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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 13, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

Operación Puerto dismissed but UCI and riders want resolution

UCI says investigation still ongoing

By Jean-François Quénet in Buzançais

Marc Madiot has called for the UCI to do more
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Many of those who thought Operación Puerto would clean up the world of cycling looked defeated after stage 1 of Paris-Nice, when they learned that the Spanish court had shelved the case. Française des Jeux's general manager Marc Madiot had read a message from the AIGCP (International Association of Professional Cycling Groups) on the start line of the first stage which stated that "teams and riders don't intend to forget about Operación Puerto," and recalling that, "all teams have signed the code of conduct" - which includes that no team can employ a rider implicated in an active doping affair.

The message follows an announcement from magistrate Antonio Serrano on Monday which stated: "Contrary to French and Italian legislation (...) at the time of the investigation Spanish law could not pursue anyone criminally for doping or practices linked to doping."

As a result Serrano has cleared five central figures of any involvement, including Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, due to the lack of Spanish laws and evidence available when the case arose.

Despite the Spanish court's dismissal of the case, the issue of Operación Puerto is far from over, with the Spanish prosecutor able to file an appeal within the next three days. Depending on the outcome of an appeal, the UCI hopes more information could surface which would allow it to take further action.

"The Spanish prosecutor has three days to appeal this decision by the court, and the indications are that he will appeal," UCI President Pat McQuaid told news agency AFP. "We have to wait until that happens before taking any further action."

"For us the investigation is still ongoing," added McQuaid. "We are wondering whether there is more information that is relevant to the investigation, and which we haven't seen yet. But what the UCI does next depends on whether the judge releases that information and whether it will be restricted or not.

"Our intentions are still to do the maximum we can to get access to the files and to use what is in them if we see evidence of doping infractions," finished the Irishman.

Reacting to the news, Bouygues Telecom's general manager Jean-René Bernaudeau offered a solution that would lay to rest any concerns, once and for all, over those implicated in the affair. "The 30,000 euro requested by the UCI (for its proposed anti-doping program) isn't anywhere in our budget for 2007 and we're not prepared to pay for it before we know exactly what it'll be used for," the Frenchman said. "But I can find the money to fly all of my riders to Madrid and get their DNA compared to the ones of the blood bags of Operación Puerto. I have suggested three times to my colleagues of the AIGCP to do the same.

"Ironically, I've even told Bruyneel: 'Johan, we want to help you demonstrate that Basso had nothing to do with it. Let's go, all of us, and bring 600 riders to the lab in Madrid, then we'll see if there's really no blood bag belonging to any cyclist.'"

Madiot demanded more be done with the evidence produced by the Spanish authority's investigations. "If the Spanish justice can't use all the documents and blood bags, we want the UCI to be able to do so," he said. "We understand that there was no law in Spain at the time when Manolo Saiz was arrested, but the UCI has rules against drugs and we want them to apply."

Paris-Nice stage one winner Jean-Patrick Nazon from Ag2r Prévoyance also commented on the affair. "I heard the press release on the start line, it made sense, but as bike riders, we are victims of all these affairs and we can't do much," he said. "The cycling world only turns around the problem. I turned pro in 1997, so it's been 10 years of hearing that cycling is close to get rid of doping, but I keep hearing it without realising any progress."

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

Hondo's return still up in the air

By Susan Westemeyer

Danilo Hondo
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The UCI will decide in the next few days whether Danilo Hondo can ride again on April 1 or whether his doping suspension will continue. The exact legal requirements must be carefully studied, UCI attorney Philippe Verviest told the news agency sid.

The Tinkoff Credit Systems rider, who 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 court 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.

The CAS ruled over the weekend that the two-year ban must be "effectively" served. The UCI could rule that Hondo may not ride again until March 2008. However, Hondo's attorney Michael Lehner said that such a ruling would go against the wishes of the Swiss court's January ruling, which said: "that an athlete may not be punished for taking advantage of his right to appeal."

Lehner added that the CAS' announcement over the weekend was not a legal decision. "It simply gave a judicial opinion, which the World Anti-Doping Agency had asked for," he noted.

Hondo plans to ride the De Brabantse Pijl on April 1. Lehner said that an extension of the suspension is not legal and that if that should occur, he would start another action before the Swiss court.

Millar speaks loud and clear after Paris-Nice win

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Following his Paris-Nice prologue victory on Monday in Issy-les-Moulineaux, just a few miles from the Parisian suburb of Nanterre where he appeared in court in November as a conclusion to the Cofidis affair, David Millar has once again spoken out against doping.

"Last Thursday and Friday, I was in London for a conference about drugs," said Millar. "I feel that I have a new responsibility in the fight against drugs. I want to be a voice in the clean up of the sport for the coming generations. I can't forget the mistakes from the past. I want to be an example every day now."

Millar also had a message for the newcomers: "The young riders must not believe that there is a need for injections of recovery products. It's useless," he said.

The Briton wants to ride clean but refuses to give up on his ambitions in cycling. "I have set the year 2012 as the end of my career," he said. "In the five remaining years I want to become the world's best rider. I have come back a long way but I'm stronger than ever. Confidence will be the key for winning the prologue of the Tour de France in London."

Millar isn't only the spokesman for the drugs issue and acknowledges that cycling's current problems stretch far beyond doping itself. "There is so much to be done at every level of cycling, not only about drugs, also at the federations, the races, etc," he concluded.

Paris-Nice certainly sounds like the new start for cycling with the community being reunited and the UCI finally putting in place the anti-doping program awaited since 1998. It's a new start for Millar, that's obvious. JFQ

Langkawi winner looking for Paris-Nice opportunity

France's Anthony Charteau is out to repeat his Le Tour de Langkawi success on home soil in the Paris-Nice. Charteau is convinced that he has better form than ever before and while he may not be the favourite, could stand a chance on general classification in the stage race if it plays out right.

"I feel really good," the Crédit Agricole rider said. "I spent one week to recover [after Langkawi] when I returned home. Then I felt very strong at the Tour du Haut-Var, unfortunately I broke two wheels towards the finish of the race. I was also ok in Lugano."

But Charteau is by no means a shoe in for the Paris-Nice victory, with Levi Leipheimer out to emulate Floyd Landis' double victory in the Tour of California and Paris-Nice. In addition to the strong Discovery Channel rider, Belgians Wilfried Cretskens (Quick Step) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) have performed well at the Tour of Qatar and the Etoile de Bessèges respectively.

Charteau knows there's a big challenge ahead and says he expects an extremely open Paris-Nice and expects a break, similar to that which claimed him the Tour de Langkawi victory, will decide the event's winner.

"Le Tour de Langkawi has had a huge impact in the media here in France as well," commented Charteau, who enjoys being a dark horse in the field. "My director sportif Roger Legeay told me the sponsor was very happy with the coverage. Maybe some people think it's just an exotic event, they don't realise the level of the race."

"Winning it has given me another status in the bunch and in my team as well. But I'll keep working for my leaders, for the sprinters or the climbers but Thor Hushovd isn't here, he'll ride Tirreno-Adriatico, and Pietro Caucchioli, [the team] hasn't set Paris-Nice as a goal, so I'm free to repeat what I did in Malaysia." JFQ

Page close to deal with Sunweb-Projob

By Brecht Decaluwé

US rider Jonathan Page
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Cyclo-crosser Jonathan Page is reportedly close to inking a deal with Belgian team Sunweb-Projob after a tumultuous season where the American was beset by a serious shoulder injury but returned to take a dramatic second place at the World Championships in January.

Page, a multiple US National Champion, started his comeback at the end of December, racing independently with the support of small Belgian company Morgan Blue. But since his silver medal in Hooglede-Gits, Page has attracted offers from several teams and individual sponsors. "When the season was over we decided to hire Paul De Geyter [a Belgian agent] to help me out," Page told Cyclingnews. "Actually I haven't signed anything yet but if the deal's on then I'm a Sunweb rider for one year and a half, so from July until the end of February 2009."

The Sunweb Projob team was only founded in January this year but is aiming to rival two of the sport's biggest names: Fidea and Rabobank. However, their first months in cyclo-cross have not gone smoothly with team leader Sven Vanthourenhout unable to live up to expectations, resulting in the search for a supporting team leader. "There's not too much available on the market right now and we didn't have a foreign rider in our team just yet," explained team founder Jurgen Mettepenningen to Cyclingnews. "Page is interesting for us towards our material sponsors Ridley and Lazer as he is the ambassador of USA cyclo-cross.

"The financial part has been discussed and we have a deal, now we only need to sign. Page confirmed after the World's so we hope that he can display that level again throughout the upcoming season."

Former cyclo-cross world champion Mario De Clercq is Page's personal coach but also team manager for Sunweb-Projob and has therefore been an important link in courting the American rider. "Jonathan rode an excellent second part of the season and I strongly believe in him. If the team gets him we'll take a good step forward," said De Clercq.

Given cyclo-cross' huge status in Belgium, local media questioned the team's other manager, Hans De Clercq, on why Sunweb would opt for a foreign rider. "Mario [De Clercq] knows Page very well and he said that he can still make some progression as he didn't live for the sport in the past," noted Hans De Clercq to Sporza. "It's because we couldn't sign Richard Groenendaal that we decided to sign Page. But I'm convinced that Page can form a perfect partnership with Sven Vanthourenhout and Tom Vannoppen."

Groenendaal's financial demands were reportedly too high with the Dutchman now opting for support from individual sponsors.

Meanwhile, Page has been working hard on his Belgian home to prepare for the arrival of a second child next week. "By signing for this team, my wife Cori's visa problems could be solved as well, so that's the theory right now," explained Page. "Anyway, it would be good to ride for a team although I acknowledge there are negative sides about that as well."

Asked for a response to Hans De Clercq's comments on whether he lived for cyclo-cross in the past, Page laughed, "People can have their comments... since my injury I've become more aware of my task on the bike, I've become more balanced."

Euskaltel for Tirreno-Adriatico

By Monika Prell

Euskaltel Euskadi has announced the roster of riders it will take to Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico, which runs from March 14-20. Koldo Fernández de Larrea is aiming for his first victory as professional, with sprinters Beñat Albizuri, Jon Bru and Aitor Hernández out to help the Spanish rider achieve his goal.

Unai Etxebarria, who was victorious in the Challenge of Mallorca's Trofeo Calvia race, hopes to be able to surprise with a stage victory. Aketza Peña, Antton Luengo and Iban Mayoz will have to control the race and to intent to be in every breakaway group.

The roster is as follows: Unai Etxebarria, Jon Bru, Beñat Albizuri, Koldo Fernández de Larrea, Aitor Hernández, Aketza Peña, Antton Luengo and Iban Mayoz.

German teams opt for youth in Italy

Young riders will lead the two German ProTour teams in the next ProTour race, Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico. Linus Gerdemann, 24, will be leading the T-Mobile Team, while Gerolsteiner will be spearheaded by 25 year-old Stefan Schumacher.

"Linus is in good shape and he has the potential to make his mark on the GC over the course of this week," said T-Mobile director sportif Valerio Piva.

T-Mobile will also have Bernhard Eisel and Gerald Ciolek onboard for the sprint stages.

"Tirreno-Adriatico was usually something for the sprinters in the last few years, but now all-round qualities are looked for - for example, like those that Stefan Schumacher has," read a Gerolsteiner press release. However, it is still bringing along top sprinter Robert Förster. SW

T-Mobile roster: Lorenzo Bernucci, Gerald Ciolek, Bernhard Eisel, Linus Gerdemann, Kim Kirchen, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven and Marco Pinotti.

Gerolsteiner roster: Robert Förster, David Kopp, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Andrea Moletta, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, and Peter Wrolich.

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