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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 11, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Operación Puerto shelved?

But disciplinary proceedings against riders still possible

Spanish judge Antonio Serrano is reported to have decided to shelve the criminal proceedings against the persons accused in the so-called Operación Puerto case. Although his decision is apparently due to be official only on Monday, Spanish media published this on Friday.

The sport's biggest blood doping affair, in which Madrid doctors Eufemiano Fuentes and José Luis Merino, team directors Manolo Saiz and Ignacio Labarta, as well as former mountain biker Alberto Leon have been implicated and accused of making blood doping possible to 58 professional cyclists, may thus have no criminal consequences, as it may not come to a trial.

The main reason for this would be that the judge could not assemble enough proof to justify the accused of crimes against public health, the only penal sanction possible as the new Spanish anti-doping law - which foresees prison sentences for those encouraging the use of doping substances - came into effect only in February 2007, long after the happenings. This legal reform cannot be retroactive.

Also, according to AS, the judge took into consideration that none of the cyclists which he interrogated during the last months stated that they received this sort of medical treatment from Fuentes. All but one: Jesús Manzano did, but Serrano concluded that the "blood extraction and transfusion" he denounced could not have been the cause of his "hypothetical lesions."

Moreover, the judge concluded that the autologous blood transfusions, should they have taken place, "minimized the risk that administering another drug could have caused." As regards to the use of EPO, Serrano deemed that "the side-effects (of the drug) are not known", and the levels of EPO in the blood bags too low to put the athletes' health at risk.

Could Ivan Basso still face disciplinary sanctions?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, the prosecutors announced that they would appeal the decision, and French L'Equipe still expected a new investigation into the charges of trafficking of doping products for the accused.

On a sports-disciplinary level, the UCI may thus be able to use the investigation files soon against the riders implicated in the affair. UCI president Pat McQuaid said on Friday that he had reached an agreement with the Spanish court to hand over the files as soon as the criminal cases are over.

While certain circumstantial evidence such as telephone call recordings may not be used, the head of the world governing body of cycling declared that "if new elements of information are revealed, then we can open up the files once again. For the riders, it's not over yet."

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

Euskaltel for Paris-Nice

Basque team Euskaltel-Euskadi has announced its line-up for Paris-Nice, which starts with a prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday. The team composed of Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Astarloza, Rubén Pérez, Andoni Aranaga, Markel Irizar, Alan Pérez, Gorka Verdugo and Iván Velasco has the objective of putting its leader Sánchez on the final podium in Nice. Sánchez finished an overall fourth last year at the event.

Moreover, sports director Gorka Gerrikagoitia pointed at Astarloza's good form - the former AG2R rider finished tenth in the Vuelta a Valenciana - and expected the rest of his riders to show the team's colours in breakaways, a part from helping Sánchez and Astarloza.

Mattan clarifies doping comments

Nico Mattan of Team DFL-Cyclingnews has confirmed that he used illegal doping preparations in the past, but only for medical reasons.

Speaking to the press agency dpa before the start of the Drie Daagse van West-Vlaanderen on Saturday, he said "I've had problems with my sinuses for years. The only way to cure it was to use cortisone, but this product is on the list of banned substances, so yes, I had to use drugs."

Mattan had commented on Friday on Johan Museeuw's confession that he had used EPO, saying "At that time the whole peloton was riding on EPO."

Now, Mattan was surprised that his comments were covered in the media. "There was a time when I didn't quite abide by the rules, but I am a bit disappointed that this news has made so much noise," he said. "I've always been straightforward and I intend to remain that way. I don't deny what I said to the journalist." reacts to case dismissal

Asks if Predictor-Lotto are now also illegal?

By Shane Stokes
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
Following Friday's decision by a judge in Nanterres to dismiss's case trying to force ASO to allow the team ride Paris-Nice, a response has been issued on the squad's website.

Earlier this year the team used non-branded jerseys to get around an 1836 law protecting state monopolies on gambling. However, despite being told by the police that these complied with the law, the latest court action has turned that situation around.

"At stake is our team's right to freely exercise its sporting business," said the squad in the press release. "Till now, it would have been unthinkable that the US Postal team would not have been entitled to race in Germany for not having a German postal license. It would have been unthinkable that Deutsche Telekom would not have been entitled to race in France for not being notified or licensed as a French telecoms operator. It would be unthinkable that Bayer Leverkusen could not play a Champions League game in Belgium because its "Bayer" sponsoring goes against the Belgian law on advertising of medicines."

"[The team] it is currently the victim of the discriminatory behaviour of Amaury Sport Organisation. ASO, organiser of Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, has found itself supported by the local Public Prosecutor. The Public Prosecutor did indeed decide to intervene in the court hearing of the eighth of March, and his argumentation denied the riders the right to participate, this even in neutral jerseys. This reasoning has been adopted in today's decision. For the President, it seems that the jersey without the Unibet brand is 'a pretence for clever and slanted publicity!'"

In a week when a similar monopoly in Italy was ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice, prompting speculation that such protectionism could soon be phased out due to actions being taken by the European Commission, the team was not impressed with the turn of events. Indeed the action could have far-reaching consequences, with general manager Koen Terryn pointing out on Friday that Champions' League football teams Werder Bremen and AC Milan are sponsored by Bwin. Will they now also be prohibited from playing on French soil?

Saturday's press release continued by saying that Predictor-Lotto's participation in Paris-Nice will make ASO accomplices in breaking the same law. It points out that the Belgian National Lottery has no licence in France, something it says makes "its brand and advertising as such also illegal."

Team lawyer Richard Milchior said that has made sure that this apparent contradiction has been highlighted. "At the court hearing of March 8th, we have presented a bailiff's report documenting a possible breach of the law of 1836, consisting inter alia of the availability of the Internet site of the Belgian Lotto in France", he stated.

The team will hope in the short term that another legal avenue can be found to enable them to race on French soil. Longer term, management, riders and lawyers will look to the European Commission's expected action to investigate whether monopolies such as that protected by the French state are illegal under restriction of trade legislation.

Hondo to ride again April 1?

Danilo Hondo in 2005, at the time racing for Gerolsteiner
Photo ©: Emmanuel Isnard
Click for larger image

German cyclist Danilo Hondo is planning to be back on his bike and racing on April 1, despite earlier reports that he would have to sit out an additional period.

Hondo, who rides for Tinkoff Credit Systems, tested positive for the banned substance Carphedon during the 2005 Vuelta a Murcia, challenged his original ban in the Swiss courts, and won a temporary reprieve when the Swiss courts overturned the suspension imposed on him by the Swiss cycling federation. After serving one year of the ban, he started riding again in April 2006, but his suspension was reinstated in January 2007 by the Swiss Supreme Court.

Friday afternoon, the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued a "clarification" concerning his ban. According to Hondo, the court does not have the right to extend his punishment, under both Swiss and European law. In order to conform with the ban, any results and titles that he received while he rode during his suspension would be removed from his record, and any prize money that he received would have to be paid back.

However, Hondo noted, he did not receive any prize money for last year anyway, when he rode for Team Lamonta, because of the ongoing legal case.

Zanini injured

Stefano Zanini (Predictor-Lotto) will miss out on the Italian spring season races Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and Coppa Bartali. On Friday, he suffered a crash during a training ride in Italy, and severely tore a muscle.

Merckx to retire after Tour

Axel Merckx at the 2005 Tour de France, still riding for Lotto.
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

Axel Merckx will retire after the Tour de France this summer, he told the Belgian magazine Cyclosprint. "Perhaps still some criteriums, but my real job of being a cyclist ends with the Tour," he said.

Merckx signed a one-year contract with T-Mobile Team, after previously announcing that he would retire at the end of last season when his former team, Team Phonak, folded.

"If I were not married, then I would continue for a year or two," he said. "But that is not the case, and so I will stop. I stop for my children and my wife, they are the determining factors."

Until then, however, Merckx, 34, has a full program. He is scheduled to ride Paris-Nice, the Belgian Classics, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.

Niedersachsen Rundfahrt looking for money

The Niedersachsen Rundfahrt is some 32,000 Euros shy of meeting its budget, race director Otto Pätzold said, and the race may have to be cancelled. "The finances are not secured, I can't take that responsibility," he told press agency dpa. Pätzold hoped to have a final decision by the coming Wednesday. "Because of the doping problems, many companies are no longer interested in supporting us," he noted.

Pätzold had announced last week that Team Milram was planning to send sprint start Alessandro Petacchi to the race. Petacchi won all the stages in the race in 2006. This year, the race is scheduled to run April 25 to 29.

French lineup for track worlds

Patrick Cluzaud, the French technical director for the national team, has announced the rider selection for track world's on the Spanish island of Mallorca, scheduled for March 29-April 1.

The men's team will include
Individual and team sprint: Grégory Baugé (Ile-de-France), Mickaël Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant (Cofidis)
Keirin: Mickaël Bourgain, Kevin Sireau (Cofidis)
Kilo: François Pervis (Pays-de-Loire) and Didier Henriette (Pays-de-Loire)
Individual pursuit: Fabien Sanchez (Côte d'Azur)
Team pursuit: Matthieu Ladagnous (Française Des Jeux), Kevin Lalouette (Picardie), Alexandre Lemair (Normandie), Nicolas Rousseau (AG2R) and Fabien Sanchez (Côte d'Azur)
Points race: Matthieu Ladagnous (Française Des Jeux)
Scratch: Jérôme Neuville (Rhône-Alpes)
Madison: Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom) and Matthieu Ladagnous (Française Des Jeux)
Omnium: Michaël D'Almeida (Ile-de-France)

The women's roster will be composed of
Individual sprint: Clara Sanchez (Provence)
500 m and team sprint: Sandie Clair (Côte d'Azur) and Virginie Cueff (Bretagne)
Keirin: Clara Sanchez (Provence) and Sandie Clair (Côte d'Azur)
Pursuit: Cathy Moncassin-Prime (Midi-Pyrénées)

Georgia Cup returns

A popular series in the Southeastern US, the Georgia Cup, will return again for the 2007 season. Distinguished from other racing series by a unique format of all omnium weekends, the Cup also features four competitions and corresponding jerseys: The white GC jersey for the leader of the series, the Yellow Jersey for race leader of each event, The Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for sprint primes, and The King of the Mountain Jersey for the fastest climber.

The 2007 Maxxis Georgia Cup presented by Lowe's Mortgage had it's February season opener in Albany, and will move on to Gainesville, Savannah, Dahlonega, Rome, Lagrange, Nashville, Birmingham, Rock Hill. The season will conclude at the East Village Race in Buckhead with the Aaron's Buckhead Grand Prix.

The next race in the series will be Gainesville, Georgia on March 24th, as the Gainesville Grand Prix returns for its third consecutive year. "The Georgia Cup has quickly become the premier cycling series in the Southeast," said Gentry Arnette, CEO of Spincycle."Gainesville is a great course because you can see both sides of the square, so essentially you get to see the spills and thrills every 30 seconds."

Team Honduras-Tigo to Tour of the Gila

A selection of Honduras' finest cyclists will be making their racing debut in the U.S. this spring. After receiving a special invitation to the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, from May 2-6, the team has expanded their U.S. race calendar to include more events in the Southwest during a one-month stay just north of the border.

The team, which placed second in the Vuelta Nicaragua will be lead by Honduran National Road and Time Trial Champion Armando Orellana and the 2006 Silver Medalist at the Central American Games Cristian Velasquez. Also directing and riding for the elite team will be Brian Husen from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Two juniors from the Honduran National Juniors Team, 2006 Junior Road Championship Series Winner George Haimes and Junior National Mountain Bike Champion Sergio Campos, will round out the roster.

"I want to thank the cycling community in New Mexico and the Tour of the Gila promoters for their support in making this long-time dream come true for me and the team," said Brian Husen of Honduras Cycling. "The team is ready and should be in very competitive form in April. It will be interesting to see our fitness level compared to our friends from the north," added Director Manuel Vela.

USA Cycling gives back to locals

With more than $320,000 expected to be paid to local associations based on 2006 license sales, the total funds distributed by USA Cycling since the inception of its Local Association Rebate Program four years ago has exceeded $1 million, the US governing body of cycling announced today.

USA Cycling has paid out more than $260,000 to Local Associations based on 2006 license sales with another $59,000 expected to be distributed. The 33 local associations represent 85 percent of its road, track and cyclo-cross racing members.

"The local associations do a terrific job managing the racing and recruiting new members in communities across the U.S.," said USA Cycling chief executive officer, Steve Johnson. "It's only natural that we invest a significant portion of our members' license fees back into the grassroots racing organizations."

In 2006, the Northern California/Nevada Cycling Association earned $35,735 from USA Cycling as the highest-paid L.A. The Southern California/Nevada Cycling Association earned $32,645 while The New England Bicycle Racing Association ($30,300), the Texas Bicycle Racing Association ($20,835), and the Washington State Bicycle Association ($16,425) rounded out the top five.

"The rebates we have received from USA Cycling for the Northern California/Nevada Cycling Association have allowed us to greatly expand the support we provide for several of our long-running programs," explained the association's president Casey Kerrigan. "We have increased funding for our junior points series, our category 3/4 women's series and our category-4 women's mentoring program. We've purchased new race equipment to support the growth of competitive cycling in our region and have been able to add programs such as the Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League.

"I feel that the success of USA Cycling's Local Association Program has helped fuel the 64 percent growth in the number of licensed road members in our region since the program started," Kerrigan continued. "The investments we have made in supporting entry-level riders is giving us a strong foundation to elevate the elite end of our regional racing spectrum."

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