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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, August 6, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Kvasina proud ahead of Croatia's Olympic cycling debut

By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China

Matija Kvasina will be one of Croatia's first
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Perutnina's Matija Kvasina will make his Olympic Games debut this weekend, as Croatia's first Olympic cyclist. Created in 1990, after the division of Yugoslavia, Croatia didn't have anyone to line-up at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

"After the war, cycling didn't exist anymore in Croatia, we all started from zero," said the 27 year-old from Zagreb.

It's only recently that Croatia has produced professional riders. The rise in the country's cycling activities saw it score enough points in last year's European Tour to qualify for three Olympic places.

The first one was designated to Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas), who doesn't score European Tour points as he rides for a ProTour team. "He's the number [one rider] and he has done a lot for cycling in Croatia," said Kvasina, who was one of the six point scorers who contributed to earning the nation's Olympic berths.

Kvasina's Perutnina team-mate Radoslav Rogina, who finished 20th at the UCI World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany last year, fills the third Olympic spot. All three riders knew about their Olympic qualification at the end of September, 2007.

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"We might be a small cycling nation, but since we are at the Olympic village now, we all dream of a medal," said Kvasina. "We sleep in the same conditions as some of the biggest sports stars in the world, so why not dream?"

The Croatians have good reason to dream, after all Portugal's Sergio Paulinho's silver medal in Athens, Greece, four years was a huge surprise to most. While training on Tuesday Kvasina met the Russian squad at the village, said hello to Spain's gold medal contender Alejandro Valverde and gave direction to Jens Voigt, who got lost.

"At the restaurant I saw Rafael Nadal, but he didn't have five minutes to eat because so many athletes wanted to have their photo taken with him," laughed the Croatian.

As a national champion for time trial, Kvasina will also take part in the Olympic time trial event next week. "It's just to represent my country and show that we are here," he said.

Kvasina took three top 10 finishes in a row at the Tour de l'Avenir and won this year's Tour of Serbia, but is yet to receive a start with a big team.

Bastianelli fronts CONI inquiry

Marta Bastianelli arrives at CONI
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Italian cyclist Marta Bastianelli has been questioned by the Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutor on the same day her would-be Olympic Games team-mates arrived in China. Bastianelli, the current women's UCI World Road Champion, was thrown off the Italian squad after testing non-negative for dietary aid flenfluramine, during a routine doping control at the European championships held in Italy in June.

With the close proximity to this weekend's Olympic road race, the Italian was unable to contest her dumping from the line-up. Instead she offered details on her case and is hopeful of returning to competition in time to defend her World Championship later this year.

Bastianelli has said she took the product to lose some weight and did not believe it was a banned substance, but rather an herbal product. The rider had earlier hit out at her medical advisor in the fallout from the test.

"I am sorry," Bastianelli had told Reuters. "I hope the investigation brings out the truth. I want to show everyone this is not technical doping."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP

Training crash takes Albasini out of Olympics

Switzerland's Michael Albasini has had his Olympic Games dream ended before the Games even start. Albasini crashed while training on Tuesday morning and suffered multiple fractures of the left collarbone. After an examination in the Olympic Village, he was said to be flying home for surgery as soon as possible.

There will be no replacement in Switzerland's line-up following the accident, the Swiss Olympic Committee announced. There is not enough time for another rider to acclimatise himself to the Chinese heat, the organisation said. SOC also felt Albasini's loss didn't "pose any competitive disadvantage for his team-mate Fabian Cancellara".

Riccò names supplier

Riccardo Riccò
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Former Saunier Duval-Scott rider Riccardo Riccò has named Carlo Santuccione as the supplier of the EPO that he used during the Tour de France, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Riccò who won two stages before being thrown off the race for a doping violation, told that he paid 700 euro for the third generation EPO named CERA.

"I have not paid, naturally," said Riccò. "Santuccione assured me you could not be found positive. So I did not give him the money."

Santuccione is widely known in professional cycling as 'Ali de Chemist' and in the late '90s the former doctor was suspended for his involvement in a doping affair. In 2004 he was also arrested after the prescription of the performance-enhancing drugs anabolic steroids, growth hormone and EPO.

This year the doctor was relieved from his post for life. Santuccione is the former doctor of Danilo Di Luca and former professional Rodolfo Massi, who was discredited during the Festina-Affair in 1998.

Lefevere: Boonen has felt cocaine fallout

Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed star rider Tom Boonen has taken on the financial fallout of his cocaine blunder, which led to his non-participation at the Tour de France this year. The respected team manager believes the impact on Boonen has been notable and the rider has learnt from his mistakes.

"I spoke to Tom about his blunder," he told HLN. "The message has certainly been delivered and Tom has learnt his lesson. This is unacceptable for a top sports man.

With Lefevere's team already hunting for new sponsors for 2009, Boonen's actions have had an impact on the team financially. Lefevere refused to go into details surrounding the matter, but admitted Boonen had been fined.

"This has cost the team money, so Tom also received a fine," Lefevere said. "He has felt it in his wallet and he is not proud of it. The issue was resolved internally and for me the matter is now closed. Tom will not make anymore blunders."

Boonen was not welcome at the Tour as a direct result of the violation. With the race organiser pumping a message to athletes performance enhancing drugs would not be tolerated, it also wanted to avoid connection with Boonen's recreational drug incident.

"Publicity wise it was a very meager Tour de France," admitted Lefevere. "How much that really cost us, I don't know, but it is a lot."

Lefevere was also critical of the Tour organisers and what he believed to be a double standard. "Stefan Schumacher won two time trials and wore the yellow jersey, but he was caught for the same offence [last year], why was he allowed to ride?" he said. "Ultimately Tom was allowed to start, but under ridiculous conditions. I remained discreet, but they went too far," he concluded.

Leogrande sues Decanio, Sonye for slander

By Mark Zalewski

USADA moving forward with Leogrande arbitration

Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Rock Racing's Kayle Leogrande is suing former team soigneur Suzanne Sonye and former professional cyclist Matt Decanio for slander over an illegally taped phone conversation allegedly made by Decanio in which Sonye made doping allegations against Leogrande. The allegations relate to an arbitration of Leogrande by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that was also the subject of a lawsuit by Leogrande against USADA in January. Decanio posted the phone conversation on his Stolen Underground web site in February 2008.

The USADA arbitration is over an anti-doping control taken from Leogrande during the 2007 Superweek series, in which USADA alleges Leogrande intentionally contaminated it with soap while giving the sample. Sonye discussed this during her phone conversation with Decanio and also gave a first-person account in an affidavit to USADA last fall. Leogrande filed a lawsuit seeking to bar USADA from testing the B-sample in its investigation, arguing that since the A-sample did not test positive USADA had no legal authority to test the B-sample without the rider's permission - even to test for contamination.

Neither USADA or Leogrande's attorney Howard Jacobs would confirm or deny the status or even existence of the arbitration. "I am not going to talk about if there even is an investigation by USADA - USADA is not talking about it and neither am I," he said. "If you read the complaint it does not mention USADA." However, sources involved with the USADA investigation and arbitration of Leogrande confirmed with Cyclingnews that it is moving forward.

In court documents obtained by Cyclingnews Leogrande is seeking monetary damages from Sonye and Decanio for defamation and slander by making statements they knew to be false and making them public. "We want the defendants to be held responsible and as civil cases go that usually involves a monetary form," said Leogrande's attorney Jacobs, a prominent athlete lawyer who has worked on many cases for cyclists such as Floyd Landis.

In response Sonye's attorney, Thomas Fitzgibbon, filed a motion to strike, alleging that the lawsuit against Sonye is an intentional move to intimidate her regarding her testimony in the USADA case against Leogrande. The motion refers to this as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP)". While not specifically argued in the motion, Fitzgibbon said that the intimidation factor is clear since Sonye does not have the financial assets to make the lawsuit worthwhile for Leogrande.

Sonye signed the USADA affidavit in November of 2007 in which is says she had first-hand knowledge of the contaminated sample in question as well as Leogrande's doping practices, including use of testosterone and Erythropoietin (EPO). In the affidavit Sonye says Leogrande confided in her during the Superweek series and that she alerted management as to what to do. The strike motion indicated she is the top witness against Leogrande in the arbitration.

Of the many arguments set forth in the strike motion, the SLAPP accusation is the central one, with similarities to a 'whistle-blower' case. It argues that the SLAPP status would afford Sonye additional protections as the recorded phone call, "was a nearly verbatim recitation of the statements in the Affidavit at the center of the USADA Arbitration". Another argument is that Sonye herself should not be liable since she was illegally recorded by Decanio and did not knowingly participate in or know about the Internet posting of the conversation.

"We will respond on the motion to strike and the court will rule on it and move forward," said Jacobs for Leogrande. "It is somewhat complicated and convoluted - I didn't write it I just try to interpret it. We don't think there is any basis for it and we will be responding."

Decanio did not return Cyclingnews' request for comment, and Fitzgibbon said he has not appeared at any of the legal proceedings. Court records indicate Decanio has not retained legal counsel either. Decanio is well-known in the U.S. cycling community as a former professional that admitted to using EPO during the 2003 season. He has since returned to the sport and started a controversial crusade against doping in cycling, racing on and off in recent years.

During this entire process Leogrande has been racing for the Rock Racing team with no sign of stopping. Owner Michael Ball told Cyclingnews that he continues to stand by his riders, including Leogrande. "As I've said all along, we believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty," said Ball. "I stand by that."

Hamilton: Landis welcome at Rock Racing

Tyler Hamilton has welcomed Floyd Landis to join his American Rock Racing squad, once his ban from competition ends next year. The American tested positive for testosterone after the Tour de France in 2006.

"Floyd is welcome to join us immediately," 37 year-old Hamilton said, according to Belgian publication HLN. "I know what he is going through, we can help him return to the top."

Landis is suspended until January 30, 2009 after having his Tour de France title stripped from him following a drawn-out legal battle.

Hamilton was also suspended for two years for a foreign blood population. He made a turbulent re entry into the professional peloton at the beginning of the 2007 season with Tinkov, before moving to the Rock Racing team in 2008. Last month Hamilton claimed his first stage race victory since returning to the sport at China's Tour of Qinghai Lake.

Deputy pleads not guilty in cyclists' deaths

Kristy Gough was one rider killed in the crash
Photo ©: Larry Rosa
(Click for larger image)

Lawyers for a sheriff's deputy accused of misdemeanour manslaughter charges for killing two cyclists in northern California in March pleaded not guilty on Monday.

James Council, a deputy with the Santa Clara Country Sheriff's Department, was on patrol on March 9 along the winding Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino. California Highway Patrol investigators said his patrol vehicle crossed the double yellow line and struck three cyclists climbing the road. The incident killed Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco and Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro, while the third rider, Christopher Knapp, 20, of Germany, escaped with serious injuries.

Multiple reports of the incident allege that Council said he fell asleep at the wheel. Investigators said they did not find any drugs or alcohol in his system, and that his vehicle's GPS system did not indicate speeding. As such they recommended misdemeanour charges in lieu of more serious felony charges. If convicted Council faces up to two years in prison. He remains on administrative leave from the department.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Council's attorney suggested fatigue may have played a role in the incident, as Council had worked more than 12 hours the day before and was currently 4.5 hours into another 12-hour shift.

Smiddy charity ride aims for $400,000

Two years ago keen cyclist and triathlete Adam Smiddy died of cancer, at the age of 26. To commemorate the young man from Home Hill in Queensland, Australia, a charity ride called Smiling for Smiddy has been organised to raise money for cancer research and treatment through the Adam Smiddy Cancer Fund at the Mater Foundation.

The ride, which begins on September 13, will cover 1600 kilometres from Brisbane to Smiddy's home town of Home Hill near Townsville in just eight days. Now in its third year, the 50 riders and 10 support staff aim to reach a target of raising $400,000 AUD for the cancer fund. In its first year three riders raised $25,000 AUD, while last year 22 riders raised $192,000 AUD. All money raised will be donated to charities, with a focus on melanoma and prostate cancer.

Smiddy was diagnosed with a melanoma in February 2006, for which he received surgery before going into remission. Later that year he relapsed with a very aggressive form of cancer and passed away just five week later. Smiddy's dream was to do what he called a 'credit card ride': to leave home with nothing but a credit card and see where you ended up. The Smiling for Smiddy ride has been set up to honour his dream.

Donations can be made by visiting the official website

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