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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, October 3, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Schleck admits Fuentes payment

CSC-Saxo Bank rider denies having doped, placed on inactive list by team

Fränk Schleck says his payment made in 2006 to Puerto doctor Fuentes was for training advice
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Luxembourg rider Fränk Schleck has confirmed initial claims that he made a payment of nearly 7,000 euro to a bank account belonging to Operación Puerto doctor Eufemiano Fuentes back in 2006. His team, CSC-Saxo Bank, has therefore pulled Schleck from racing, saying he must concentrate on his case before the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency (ALAD). "We would like to express our sincere hope that Fränk comes out of this case in a way that is acceptable to him and to the team and we will do our utmost to make the most reasonable and sound decisions for him and for the team," team manager Bjarne Riis said in a press release issued Friday.

Schleck this week met with both the ALAD and the International Cycling Union (UCI), after a prosecutor's office in Luxembourg was given proof to the said bank transfer.

According to the press release, Schleck confirmed the transfer, but said that it was for "training advice by experts who presumably worked with some of the biggest names in the sport," and that he "never used or attempted use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method." He explained that he had "no suspicion of any unlawful action and interrupted the contact after taking advice from his father and his near friends."

Schleck further said that he "has never received, nor made use of any services from these people – including Eufemiano Fuentes, whom he has never met," and that he was not aware of the link between his contact and Fuentes.

Bjarne Riis is not amused
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Luxemburger admitted "having made a serious blunder in taking contact to and transferring the money to the bank account and he became early aware that he should not continue any working relationship with these people." He offered to provide a DNA sample for comparison to blood taken into custody in Operación Puerto to prove his innocence.

Riis said that "We were very disappointed to hear that Fränk has been in contact with people who have done great harm to the sport and ruthlessly tarnished the most important principles that we all should adhere to in the fight against doping," calling his behaviour "irresponsible towards himself and his team."

The team manager now waits for information from both the ALAD and the UCI "in order to make an assessment of our further actions in relation to this."

Luxembourg to move fast on Schleck

Meanwhile, the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency wants to come to a quick conclusion concerning Schleck. Although criminal charges are not possible against the CSC rider, he could still face doping charges on sporting grounds.

In an interview with the Luxemburger newspaper Tageblatt, Luxembourg Olympic Committee (COSL) president Marc Theisen said, "For our credibility, but also in the interest of the athletes, it is important to find out the truth as quickly as possible. The goal must be to explain the affair as soon as possible and to find a credible explanation. At the moment, it is all about finding out what the payment of 7,000 euro was all about."

The Olympic Committee was hit with another doping case on Thursday, when it was disclosed that the 16-year-old swimmer who carried the flag at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics had tested positive for an asthma medication at the Junior World Championships earlier this summer.

Italy's henchmen reflect on damage done

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Bruseghin, Bosisio and Tosatto worked all day for the Italian victory
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Italy's henchmen – Gabriele Bosisio and Marzio Bruseghin – paved the way for Alessandro Ballan's victory at the World Championships last Sunday. Their work in the early circuits around Varese's 17.35-kilometre course put the team's rivals on their limit and captured the day's escape.

"Bruseghin and I had to drive the race," said Bosisio, 28, to Cyclingnews. The power duo dropped out of the race following lap 13 of the 15-lap race.

Directeur sportif Franco Ballerini ordered them to the front in lap six to eleven in order to string out the peloton and reel in the three escapees. Bosisio – winner of stage seven at the Giro d'Italia – and Bruseghin – winner of stage 10 – swapped pulls to bring the escape's 17-minute advantage down to nothing.

The advance of Team Belgium and the subsequent attack of teammate Luca Paolini in lap 11 signaled the end of their work. "The more I was able to pull and the closer I got to the finish the better," Bosisio said of his first Worlds participation at the elite level. "If we go on to win the race it means my work had value." One hour later the team was celebrating its victory and second place with Damiano Cunego.

The day marked the end of long season for Bruseghin, 34. He completed all three Grand Tours, including a third overall in the Giro, and the Olympics this year.

"Today closes a long season," said Bruseghin after pulling out of the race. "I did what I could and I think I rode a good Worlds. I hope the team benefits from my work."

Team Italy's Andrea Tonti and Luca Paolini both contributed to the early pace-making as well. They were the only four of the nine-member team who did not finish the race.

Grabsch hopes for 2009 Worlds duel with Cancellara

Bert Grabsch would love to compete against Fabian Cancellara next year and legitimate his title
Photo ©: AFP
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The 2008 World Time Trial Champion would like to ride against the 2006 and 2007 World Time Trial Champion in the 2009 showdown. "I hope it comes to a duel again – maybe next year in Mendrisio – and that I can beat him," German Bert Grabsch said after winning the Worlds title last month in the absence of 'Spartacus' Fabian Cancellara.

Asked if the 33 year-old would have been able to beat Cancellara a little more than a week ago in Varese, he told, "Everything was possible that day. Of course, it's hard to say. I would have been able to beat him in his Tour of Poland form. But that's exactly why he renounced his participation."

While he was underway on the course, he never knew that he might have the best time for the win. "I only noticed on the climb after 30km that it was going well," Grabsch said. "So I knew I would have a good result. But there were still 12 riders to come after me."

After crossing the finish line in the best time, he went to sit on the "hot seat," which actually had a disadvantage. "The bad thing was that I couldn't follow the race because I couldn't see any of the TV screens," Grabsch noted. "I kept asking our team doctor, who could see the standings. He gave me the times of my rivals."

Grabsch, who rides for Team Columbia, got off to a slow start in the season, which he blamed on the weather difference between the training camp in California and his immediate first race, the Volta ao Algarve, where it rained the entire time. "After Algarve I needed two months to come back into form." He won the German time trial title for the second year in a row but wasn't nominated to the Tour de France team.

He extended with the USA-based team for another year. Grabsch admitted that when he had not received an offer from Columbia by the beginning of June, "my manager asked Milram, but they didn't want me." He then gladly signed the new contract with Columbia, although "I would rather have had two years, but these days you can't wait too long. I am now 33 and as an older rider, it is hard to find a new team."

IT Factory announces web-based anti-doping tool

By Hedwig Kröner

As reported earlier this week, IT Factory, the new co-sponsor of Team Saxo Bank for next season, plans to put its software skills to the service of cycling. Stein Bagger, CEO of IT Factory, not only announced the backing of the squad directed by Bjarne Riis, but also said that the company wanted to contribute to cycling's anti-doping efforts.

In fact, IT Factory plans to create the first web-based anti-doping control system, "available to all cyclists and the general public alike," according to Bagger.

"Our aim would be to make it more equal to the journalist, the critic and the public to get information about riders and teams," he told Cyclingnews at Riis' press conference announcing the new sponsorship. "We've been talking to laboratories and specialists that welcome the initiative."

Bagger explained that the participating riders' values from the laboratories would be published on a website, accessible to all. "We could imagine a dashboard graphic with a green, a yellow and a red area and a meter that tells you whether a rider is good to race or not," he said.

The ambitious project has the objective to streamline information for the general public. "We're used to simplifying very complicated things, as we work closely with business intelligence," Bagger continued. "I'm not saying it's an easy task, but we'll try to create something that would make it possible to look at every individual team and have the same way to compare them. By measuring their rider's values, you could measure the teams. That would also mean getting the information faster to the media."

Asked whether he thought many riders would want to collaborate in publishing their medical data, the IT Factory CEO replied, "Maybe not all values, because some of them might not be interesting to the media. But if the cyclists don't want doping, and the teams don't – why wouldn't they? We'd like to put up a system free for everybody, accessible from all over the world. Any rider who would like to join it is welcome and will be helped."

Lotz gets 16,5000 euro penalty

Marc Lotz racing the 2005 Ronde van Vlaanderen
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Former pro cyclist Marc Lotz has been fined 16,5000 euro by a Dutch court which found him guilty of possession and trade in anabolic steroids and blood-booster EPO in 2005.

Lotz resigned from Quick Step in June 2005 after admitting the use of EPO. He was then suspended for two years by the Belgian cycling federation.

Another person, whose name was not released, was sentenced to five years prison and a fine of 275,000 euro for trafficking doping products on a large scale. The case stemmed from an investigation of a body-building studio in Lanaken. The other person in the case shared an apartment with Lotz, and provided him with prohibited products, according to the Belga press agency. EPO was stored in the apartment's refrigerator, where investigators found it during a search.

Lotz admitted that he was supplied with the illegal products by his friend and that they did not come from Team Quick Step. He also said that he had bought EPO at a pharmacy in Germany.

Four races for World Champion

The new World road race champion Alessandro Ballan will be showing off his rainbow jersey in four races in the remainder of the 2008 season. The Italian will be riding the two great Classics of the end of the road season, Paris-Tours (October 12) and the Giro di Lombardia (October 18). Before that, he will sign the start lists of the Giro di Lazio this upcoming Sunday as well as the Giro del Piemonte on October 16.

Bernucci to LPR

Lorenzo Bernucci will ride in 2009 for Team LPR Brakes, where he will join Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Petacchi. Bernucci recently finished serving a one-year suspension on doping charges.

The 29 year-old tested positive for the appetite suppressant Sibutramine during the Deutschland Tour in August 2007. Team T-Mobile immediately terminated its contract with him. The Monaco Cycling Federation gave him a one-year suspension, which ended this summer.

Bernucci then signed with the Continental team Cinelli-OPD for the remainder of the 2008 season. He rode three races for the team in September, the Vuelta Mexico, the Giro della Romagna and the Coppa Placci.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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