February 17, 2005
David Millar can return for 2006 Tour
David Millar, currently serving a doping suspension, got a split decision today from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Millar had sought a reduction from two years to one year in his suspension. That appeal was rejected.
On the other hand, the panel bumped the beginning of his suspension to the day he was arrested on suspicion of doping in the Cofidis affair. That means Millar could return to the sport June 23, 2006, just in time for the 2006 Tour, which is expected to travel to the UK, starting in London.
Millar was stripped of the 2003 time trial World Championship, and admitted to using EPO on three occasions: in 2001 while training for the Vuelta, in 2003 while training for the Dauphiné Libéré, and in 2003 while training for Worlds.
January 13, 2005
French police investigate Cofidis leaks
French police seized computers during searches at two French newspapers today.
Police are investigating leaks during the probe of the Cofidis team last year, and are "trying to determine whether narcotics investigators had illegally given information about the probe to journalists at Le Point and L'Equipe."
August 04, 2004
Millar gets 2-year ban
David Millar has been banned through August 2006, after admitting he used EPO in 2001 and 2003.
Millar also loses his world championship in the time trial, which passes to Australia's Michael Rogers.
The British Cycling Federation also DQ'ed Millar from the 2003 Dauphiné Libére, where he was 3rd overall, and the 2001 Tour of Spain, where he won the prologue and stage 6.
Full text of the statement is available at Millar's web page.
July 21, 2004
Italian boss: Millar can join us
Suspended Scotish cyclist David Millar might be invited to join the Italian Amore e Vita-Beretta team, which offered a job to Jesus Manzano after Manzano both admitted to, and accused his old Kelme team of, doping.
"I'm willing to help Millar -- and the Amore e Vita-Beretta team is ready to take him on -- just as I did with Spanish rider Jesus Manzano earlier this year when he confessed to a Spanish newspaper," said team manager Ivano Fanini.
The Amore e Vita team, literally "Love and Life", is very Catholic, meeting with the Pope each spring. It's very name is anti-abortion, and Fanini has been an outspoken opponent of doping. He disagrees with the current UCI policy that a doping admission is the same as a positive blood test:
"The Cofidis team has sacked him and perhaps the UCI (International Cycling Union) will take away his world time trial title but that would be unfair."
"Riders who confess what they've done should be helped and convinced to speak up, not punished."
Millar would have to either serve out, or have overturned, his temporary suspension from racing to join the squad.
July 20, 2004
Millar kicked off Cofidis, may lose rainbow jersey
David Millar appeared in court Tuesday, and admitted he had used EPO.
Cofidis reportedly sent Millar a letter informing him he has been kicked off the team on Monday, and the UCI is likely to remove his world time trial championship, which would make Michael Rogers of Australia world champion.
"Under normal circumstances we cannot use confidential testimony from a police inquiry," an International Cycling Union official told AFP.
"But if Millar confirms what he said, either publicly or at a court hearing, it's not necessary to wait for a verdict in the proceedings."
July 08, 2004
Millar skips own firing
Eurosport reports that David Millar was summoned to a meeting with Cofidis officials Wednesday, but that Millar didn't show, "reportedly realising that the purpose of the pow-wow was to begin proceedings for his firing."
Millar's truancy, however, will likely only prolong the inevitable. Under its charter of ethics, Cofidis claims a "zero tolerance" for doping.
July 02, 2004
Le Monde: Millar implicates Euskaltel doctor
This article in Saturday's (UK) Independent quotes from an article in Le Monde (surprisingly lucid Google translation ) that David Millar named the source of his EPO in his hearing Thursday, and that it was Euskaltel team doctor Jesus Losa. Millar's attorney was careful to note that Millar used EPO “outside of France.”
Losa has chosen not to accompany the team to Belgium for the Tour start for "reasons that his team have failed to specify."
The news will hardly be welcome for Euskaltel-Euskadi, already in the midst of a scandal after one of their riders, the Spaniard Gorka Gonzalez, was suspended from racing on Thursday by the UCI, cycling's governing body, for health reasons. Losa is also the doctor for one of Lance Armstrong's main challengers, Iban Mayo.
Millar lives in Biarritz, near the Spanish border.
Saturday's edition of the Spanish sports daily AS also features the story (rough Google translation), and says the team's management "wants to appear at ease, but are worried." Juan Manuel Bastida is serving as the team's doctor for the Tour.
AS quotes team manager Julian Gorospe as concerned that the UCI is persecuting his Spanish team for the sins of Jesus Manzano, who claimed he was encouraged and aided in doping by his Kelme team's management, and because the UCI doesn't believe Spanish cycling has done enough to combat doping.
AS also claims doctors (my translation skills pale) from the investigation spoke with Davide Etxebarria, banned for 2 weeks with a high hematocrit during Euskal Bizikleta/Bicicleta Vaska, but racing in the Tour.
Millar out of Olympics
David Millar has withdrawn from the Athens Olympics, according to a statement quoted by Sportal of Australia and posted on Millar's website:
"He has been suspended from British cycling pending a judicial hearing and voluntarily removes himself from the British Olympic Team."
Millar is still on the Cofidis team, but it doesn't look like that can last:
"David has not been axed by the team," Cofidis communications director Alexandre Michaud said.
"We will meet up with him during the Tour and if he says to us what he said to the judge - that he took EPO - his contract will be terminated."
July 01, 2004
Millar unlikely to ride Olympics
The story in the Scottish Herald newspaper goes into a little more detail on Millar's Thursday hearing.
Of the EPO syringes found at Millar's home in Biarritz, his attorney says Millar "was keeping them as souvenirs."
Looks like David Millar will be dropped by Cofidis, which continues to repeat that they "will adopt a zero-tolerance policy on doping."
Millar has been suspended by the British Cycling Federation, which may influence the British Olympic Association on Athens selections:
The BOA, though, were sticking by their wait-and-see policy. "We have 192 athletes selected for the Games and we are not aware of any of these athletes having committed a doping offence," said the spokesman, Philip Pope.
However, it seems inconceivable that Millar can possibly travel to Greece as a self-confessed drug user.
Millar in court for EPO possession
David Millar, the current world time trial champion, was formally placed under judicial investigation today.
His lawyer said Millar, 27, told the court he had used EPO for three one-week periods, in 2001 and 2003. Millar has not been charged, and was released after the hearing.
June 30, 2004
Vasseur court challenge fails
A French court upheld Cedric Vasseur's Tour de France ban, which makes it very unlikely the Cofidis rider will be on the start line in Liege Saturday.
Vasseur said he would appeal the ruling.
Eurosport also reports that Lance Armstrong's appeal (of the decision preventing him from inserting a response in every copy of L.A. Confidentiel) will be heard on Friday.
June 29, 2004
Vasseur to sue Tour, team
Cofidis rider Cedric Vasseur, charged in the ongoing investigation of his team, has plans to sue his team and the Amaury Sport Organisation, the organization that runs the Tour.
Vasseur's attorney told L'Equipe (in French | rough Google translation to English) the team violated French law presuming Vasseur's innocence because ASO pressured the team to leave Vasseur off their Tour squad.
Vasseur won an injunction to race in the French nationals over the weekend, but wasn't allowed to ride.
The case will be heard in Lille tomorrow morning.
June 25, 2004
Millar dropped from TourVeloNews | Tour bans Millar after doping confession It's official — Jean-Marie Leblanc said Friday that David Millar, the Scottish Cofidis rider who is the current world time-trial champion, will not be allowed to race in this year's Tour. L'Equipe reported this morning that Millar told French police he had used EPO, and police found empty vials of EPO in Millar's home.
"We want a peloton that is as transparent as possible," the Tour director said. "We don't want to pollute the Tour. We want the race to run serenely and that it is not contested from the start."L'Equipe also reported that Millar will be charged by the judge investigating the Cofidis team, Richard Pallain. So far, the team has taken no action against Millar, who has excelled in Tour time trials. Also: FoxSports.com | Tour de France bars British world champion The FoxSports story includes a quote from Leblanc that appears to address L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong:
"Since 1998, we've grown used to books coming out and (television) programs being made on the theme of doping each year in June. And we've become accustomed to justice and police operations being launched," he said. "It's unpleasant." But he said "the great majority of riders" at the start next week in Liege, Belgium, "will be worthy of participating in the Tour."
ASO: We'll ban riders investigated or implicated
The Associated Press said Tour organizers will ban any riders investigated or implicated in doping probes from the 2004 Tour.
According to the story linked above:
Organizers said they "could not accept the participation of any rider involved in a judicial procedure or implicated in a police inquiry."
They said the decision was taken in response to doping probes both in France and overseas.
The statement came after a report in the French sports newspaper L'Equipe that world champion cyclist David Millar admitted to doping under police questioning, which could keep him out of the Tour de France and the Olympic Games,
The British rider's team, Cofidis, said it would "apply its principle of zero tolerance" and immediately sanction Millar if he did admit to doping.
UCI rules treat an admission as equivalent to a positive drug test. The reference to "doping probes both in France and overseas" appears to be aimed at the current probe involving Italian riders. There's also an ongoing investigation into Australian Olympic riders, but so far, I don't believe any roadies are implicated.
L'Equipe: Millar confessed to EPO
L'Equipe quotes sources that EPO vials were found at Millar's home in Biarritz.
The 27-year old Scot has never failed a drugs test in his eight-year professional career. Officially placed under investigation, he could rapidly be charged for "infraction against the law on banned substances."
In the ongoing Cofidis drug case, axed team-mate Philippe Gaumont had accused Millar of providing him with EPO before the final stage of last year's Tour de France.
Apparently they mean the last stage but one, the time trial out of Pornic that Millar won.
Notable, too, is that Millar has never failed a drug test.
This will likely turn up the heat on this story significantly, since a) it's a French team, b) it's one of their top riders, and c) the Tour starts in just over a week.
Millar would face a lifetime ban from the Olympics if found guilty of a doping offence under the British Olympic Association's guidelines.
O'Grady on his Tour
Stuart O'Grady talks about the Cofidis affair, and his good form so far this year, including dual stage wins at the Dauphiné Libéré. He suggests he would like to compete for the green jersey, but it sounds like he's not sure if he's still that kind of a rider:
"This year it's different again. I'm going to the Tour to hopefully win some stages, and get in the breaks when they go. If there's a chance of going for the jersey then I believe the team will help me with that.
"Petacchi will be hard to beat, if he makes it to Paris, and so will the rest like Robbie (McEwen) and Baden (Cooke). But I'm going in with a pretty open mind."
June 24, 2004
Millar detained in doping probe
David Millar was taken into custody Tuesday evening in Biarritz, where police picked him up while he ate in a restaurant.
"Millar is being held for questioning in Biarritz, in the south-west of France, since Tuesday evening at the request of investigative magistrate Richard Pallain who is in charge of the Cofidis case," a police spokesman said.
He was still being held earlier today, which is likely to put a little damper on his Tour preparations.
Cofidis has been under investigation since the beginning of the year, when 7 riders and staff were charged after riders were caught with banned substances in their luggage flying into France.
BBC is careful to note that Millar is being treated as a witness and not a suspect, but also that Philippe Gaumont, his Cofidis teammate, claimed that Millar was among those who used banned substances.
Update (6/24 12:45 EDT): AFP reports that Millar has been released without any charges being filed.
June 16, 2004
Italian doping conversations in Le Monde
A number of telephone conversations made during a doping investigation of Italian racers have turned up in Le Monde (Google translation), including Saeco's Danilo Di Luca, Eddy Mazzoleni, and Alessandro Spezialetti.
The calls involve an Italian doctor nicknamed "Ali the Chemist" who has been charged with providing performance-enhancing drugs and helping riders avoid testing positive.
Investigators believe the conversations are of EPO, and Mazzoleni at one points discusses trying to import a new kind of EPO, only available in the US:
"We should maybe bring it in through England or Spain, tomorrow my girlfriend's coming up, and then there's the accountant, we should be able to do it," Mazzoleni tells Santuccione before adding "Above all, if you're not successful for the Giro, then for the Tour [de France]... "
Domina Vacanze has suspended 2 riders, Mario Scirea and Alessandro Galletti, for their part in the scandal. Police have discovered a "supply network of blood transfusion bags" through Galletti.
Fassa Bortolo's Fabio Sacchi is also implicated, according to Le Monde.
Patrice Clerc, president of the Amaury Sport Organisation, which runs the Tour, wants these riders' teams, and the Cofidis team, to drop any riders being investigated for doping before the Tour starts July 3rd.
"I don't see how they can start the Tour if they are found guilty of dangerous links through tapped phone calls," Clerc told AFP. "There are still cheats out there. We have to own up to it and fight to eliminate not only the riders but everyone in their set-up involved in it."
Neither Saeco nor Fassa Bortolo has taken action against its riders yet, as has Domina Vacanze. Clerc said he wants to see those riders plus Cedric Vasseur of Cofidis banned. Cofidis has proclaimed that Vasseur is innocent until proven guilty, and is allowing him to race in the meantime.
April 28, 2004
Astarloa signs with Lampre
Reigning world champion Igor Astarloa, released last week from his contract with the embattled Cofidis team, signed Tuesday with Italy's Lampre team.
Lampre have so far notched just four victories this season, all in relatively minor races, and moved for Astarloa after team captain Francesco Casagrande was forced out of the Giro d’Italia by a persistent knee problem. Astarloa will make his Lampre début at the GP Larciano in Tuscany on May 1 before lining up at the Giro on May 8.
"After missing Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, I’m now forced to aim for wins in single World Cup races," Astarloa admitted. "As a Basque, San Sebastian in August now becomes a major objective. The Giro? I can only realistically hope for a stage win and to help my fellow Basque, Juan Manuel Garate, on general classification."
The Procycling story suggests Astarloa's former team, Cofidis, will try to dump one more rider, Mederic Clain, and resume racing at the Four Days of Dunkirk, running May 5-9.
April 23, 2004
Where will he land?
Reigning world road champion Igor Astarloa has been released from his contract with Cofidis, allowing the Italian to pursue a contract with another team, and start riding.
The Cofidis team has suspended operations will allegations of doping against current and former riders and team officials are investigated. Astarloa, who joined the team just before winning the world title in October, is being released by mutual agreement.
Astarloa previously raced for the Saeco team. AFP reports ">he's expected to sign with Lampre.
April 06, 2004
Leblanc: Cofidis no Kelme
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc issued a press release Monday reconciling Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme's exclusion from the 2004 Tour with the invitation to Cofidis, which has riders and a former soigneur under investigation. Leblanc chalked it up to the fact that Cofidis qualified automatically, by being one of the world's top 14 teams after the 2003 season.
"If Cofidis had been on the list of teams that needed an invite, then without doubt we would have reflected on the issue and we would have been able to take a prudent decision."
Leblanc also suggested there's still a chance that Cofidis could have its invitation revoked:
"If serious faults are revealed by the judicial inquiries we will take account of them but we are not at that point yet."
On Thursday, Leblanc will meet with a representative of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, looking to reverse the director's decision to exclude the team.
April 05, 2004
Cofidis sponsorship in jeopardy
Procycling.com quotes Cofidis team owner François Migraine: "the chances of Cofidis renewing its contract beyond 2005 are diminishing."
Certainly, the publicity the telephone card company has received from the ongoing drug probe of current and former Cofidis riders has been almost uniformly negative.
...after Philippe Gaumont’s recent statements about doping to French daily Le Monde and the news last week that Cédric Vasseur and Médéric Clain are being investigated by French police, Migraine’s patience seems to be running out.
Speaking to Reuter before the Tour of Flanders, Cofidis team manager Alain Bondue commented: "With the way things are going, I wonder whether we will even reach the end of this contract."
March 15, 2004
Gaumont dishing drug details
In an interview with Le Monde (in French) published this morning, Philippe Gaumont detailed how he and other riders subverted drug controls while racing.
The 31-year-old Frenchman says that certain products he claims are used in the pro peloton, such as human growth hormone and testosterone, are not detectable in doping controls and that "riders use them as and when they want to." According to Gaumont, blood transfusions are also undetectable, "but blood transfusions are limited to the top riders because you have to pay for the services of a doctor to carry them out."
Gaumont also claims many riders use Nasacort, an allergy-fighting nasal spray, because it can mask the use of cortisone. Gaumont played down random testing, as well: "[T]hey are not that random...it is easy to prepare yourself and be sure of not being positive."
The former Cofidis pro says he hopes his comments will allow the French Cycling Federation to "try to understand how doping takes place."
March 05, 2004
Cofidis results: you name it, they took it
AFP is reporting that urine test results for Cofidis riders were positive for cocaine, cortisone, and EPO:
Four riders -- Daniel Majewski, Marek Rutkiewicz, Robert Sassone and Philippe Gaumont -- and the Cofidis team physio Boguslaw Madejak were being investigated after police raided the Cofidis team headquarters and riders' homes in January.
Amphetamines, erythropoietin (EPO), human growth hormone, testosterone and anabolic steroids were found when police raided the home of former world champion Sassone, who tested positive for a steroid derivative last year.
February 24, 2004
Gaumont speaks on Cofidis firing, retirementEurosport.com | Gaumont comes clean
Eurosport has excerpts from an interview Philippe Gaumont gave French sports daily L’Equipe, where he admits drug use and backs off his earlier accusations that “90 percent of riders are guilty:”
I was perhaps too hasty. I think doping still exists -- and quite a bit of it. But the riders who came after 1998 [and the Festina-stained Tour de France] had the chance to be free of it. I sincerely think that there are clean riders. They just need to stay strong in their heads and not give in.
With the many drug charges in his career, I had begun to see Gaumont as the Hal Chase of cycling, but there’s a remorse in his comments uncharacteristic of Chase:
I understand that my sporting career has been a failure. When I think back to the first maximum-effort tests I did, I know that my natural abilities were capable of a better race resume than what I've been left with today.
All I can say is that I missed my chance. I arrived in this sport at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
February 23, 2004
FFC President: “Stop before it's too late”
Jean Pitallier, president of the French Cycling Federation:
"The noose is tightening on those who are causing enormous damage to our sport. We have to show ourselves to be merciless towards them," he said.
"We have to continue to clean up our act and rid cycling of certain individuals who have nothing to do in the sport. I also hope that the justice system imposes sanctions which serve as an example because they remain the best deterrent."
January 25, 2004
Vasseur proclaims innocence as Cofidis probe continuesProcycling.com | Vasseur: "I'm in the clear"
“They asked me questions about myself and about other members of the team, about how a cycling team works and relationships in the team. I don’t know exactly what evidence the investigators have on others but I know that there’s nothing against my name.”
Still under investigation are current Cofidis rider Philippe Gaumont, former Cofidis riders Robert Sassone and Marek Rutkiewicz, and current Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak.
January 23, 2004
French cycling officials to summit on dopingYahoo! Sports | French minister calls anti-doping meeting
French Sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour will preside over a special meeting of the country's cycling chiefs on Friday as their sport is engulfed in another doping scandal.
The scandal centres around the Cofidis team after police questioned riders Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont about the alleged trafficking of banned substances.
Gaumont was released on Wednesday but placed under official investigation, judicial sources said. Vasseur, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for five days in 1997, was freed without charge on Thursday.
Cofidis probe continues with allegations of blood dopingYahoo! Sport | Cofidis affair deepens as police intensify probe
The president of the country's cycling federation, Jean Pitallier, admits there has been progress since the Festina affair ominously demonstrated the extent of doping in the peloton.
But he insisted that teams had to take more responsibility.
"We have to lay down the law in this case and introduce prison sentences for those who are found guilty," Pitallier told AFP.
"I want an example to be made of these people."
Clearly, the use of performance-enhancing substances, including anabolic steroids, HGH and EPO, are dangerous to the integrity of the sport.
But this Yahoo! Sport article suggests that riders are buying blood — finding other riders with the same blood type, and injecting it, which it calls 'doping,' but which is more often called 'blood boosting.' Why would you do this, when you could just save your own blood and reinject it, which doesn't risk intravenous infection or registering a positive based on a drug being used by another rider, whose blood you've injected?
By the way, one-third of the US cycling team at the 1984 Olympics admitted to blood boosting with saved blood (four of the boosters won medals). At the time, the practice was not explicitly prohibited.
Cofidis head Francois Migraine (who seems very appropriately named):
"If I decide to pull out of the sport, cycling will not automatically get better.Listening to: Thank You from the album Sliding Doors by Dido
"But if I find out that I have a team full of 25 riders who are all doped, then there will be no more team."
Millar keeps his distanceProcycling.com | Millar: "It’s got nothing to do with me"
After returning to his French home in Biarritz from the training camp in Spain, Millar described the arrest of several Cofidis team members on suspicion of using and distributing banned substances as simply "isolated" cases that did not reflect the way the team is run.
"I can't really comment on the latest developments, and I've no idea who has been questioned," the Scot told AFP on Wednesday. "All I can say is that it's not a Cofidis problem, and it's certainly got nothing to do with me.
Philippe Gaumont has twice been banned, and L'Equipe has reported that Gaumont admitted to EPO use.
January 20, 2004
Vasseur, Gaumont arrested in Cofidis probe
Drugs squad officers detained Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont as they stepped off a flight from Alicante, Spain, and took them away for questioning.
Vasseur, 33, won a stage in the 1997 Tour de France and was a former teammate of five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong at the US Postal team, while 30-year-old Gaumont won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but five years later was suspended for doping.
Robert Sassone, formerly of the Cofidis team, was formally placed under investigation after EPO, testosterone, amphetamines, growth hormones, and other banned substances were allegedly found in his home in Hyeres.
The team's title sponsor, the Cofidis group, said it will take legal action for defamation in response to the allegations.
January 14, 2004
Cofidis manager responds: "nothing to hide"
Cofidis manager Alain Bondue has claimed that his riders and staff "have nothing to hide" after yesterday’s police raid at team headquarters in Marcq-en-Barouel. It was confirmed today that a French anti-drugs squad had found no illicit substances at the Cofidis property near Lille on Tuesday.
Three arrests in Cofidis probe
In addition to Bogdan Madejak, the team trainer, arrested on his return to France, and Marek Rutkiewicz, a rider arrested Monday, French police also arrested 2001 world track champion Robert Sassone. AFP claims police found amphetamines and EPO in Sassone's home.
The Cofidis team also includes reigning world champions Igor Astarloa, David Millar, and Laurent Gane, and Australia's Stuart O'Grady.
Americans may best remember Cofidis as the team that signed Lance Armstrong, then dropped his contract when his testicular cancer was diagnosed.
January 13, 2004
French police raid Cofidis HQ
Police Monday raided the headquarters of the French Cofidis team of reigning world champions Igor Astarloa and David Millar. The squad's current trainer and one of its former team members, Marek Rutkiewicz, are suspected of operating a "vast" drug ring between Eastern Europe and the peloton, reports French daily L'Equipe.
Police stopped Rutkiewicz at de Gaulle airport in Paris on Tuesday, and reportedly found "doping paraphernalia" at the airport.
Apparently, police have also tapped the phone and searched the home of Cofidis trainer Bogdan Madejak.
Official reaction from Francis Van Londersele, the team's manager:
"I'm not worried," the team's manager, Francis Van Londersele, told L'Equipe, stressing that, even if the squad's trainer is in the crossfire, the formation's current stable of riders -- including world champs David Millar (time trial) and Igor Astarloa (road) -- is not.
"Rutkiewicz is no longer a part of this team," Londersele said of the Polish rider dismissed by Cofidis after the 2003 season. "We let him go because of his lack of results -- not for a question of doping."
Update: 5:10 p.m. EST -- BBC Sport reports the raid at Cofidis headquarters turned up nothing incriminating.