet will ride next season (2007) with the team.

Yesterday, June 24, the team management has reached an agreement with the Under 23 Italian rider Davide Malacarne, winner of 2005 Junior Cross World Championship. The 19 year-old will continue to ride with Zalf Desiree Fior team in the U23 league for the next two seasons, but will join Patrick Lefévčre’s squad from 2009 until 2011.

Haselbacher and the bee

By Susan Westemeyer

René Haselbacher had hoped to make the breakthrough this year, and finally replace his reputation of a crash pilot with that of a winner. He thought he was on the right path, winning the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, and assuming that would be his ticket to the Tour de France. But the team management decided to go with climbers instead of sprinters, and he was left off the Tour team for the second year in a row.

He probably figured that winning the Austrian road championship would be a good way to soothe his pride and show the team what he was capable of. Right? Well, things just don't work out that way for "Hasi".

On Saturday, he was out training and reported later on his personal website, "Something flew into my mouth. I didn't think anything of it, but shortly thereafter my throat started to swell up." A trip to the emergency room ensued. "It was unbelievable. The doctor pulled a stinger out of my throat. Luckily I'm not allergic, but my whole neck is all swollen."

Haselbacher was better on Sunday morning to ride, but not good enough for the competition. He started, but didn't finish the race.

SBS Tour de France ride through Sydney

Australia TV broadcaster is organising a special Tour de France ride through Sydney on Friday, June 30, at 7am. The meeting point will be Café Latteria (320 Victoria St. Darlinghurst), for a stroll through the CBD out to The Rocks, flanked by SBS vehicles all the way. The first 25 participants to gather will receive a branded Nike jersey, whereas the first 25 riders back at Café Latteria after the ride (about 7.45am) will get a free breakfast.

Project Rwanda launches Wooden Bike Classic

In December 2005, Tom Ritchey and Gary Boulanger, directors of Servant Leaders Outreach (takeitslo.blogspot.com), toured Rwanda by mountain bike. A short DVD documentary was filmed to capture their Rwandan experience, the first for both. The trip opened their eyes to the beauty of the people and the need to assist Rwanda in its continuing reconciliation 12 years after the genocide that killed nearly one million people in 100 days.

By February 2006, "Project Rwanda" was established, and a strong board of directors was formed. Despite Africa’s reputation as a needful continent rife with government corruption and political red tape, Project Rwanda has seen opportunities become reality by bringing to life September’s "Wooden Bike Classic" event, intended to connect Rwandans with the outside bicycling world community.

"Project Rwanda’s vision is to further the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope," said Boulanger. "Our goal is use the bike to help boost the Rwandan economy as well as re-brand Rwanda as a beautiful and safe place to do business and visit freely."

The Wooden Bike Classic festival will be held in the Kibuye region of Rwanda, Africa, from September 16-17, 2006. "The Wooden Bike Classic is designed to represent Rwanda as a safe haven for its inhabitants and visitors alike," said Ritchey. "It is through the culture and history of the Wooden Bike that those outside this country will connect to this country and its people."

For more information, visit www.projectrwanda.org or contact Boulanger at gboulanger@projectrwanda.org.

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