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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 24, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Hedwig Kröner

Anti-doping bodies defend test

Although a lab blunder forced the International Olympic Committee to drop the doping case against Olympic time trial gold medalist Tyler Hamilton, the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have maintained that the test to detect blood transfusions is scientifically sound.

Hamilton returned an A sample on August 19, the day after he had won the Olympic TT, that showed signs of a "mixed red blood cell count". According to the test, this is a certain indication that he had had a homologous blood transfusion, unless he demonstrates he has a rare condition that would produce similar results. However, for Hamilton to be declared positive at the Olympics, his B sample had to give the same result. This couldn't happen because instead of refrigerating the B sample, the Athens lab had accidentally deep-frozen it, rendering it useless for testing.

In a statement issued yesterday, the IOC said that, "The laboratory analysis of the B sample was considered as non-conclusive because of lack of enough intact red blood cells...the disciplinary procedure [against Hamilton] has had to be stopped because of the non-conclusive result of the B sample analysis. The IOC...would not be pursuing sanctions regarding this matter." Hamilton will therefore keep his gold medal.

The IOC's medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said that the accidental freezing of the B sample (in violation of lab protocols) was "an unfortunate accident," explaining that it was due to the extra workload during the Games, where approximately 3,000 samples had to be analysed; and the fact that it was the first time that this blood test had been used at the Olympics. Ljungqvist pointed out that urine and plasma B samples are routinely deep frozen but whole blood samples need to be refrigerated above 0 degrees celsius.

Ljungqvist was asked whether Hamilton had "slipped through the net" at the Olympics. "It's up to everyone to draw his own conclusions on that," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "The rules are clear," he said. "If the B analysis cannot confirm the finding of the A, the case needs to be dropped."

He did emphasise that the test developed by Australian researchers was sound and had been scientifically validated internationally before being authorised by WADA. "The outcome of the B analysis has nothing to do with the method. It's simply because the blood sample was unfortunately destroyed and could not be analysed."

WADA boss Dick Pound said that he was "perfectly satisfied that the test when properly implemented is entirely reliable."

Although the IOC had to drop the case, the botched B test did not prove that Hamilton was clean and the evidence is still against the American after he also tested positive for a mixed red blood cell count during the Vuelta a España. His Phonak team confirmed that his Vuelta B sample was also positive, which means that Hamilton's case is now in the hands of the US Anti-Doping Association which has 30 days to deliver its findings to the US cycling federation. If found guilty of blood doping, then he could be suspended for up to two years.

Hamilton has strongly protested his innocence in the case, and both he and his Phonak team's line of defense is that the scientific method behind the test is unsound. Phonak said that it's setting up its own scientific panel "in order to achieve clarity as to the medical method and reliability of these new blood testing tools. This scientific board will consist of various scientists with outstanding reputations in this field....For the time being the names of the scientists involved will not be disclosed in order to avoid that they are disturbed in their work or influenced in any way."

Landis sick

US Postal's Floyd Landis is on a plane bound for Atlanta, USA, after pulling out the Vuelta yesterday during stage 18. Landis, who held the golden jersey for most of the first half of the race, had been slowly dropping down the GC as he couldn't match the pace in the mountains. His team director Dirk Demol told Cyclingnews this morning that, "Landis had a cold for a few days and it got too much."

US Postal's best placed rider in the Vuelta is now Manuel Beltran, who is in 10th overall.

Strong Ullrich a favourite at World's

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Jan "Ulle" Ullrich has struck again, for the second time in a week. Last weekend, he already achieved a podium placing at the Giro del Lazio, and moved two steps up yesterday by winning the Coppa Sabatini. Since the Olympics, where he had made a poor appearance and the German media ripped his image to shreds because he had had a beer in the German camp, his form is steadily improving. "I think I'm in very good shape now. This is why I decided to go to the World's," said one of the peloton's most gifted riders. "It was an excellent test for it."

Franco Ballerini, the Italian National team coach, was very impressed with the German at the Coppa Sabatini. "We have seen Ullrich very strong, as he was on Saturday at the Giro di Lazio." Regarding the Squadra Azzurra's chances at the World's, the route is not in favour of Ullrich in Ballerini's opinion. "Fortunately, the final kilometre in Verona is flat, not like the one today. Ullrich can be beaten there."

Ullrich remains optimistic. "After deciding to take part in the World's road race as well as in the time trial, today's victory gives me even more strength in my preparations for it," Ullrich said on T-Mobile's website. The German will continue to race in Italy until the World Championships: on Saturday at the Giro dell'Emilia and on Sunday at the Grand Prix Beghelli.

CSC looking for co-sponsors

By Hedwig Kröner

After a number of rumours about team CSC pulling out of the Pro Tour had reached us, Cyclingnews asked the team's press officer Brian Nygaard to set things straight. Nygaard strongly denied that CSC should be out of the Pro Tour and affirmed, "The contract between our main sponsor CSC and Riis Cycling runs until the end of 2005."

With regard to the team looking for co-sponsors to back up the financial support provided by the consulting company, Nygaard said, "We are actively looking for a co-sponsors right now, and we are very optimistic about it. The various talks we have had have been very good, and we are positive about the future.

"We currently have about ten or eleven riders on contract for 2005, and will sign some new ones as soon as our budget for next season is finalised. This time of year is always difficult and there's usually a lot of speculation going on." The roster of Team CSC, directed by Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, includes amongst others Jörg Jaksche, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Jakob Piil, Jens Voigt and Michele Bartoli.

Richard Virenque says adieu to cycling

After a pro cycling career spanning 15 years and a record seven polka-dot jersey wins at the Tour de France, Richard Virenque announced his retirement today at a press conference in Paris.

The Quick.Step rider will turn 35 in November and has decided to put an end to his career, which includes seven stage wins in cycling's most prestigious race, the Tour de France. The French rider has always been charismatic and beloved in his home country, even after admitting to doping practices in the 90's at the famous Festina trial in 2000. Virenque came back to cycling after a nine month suspension and won Paris-Tours in 2001 after an impressive solo of 242 km, as well as taking several more stage wins in the Tour in similar style.

Cyclocross in Iowa

The Des Moines Cyclocross Mafia presented by the DMOS/Mortgage Solutions Bicycle Racing Team is back for 2004 to 'Cross Out Crohn's Disease' with five cyclocross races in Des Moines and Newton for 2004 and a new overall points series with $600 in cash prizes including the Bettendorf Cyclocross Race.

Courses include paved roads, gravel, dirt, grass and wooden barriers to challenge the racers and take them to their aerobic limits. Any bike can be used, but there is only one Cyclocross Bike.

The race series is a non-profit venture to support the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Iowa.

Series Calendar

Saturday, October 2, 4.30pm: Survivorcross, Union Park, DSM
The Morning After Sunday, October 3, 10:00am: Ewing Park, DSM
PsychoCx Sunday, October 17, 10:00am: Bettendorf, IA State Championship
Sunday, October 24, 11:00am: Woodland Park, Newton Southsider Cx
Sunday, November 14, 10:00am: Ewing Park, DSM Iron Maiden of Cross
Sunday, December 5, 10:00am: Woodland Park, Newton


Presenting Sponsor: The Jacobson Companies

Supporting Sponsors: Providing Donations to the CCFA of Iowa: Graziano's Italian Grocery, Java Joe's Coffeehouse, Iowa Digestive Disease Center, Avondale Animal Hospital, Maharry Photography, Urbandale Family Physicians, Christian Printers.

Schwag Sponsors: Oakley, Bike World, Doghouse Bikes, Clif Bar, DeFeet

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)