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First Edition Cycling News for June 27, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson & John Kenny

Tour organisers confirm Astana withdrawal request

Astana-Würth rider Alexandre Vinokourov - his Tour participation is in doubt after ASO asked his team to withdraw.
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Organisers of the Tour de France have confirmed that they have requested the Astana-Würth team withdraw from the race, which starts Saturday July in Strasbourg.

"We have sent a letter to Astana-Würth asking them not to take part in the Tour de France," ASO spokesman Philippe Sudres told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

"Should the team refuse to withdraw we will refer the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who can expel them from the competition," Sudres said.

The case looks certain to go to the CAS as Pablo Antón, co-manager of Active Bay, the company that owns the team, has already said he intends to appeal ASO's request to the CAS.

ASO almost certainly needs the cooperation of the UCI or CAS to enforce a ban on Astana-Würth, as the team has an automatic entry. ASO was able to withdraw its invitation to the Communidad Valenciana team last week because that entry was a discretionary wildcard.

Formerly known as Liberty Seguros, the Astana-Würth team has been under a cloud since its manager, Manolo Saiz was arrested last month on suspicion of involvement in a doping ring. Communidad Valencia assistant directeur sportif Ignacio Labarta was also arrested in the 'Operation Puerto' raids, as was former Kelme team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

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

Carmichael defends Armstrong

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach during his Tour de France wins, has defended the seven-time Tour champion against the latest allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs early in his career. Commenting on the claim that Armstrong confessed to using EPO and other substances in a conversation with doctors in 1996, Carmichael told Cyclingnews, "I was placed in the room and I can tell you that that conversation never happened."

"It is ridiculous," he continued. "You have Lance's doctor giving an affidavit that he has no recollection of that conversation occurring. Supposedly my wife was in the room as well. She doesn't remember that at all! She remembers being in Indianapolis supporting Lance. There are only a few people [in the room] that remember that whereas the other people in the room don't."

Carmichael speculated as to the motive behind the new round of attacks from the French media. "I think this is another case of it's a week before the Tour de France. When does this stuff always break loose? Before the Tour de France. L'Equipe and Le Monde obviously want to keep this stuff out there and circulating to go up against Lance. It seems like eventually they would tire of something when there is no way to prove that this is the truth."

When asked about the other major doping story in the world of cycling, Operation Puerto, and how it might affect the sport compared to the Festina scandal of 1998, Carmichael said, "I believe in the sport of cycling. I believe that the sport can sell itself. It's a beautiful sport. Whether it is the Tour de France or Tour of Flanders or the Giro d'Italia -- it has a rich tradition. So I don't think the sport of cycling is going anywhere. I only know of the Spanish situation from what I have read in the press, and it is obviously disturbing. Hopefully they can get this stuff figured out. If people are cheating they need to be held accountable."

Armstrong answers L'Equipe & LeMond

Lance Armstrong was interviewed on the national ESPN Radio programme Mike and mIke on Monday regarding his hosting that network's annual sports awards show, the ESPYs. But before getting to the lighter subjects regarding his role as host, Armstrong was put on the spot about the latest allegations against him.

"The headline is that I've faced this for seven years and I've faced it," Armstrong responded. "We are batting a thousand. And if you are such a dirty job and cheat your whole life, you would have to get caught at some point."

Armstrong further explained the specific arbitration that he is battling for the general sports audience. "A lot of these sponsors insure athletes bonuses. And the insurance company will give you the odds, and they didn't pay it because they said I cheated."

As well as allegations arising from testimony in the SCA promotions case, Armstrong has also come under fire from three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond who claimed over the weekend that Armstrong had threatened him when LeMond expressed disappointment over Srmstrong's invovement with controversial Italian preparatore Dr Michele Ferrari. Armstrong denied the allegation, telling AP it was "ridiculous," and adding "Greg is just not in check with reality. It's ridiculous. Greg is obsessed with foiling my career. I'm apoplectic when I read stuff like that."

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

Andreus disappointed over revelations

The lawyer of Frankie and Betsy Andreu, whose court testimony in 2005 gave rise to the latest allegations against Lance Armstrong, has said that the Andreus were "shocked and disappointed when their confidential depositions were made public."

According to Adam Paskoff of Paskoff & Tamber, LLP, the Andreus testimony was given reluctantly in the first place. "Frankie and Betsy Andreu were subpoenaed by a Texas Arbitration Panel in the matter of Lance Armstrong, et al. v. SCA Promotions. The Andreus responded that they would not willingly comply with the Texas subpoena," Paskoff said in a statement. When the subpoena was confirmed, "the Andreus were compelled to answer the subpoenas under penalty of contempt of court."

SCA Promotions had acted as the insurer for a $5 million bonus offered by Tailwind Sports, owner of Armstrong's US Postal team, in the event that Armstrong won the 2004 Tour de France. When allegations were made in David Walsh and Pierre Ballester's book L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs, SCA Promotions refused to pay the bonus and Armstrong and Tailwind sued.

In their subsequent testimony, the Andreus "truthfully answered specific questions regarding statements made by Mr. Armstrong on October 27, 1996 in Indiana University Hospital," said Paskoff, adding that they were not the source of a report of the conversation in Walsh and Ballester's book.

Paskoff defended the Andreus against allegations that they had some motive for by testifying against Armstrong. "My clients remain steadfast in the truthfulness of their testimony," he said. "The Andreus stand nothing to gain by their testimony and in nearly 10 years, the Andreus have never sought to profit from their information. The Andreus had no interest in t he outcome of the arbitration matter involving Mr. Armstrong. Present in the hospital room were seven people including Mr. Armstrong. Contrary to recent reports, neither Mr. Armstrong's mother nor Dr. Craig Nichols were present."

Paskoff concluded that it was "unfortunate that transcripts from testimony provided in closed legal proceedings were released" and added that the Andreus were "unaware, shocked and disappointed when their confidential depositions were made public after being provided assurances by both parties that their testimonies were provided for the limited purpose of the arbitration matter and sealed pursuant to an order of the Texas Arbitration Panel."

Click here for the full statement.

Rabobank drops Dekker from Tour squad

The Rabobank team yesterday announced its Tour squad with one adjustment to its initial plans: Bram de Groot replaces Thomas Dekker in the line-up.

Besides the new Dutch national champion, Michael Boogerd, Rabobank will field Erik Dekker, Bram de Groot, Joost Posthuma, Pieter Weening, Juan Antonio Flecha, Oscar Freire, Denis Menchov and Michael Rasmussen.

Joost Posthuma did not attend the team presentation in Valkenburg due to a back injury, although he is expected to be fit for the Tour.

"This is our best possible team at this moment," team manager Erik Breukink said. "There were too many doubts concerning the condition of Thomas Dekker to take him to the Tour de France. Thomas had the same doubts. The final decision was taken after careful consideration with Thomas. This situation will be very difficult for him. I highly respect him for being with us in this decision."

Breukink said that Bram de Groot's place was clinched after his eighth place in the Netherlands championship. "I think everybody has enjoyed the way he competed during the national championship," he said.

Breukink pointed at Denis Menchov, winner of the 2005 Tour of Spain, as the Rabobank's top rider for the general classification but added, "This team has many options for the Tour de France."

Eisel to the Tour without expectations

By Susan Westemeyer

Francaise des Jeux's Bernhard Eisel gives the impression that he will be riding the Tour de France against his will. After the Austrian nationals on Sunday, he spoke to team manager Marc Madiot, "and told him about my condition. And I let him know not to expect any miracles from me. He said I could go to France with no pressure on me and so I agreed," he wrote on his personal website, www.eisel.com.

Eisel finished the race on Sunday in 21st place, nearly 3 minutes behind the winner. "I'll go to Strasbourg on Wednesday and go into the race with different expectations than I had just a few weeks ago. A month ago I dreamed of winning a stage, now maybe I can get on the podium (at a stage), but not more than that. I probably won't be able to come by Tom Boonen or Robbie McEwen," he said.

Eisel's contract with the French team expires this season, and he admits that his current form -- or lack thereof -- makes it difficult to renew or look for an alternative. "It's hard to negotiate, when I'm just standing around like a stone!" he told www.sport1.at. He expects to receive an offer from his current team, "but it's a question of money."

He has some specific ideas of where he might or might not go. "The only team that I wouldn't go to is Gerolsteiner, they have too many sprinters and nobody will guarantee you in writing the role of number one. If it is to be Germany, then T-Mobile. That is my absolute dream team, internationally there is no better address." Outside of Germany, he says, Discovery Channel and Saunier Duval would also be of interest. "There are alternatives."

Bouygues Telecom for the Tour

The Bouygues Telecom team will lines up in Strasbourg on July for the start of the Tour de France with exactly the same team as it fielded in 2005, team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has announced.

Laurent Brochard was the team's best finisher in 2005 in 28th place on general classification, 55:29 down on winner Lance Armstrong, while Jérôme Pineau place a creditable fifth in the young rider contest and was 43rd overall.

The Bouygues Telecom Tour team will therefore be Pierrick Fédrigo, Walter Bénéteau, Didier Rous, Laurent Brochard, Anthony Geslin, Laurent Lefèvre, Jérôme Pineau, Matthieu Sprick and Thomas Voeckler.

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