First Edition Cycling News for March 21, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams
Operación Puerto investigation not complete
WADA gets involved in hunt for full truth
By Shane Stokes
The World Anti-Doping Agency announced on Tuesday that it has requested the judge overseeing the Operación Puerto case to admit the body as a party to the investigation.
The move comes some two weeks after the UCI was granted similar status, and has been taken in order to allow WADA full access to the case file.
On Monday March 12, investigation judge Antonio Serrano stated that he was satisfied that doping practices had taken place, but nevertheless announced that the case would be dropped. The reason he gave was that "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."
Two days later, the prosecutors appealed this decision, saying that they were satisfied that the actions by Eufemiano Fuentes and others contravened the guidelines of the Spanish public health ministry.
They said that the blood bags were handled and manipulated "in violation of the Spanish law on blood donation and blood banks," and that such manipulations should "only be performed under the authority of the institutions appointed by the ministry of health." The prosecutors also said that they considered that the investigations of judge Serrano were "not enough to shed a light on the facts, which appear to be of criminal nature."
In a statement released on Tuesday, WADA said that it wants to ensure that disciplinary proceedings are taken against those involved in doping. "Since Operation Puerto broke last May, WADA has been in contact with the Spanish government to encourage strong measures against doping and coordination of information with sports authorities," read the communication. "More recently, in January, WADA President Richard W. Pound met with Spanish authorities in Spain.
"If WADA's request is accepted, the Agency should have access to the case file. Following appeal of an initial refusal by the judge, the International Cycling Union (UCI) was accepted two weeks ago as a party to the case. The UCI also confirmed last week that it will proceed with its own investigation and with the determination of possible anti-doping rule violations. However, it is not clear which evidence can be used as of now, since the judge ruled last year that the evidence garnered from the investigation could not be used by sports authorities as the basis for punishing athletes until the criminal investigation is completed."
It pointed out that under the WADA code, "anti-doping organizations such as the UCI can sanction "non-analytical violations, i.e., violations which do not involve a positive doping control test, such as use or possession of prohibited substance and methods, trafficking or tampering."
The statement concluded by saying that the anti-doping agency hopes that the judge will allow the entire file to be used for a sporting investigation. It pledged to continue to work with the Spanish authorities and what it terms 'the Sports Movement' so that evidence can be used to sanction cheats and remove them from competition.
UCI also determined
Meanwhile, UCI President Pat McQuaid has reaffirmed that the governing body is itself fully committed to ensuring that the Operación Puerto investigation continues.
Following the WADA announcement, McQuaid said on Tuesday evening that the UCI was also determined to get to the truth of the matter. "We also appealed the decision of the judge to shelve the case. We will have to wait and see what develops from that."
He said that the decision to drop the case was an unsatisfactory one, and that there are valid grounds for it to continue.
"It is unacceptable to the UCI and the sport that something like that can cause so much damage and yet there is absolutely nobody held responsible for it, he stated, speaking to Cyclingnews by phone. "Regardless of the judge's decision, if you consider that there was evidence that there was tampering with the blood of these athletes and so forth, that in itself has to be a health risk. So too the fact that the blood was stored in incorrect conditions.
"That in itself has to be a health risk to the individual. Just because the judge asks the various riders involved if they ever felt that their health was being compromised, it is incorrect to base his decision on their response."
McQuaid has said in the past that he believes there is enough evidence to begin disciplinary proceedings against some of the riders named in the investigation. However previous efforts to sanction the riders were put on hold when the judge ruled that no such measures could be taken until such time as the judicial case was concluded.
The UCI is keen to see the full catalogue of evidence. "By virtue of appealing the case, it means we will get some access to the file," continued the Irishman. "But it is only when the appeal is eventually held and the case finishes that we will be given the information [to use]. We will decide at that point if there is enough information there to start disciplinary proceedings."
Although it will be unable to act before that point, the UCI plans to study the file and determine exactly what evidence has been uncovered. McQuaid feels that there should be a lot of new information, given that until now it only had access to the evidence that had been gathered by the end of June 2006.
"That is over eight months ago now so obviously you would think that there is more information which has come in in the meantime. We will have to wait and see what that is, then decide how to take things from there."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
Georgia confirms 15 teams for '07 Tour
By Greg Johnson
The Tour de Georgia has announced the 15 teams that have accepted invites to contest this year's event, which includes five ProTour squads. Leading the field of 120 cyclists that will contest the April 16-22 event is the number one ranked ProTour team from 2006 Team CSC and the United States' only ProTour team Discovery Channel.
"The stature of the Tour de Georgia field continues to grow year after year," said Tour de Georgia race director Jim Birrell. "Kevin Livingston, the Tour de Georgia's competition director, has again assembled an outstanding and world-class field for our spectators and viewers to enjoy."
Discovery Channel's Levi Leipheimer will be aiming to repeat the feat of fellow American Floyd Landis in 2007, after the latter took a sweep of the big American Tours in 2006 with victories at the Tour of California and the Tour de Georgia. Leipheimer, who has already taken top honours in California, is looking forward to returning to Georgia for a crack at the title.
"It is going to be exciting to come back and race with Discovery Channel, an American team, this year and try to get Johan (Bruyneel, director sportif) another win in Georgia," explained Leipheimer, who last contested the event in 2005.
In addition to the ProTour teams that have accepted invitations to this year's race, a host of Professional Continental and local squads will also lineup for the seven stage event. Among those Pro Conti squads is Italy's Tinkoff Credit Systems.
Tinkoff's inclusion will make the Tour de Georgia Tyler Hamilton's first UCI sanctioned race on home soil since the completion of his two year suspension for blood doping.
"I'm really looking forward to racing inside the United States again," stated Hamilton. "I'm hoping the good block of early season racing I'll have under my belt by April will serve me well. The last pro cycling race I competed in inside the U.S. was in San Francisco in 2001.
"I hope that we can make a good showing at the Tour of Georgia," he added. "The team is really strong and I have a lot of confidence in them. We'll pick the leader based on who is riding best at the time."
The announcement of the squads contesting this year's event comes just a week after the events organiser Medalist Sports confirmed it would go ahead. The UCI 2.HC event was hit with financial uncertainty when the Georgia Ford Dealers' Association opted against renewing its title sponsorship deal last June, with the American manufacturer forced to tighten its budget strings over the past 12 months due to multi-billion dollar losses.
According to an article published in the Atlanta Business Journal earlier this month, the event was still rushing to fill an $800,000 budget shortfall. After issuing a call for help, organisers announced last week that they were satisfied with the response and confirmed the 2007 edition would go ahead.
The 15 confirmed teams for the Tour de Georgia:
Valverde honoured in Murcia
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alejandro Valverde has been recognised as one of the best sportsmen in his home region of Murcia by the local Sports Press Association at a ceremony in the region's capital on Monday evening. The Caisse d'Epargne rider was named alongside distance runners Bejamín Sanchez and Juan Manuel Molina plus tennis player Nicolás Almagro.
Accompanied by his wife Angela, the 26 year-old expressed his gratitude for the award and also surprise at his strong early season performances. "I did not hope to be in such good form already," said Valverde of his wins in the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Vuelta a Murcia. "It fills me with great satisfaction and optimism for my next races."
After victories in both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, Valverde is once again aiming to reach peak form for the Ardennes classics. "I am interested in winning the Amstel Gold Race," he said. "In last year's edition I had no luck."
The Spaniard will race both the Critérium International and Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco as preparation.
Speaking about his joint leadership role at the 2007 Tour de France alongside Oscar Pereiro, Valverde said: "I do not mind that, it is good for me because it gives me less pressure. [Pereiro] has more experience than me, and in addition, he is the Tour winner."
Koldo Fernández ecstatic with maiden victory
By Monika Prell
Euskaltel - Euskadi's Koldo Fernández is delighted after taking his first professional stage win on the seventh and final stage of Italy's Tirreno - Adriatico.
"It was an impressive victory, I'm very satisfied," noted the 25 year-old. "It's my first triumph as professional, I made it in such a prestigious race like Tirreno - Adriatico, with some rivals of a high level."
The Spaniard sprinted across the line ahead of world class riders, including second and third placed finishers Australia's Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), and Italy's Gabriele Balducci (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo).
The Basque rider recounted the final moments of the 177 kilometre stage, saying: "When I was in front, I took the wheel of Thor Hushovd, and when I saw that all the others began to sprint, I said to myself 'now or never' and began also to sprint. I did not risk to lift my arms before passing the finish line."
Fernández, who dedicated the victory to his mother, described the finish as 'stressful' but thanked his teammates for allowing him the opportunity to achieve the result.
"The team showed that they trust a lot in me, I'm very thankful, without the team the victory has not been possible," he acknowledged. "They helped me all the day. At the end Beñat Albizuri pulled me to the front, he made a phenomenal work and I want to single him out."
The rider says from here on he simply hopes to continue improving.
Sastre back in training
Team CSC's Carlos Sastre has returned to training after being sidelined after a crash in the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, with the outfit saying it expects he could return to racing as soon as next week.
"I've had 10 days with back pains and without training, but started training again on Monday and I feel better now and ready to get back to business again soon," said the Spaniard.
Sastre is listed on Team CSC's roster for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, which starts on Monday, but the rider will wait a few more days before deciding if he's ready to contest an event.
Despite the crash on his home soil, Sastre is determined to not let it interrupt his preparations for this year's Tour.
"At the moment it's not ideal of course, but I have lots of time before the Tour so I'm going to stick to my program," he said. "Of course it's always bad with a crash, but this one wasn't too serious I guess."
Dekker out of Milano-Sanremo
By Susan Westemeyer
One of the flu viruses that is sweeping Europe and the professional peloton has claimed another victim. Rabobank has announced that Thomas Dekker has come down with the bug and will have to skip Milano-Sanremo this weekend.
Dekker, the winner of Tirreno-Adriatico last year, lost over 10 minutes in Monday's mountain stage and was sweating heavily from the fever. "I had to get up several times during the night to dry off," said the 22 year-old to TDMagazine.nl. "My condition was good and I have become stronger in the mountains. It is too bad that it had to end this way."
Speedplay and Descente join Fantasy Spring Classics 2007!
Win a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle worth $6000 USD! That's not all you could win in this year's Fantasy games. To celebrate our fifth year of Fantasy games the Spring Classics will also be featuring some top runner-up prizes. We are proud to announce the continued following of Speedplay for this year's game. We have three sets of Speedplay's Zero stainless steel pedals - the same style of pedal used by ProTour teams such as Team CSC. The stainless steel model is on offer and it will provide years of faithful service. It allows you to choose either a fixed position or up to 15 degrees of float. Zero pedals maintain the traditional feel of a fixed system while incorporating all the well-known advantages of Speedplay X Pedal Systems.
We are also pleased to confirm today that Descente will be joining the list of runners-up prize sponsors. Produced in conjunction with Team CSC, the Descente Optima Bib Short is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and testing. Constructed of two different textiles, the main body features Aero-X fabric, a dual-denier Nylon with spandex for great moisture-management, durability, comfort, and fit. It combines Eschlers dimpled fabric on the quadriceps panels for a super-fast and high compression fit. Instead of a traditional gripper, the Optima is finished with a 2 band of Eschler fabric around the leg hem for an aerodynamic fit and extra compression. The bib construction features D-Vente micro-denier mesh for great support and breathability. Higher density and slightly thicker foam is used in the critical centre areas while lower density foam is used around the periphery, creating multiple layers of superior protection for the rider.
As announced yesterday, the first runner-up prize this year is a wireless Cycleops Powertap 2.4 worth $1499 USD. Cycleops upgraded the worlds most accurate, lightest power meter to be the worlds first wireless meter, meaning you can easily switch it between bikes. Powertap 2.4 measures watts, cadence, heart rate, speed, kilojoules, averages and graphs out your workout for you so you can chart your training progress. Powertap expert Allen Lim uses the Powertap 2.4 exclusively to coach the US based Slipstream Chipotle squad. The 2.4 combines the lightweight reliable SL hub with a 2.4GHz transmission. Hub to handlebar...no strings attached!
We are also delighted to confirm that a pair of BBB's "Winner Team" glasses are on offer for the highest scoring Fantasy team in each Classic. You don't have to take part in all seven races to stand a good chance of winning this prize. The highest score per classic wins a pair of the official sportsglasses of the Quick-Step Innergetic professional cycling team 2007. Called "Winner Team" the glasses have a durable, flexible and lightweight Grilamid frame; adjustable metal nose piece for a perfect fit; and interchangeable polycarbonate lenses with 100% protection against harmful UV rays, up to UV 400nm! The glasses are Matte Silver and come with Smoke Blue lenses with a Multi-Layer Coating (MLC). They also come with three extra lenses; orange, yellow and clear with a flash mirror coating and a carrying case so that you have lenses for all types of weather.
In the next few days we will be releasing more details of the prizes on offer this season with 46 prizes available for 18 lucky winners now is the time to sign up to the Fantasy Cyclingnews Games.
How to play
Yes, you too can be a professional team manager. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with fantasy managers from around the world. All you need to do to take part is register and, once the provisional race list has been announced, select 8 riders for each of the following races:
Milano-Sanremo, March 24th 2007
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