July 03, 2010
Shades of gray
Some rider or another, they'll say, has never tested positive, or is the most tested athlete in the world. Team X, they'll say, has the strictest anti-doping program in the peloton. Sure, there used to be a lot of doping in the sport, they'll say, but no sport has such extensive athlete testing, and the sport today is clean.
I've been following the sport for 25 years, through the mysterious deaths while riders slept, the 60 hematocrits, and now the biological passport, and I'm convinced the sport has never in that time approached clean. I don't believe in black and white.
The way I've come to see modern cycling is that every rider exists in a Heisenberg bubble, balanced somewhere on a scale between pure as the driven snow white and Floyd Landis “hell yeah I doped” black. As a fan, we all calculate the likelihood a particular rider is juicing, and all most of us have to go on is the rider and his team's public pronouncements, and the rider's race performance. How much you like a rider has to be balanced against how likely you think it is a) that he or she has doped, and b) that he or she will get caught. This is why I and many others breathed a sigh of relief when Vinokourov lost the maglia rosa at the Giro. I believe Vino's failed dope test was accurate, and I fear he has likely returned to his previously successful ways. You, of course, may disagree, or feel just as fearful about Giro winner Ivan Basso, who was ultimately banned for his involvement in Operación Puerto, and now says he's gunning for a podium spot at the Tour. One of the things about the bubble is that every fan's is slightly different. Maybe you assume that everyone who came out of the sports mills of Eastern Europe is tainted. Maybe you believe that the recent popularity of Spain as a training center was a direct result of tighter French anti-doping laws.
Occasionally, especially in the case of a superstar rider, there may be other information, from former teammates, employees, trainers, or other people in the rider's circle. In the absence of positive dope tests, which it still appears can be manipulated without a great deal of trouble, all we can do is take the data and put it together with our own prejudices and preferences to decide who we believe is clean and who's not. If an ex-teammate says you've doped, that moves you 3 spaces to the right. Coming out of nowhere to contend for the climber's jersey at the Tour? Move 10 spaces to the right. If you get caught, suspended, then come back as an anti-dope crusader, that might move you a space or two to the left.
It's apparent that there's a continuing arms race in cycling, and the enforcers are losing. Like any arms race, the advantage goes to those with money and technology, and those belong to the teams.
Far be it from me to identify where I think any particular rider falls on the 0-to-100 scale. Clearly, though, the recent Landis revelations, outlined in detail in the Wall Street Journal today, push Armstrong farther to the right, and at least nudge Zabriskie, Hincapie, and Leipheimer in that direction. Sure, it's easy to impeach Landis' credibility, but it's clear to me that Landis didn't come up with the sophisticated doping program he's described, and he's far from the first person to allege that Armstrong has relied on more than spring water in previous Tour wins.
Let's run through the allegations in the WSJ article by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell. First and foremost, there are dates and details of blood transfusions during the Tour de France itself in 2004, and a partial list of riders who received them, including Armstrong. Next most damaging is probably Landis' claim that Armstrong himself was the source of his first collection of testosterone patches. Finally, there is the allegation that as many as 60 team bikes were sold for cash to support the Postal doping program. For me, mentions of Armstrong's possible visits to strip bars and cocaine use are just distractions; my interest is in Armstrong as an athlete or a cheat.
According to Albergotti and O'Connell, three other U.S. Postal riders confirmed doping while Armstrong rode for the team, and one admitted he himself doped.
Looking through the article, though, I don't see anything that's going to change the mind of rabid Armstrong fans, or of people who have believed he's a doper since 1999. We already know of former teammates who have alleged doping, including Frankie Andreu, who admitted his own EPO use in 2006. The claim that team bikes were improperly sold to pay for the doping program can't be proven by the mere appearance of team bikes on eBay: Someone would have to connect their proceeds to a doping program to really make something of it. Otherwise, those frames could just as easily have gone toward Armstrong's Shiner Bock habit as toward dope. I can see no way to tie Armstrong to the foil-packeted testosterone Landis claims he was provided.
But the addition of FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky adds a new dimension to the sport's doping problem. Teammates and staff who don't hesitate to cover for a rider with the media may feel differently when a federal agent starts threatening purgery charges and deploys subpoena powers. Novitzky seems unlikely to tolerate the shades of gray we as fans have grown to accept.
July 01, 2009
Does Charly Wegelius' mom work for WADA?
I'm really sorry to see Thomas Dekker turn up positive. There had been suspicion about him, especially when his team left him off their Tour squad last year based on his blood test results, but along with Robert Gesink, he was one of the big hopes for Dutch cycling.
There still remains a possibility that Dekker will be exonerated. The UCI released the news, as has become its custom, after Dekker's “A” sample tested positive. They will now test a 2nd sample collected at the same time, and Dekker faces a ban if that “B” sample also tests positive. If that's the case, they've got him dead to rights, and he deserves the 2-year suspension he would almost certainly face.
I wanted to focus on the timing of the announcement, however. This sample is one that was collected in December 2007, and officials retested it because a) they didn't like the looks of Dekker's biological passport numbers for the last two seasons, and b) they have newer tests that can identify more forms of EPO (including CERA, presumably).
I can't tell for certain when the followup test was conducted. I seem to remember seeing “May,” but can't find confirmation. So why are we hearing about a test whose results are usually back in around 3 weeks 6 weeks later? It's almost like the anti-doping officials were looking for a reason to send a message in advance of some big event. Also, if you could wait 6 weeks, why not wait until you have the “B” sample results?
There may be perfectly valid reasons these results have come out now, just 3 days before the Tour start, but I think testers owe it to fans, teams, and riders to provide some assurances that results will always be reported consistently (and I would prefer waiting for the “B” sample, but consistency is paramount) and expeditiously.
Oh, the headline -- Silence-Lotto will be bringing Charly Wegelius to the Tour to fill Dekker's shoes.
June 16, 2009
Retired Hamilton gets 8-year ban; Vinokourov will miss Tour
Back in February, Tyler Hamilton tested positive for a steroid that he said resulted from DHEA he was taking to deal with his divorce and his mother's recent cancer diagnosis. Informed of the positive in April, Hamilton retired, and pretty much said cycling was less important than getting sane and healthy.
Today, the US Anti-Doping Agency handed down an 8-year ban that should ensure that Hamilton won't, Vinokourov-like, decide to “un-retire.” Hamilton continues to maintain that he didn't blood dope, despite two positive tests in 2004. Hamilton endeared himself to fans through tough rides, like his epic Stage 16 Tour win in 2005 while riding with a broken collarbone. Faced with blood doping charges, Hamilton mounted a defense that taught us all about chimeric twins, and kept his 2004 Olympic gold in the time trial when officials couldn't test his B-sample to confirm A-sample's positive.
I got a cork from one of the bottles of champagne the podium finishers popped after last year's US Pro Championship. I can't say for certain that it was Tyler's, but I like to think it was. I was torn by Hamilton's victory in Greenville, because it seemed so superhuman, the way he essentially rode a pack that included 3 Garmin-Chipotle riders right off his wheel.
On the one hand, I wanted to believe that this tough kid from Marblehead (how perfect!) had come back from his ban, and was riding like a man out to prove something. On the other hand, how could he have been so insanely strong if he was clean? Some days I thought I was keeping that cork to commemorate that heroic ride; others I thought it was a cautionary cork: Resist the yearning for mythic heroes. Some things are too good to be true. Tyler, you may have been a fraud, but you were never boring. I hope you can find a little peace and happiness in your new life.
Vinokourov, now 36 himself, learned today that, even if a team might consider signing and starting him, he is not eligible to ride in this year's Tour. His ban, resulting from a blood doping positive during the 2007 Tour, was set at one year by the Kazakhstan cycling federation, but the UCI stepped in when Vinokourov announced a comeback and the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed, extending the ban to two years.
Court of Arbitration for Sport | Alexander Vinokourov Eligible to Compete Again as of 24 July (full decision pending)
July 19, 2008
Barloworld dropping team after Tour
Barloworld announced they will no longer sponsor their cycling team after the Tour de France ends.
The decision stems from the EPO positive of Moises Dueñas at the Stage 4 time trial.
“To say that we are disappointed would be an understatement. Cycling has been overshadowed for some time with doping issues which have negatively affected the reputation of the sport. Whilst we have continued to operate within this environment we have always made our position clear on drug use and have acted accordingly,” concluded [corporate marketing head Chris] Fisher.
The British company will honor its contractual obligations, but the team's future is murky. Among the riders under contract with the team are Juan Mauricio Soler and Robbie Hunter.
July 17, 2008
Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Ricco?
Current King of the Mountains and white jersey leader Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval is the latest to test positive for erythropoeitin (EPO) at the Tour. His Saunier Duval team, which had three stage wins so far, withdrew before today's Stage 12.
Ricco tested positive at the 4th stage, last week's time trial. Ricco won Stage 6 and Stage 9, and was sitting in 9th overall, with the Alps yet to come. He also was 2nd in this year's Giro d'Italia.
I've seen a couple of sites suggest EPO is a retro performance enhancer, but apparently Ricco was positive for CERA (Continuous Erythropoeitin Receptor Activator), a 3rd generation version of the drug that's been called “Super EPO”.
"This is a decision of the team and is not dictated by (Tour organisers) ASO," Saunier Duval sports director Matxin Fernandez said.
"We suspend the activities of the team until we understand what has happened," Fernandez added.
Hope the headline reference isn't too obscure.
July 16, 2008
Duenas out of Tour for EPO
Barloworld's Moises Dueñas failed to start today's Stage 11, after French doping officials said he tested positive for EPO at the Stage 4 time trial.
Dueñas finished just behind the group with Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, and Carlos Sastre on yesterday's climb of Hautacam. He was riding in 19th place overall, 6:43 behind new yellow jersey Cadel Evans.
Both Dueñas and Miguel Beltran of Liquigas, who officials say tested positive in Stage 1, await the results of their 'B' samples
June 30, 2008
Landis loses final appeal
No one has done a better job following the Floyd Landis case than David Brower, Bill Hue, and a gaggle of interested commenters and guest posters over at Trust But Verify. Today, with the announcement that Floyd Landis has lost his final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, Hue offers a fitting coda to the Landis circus:
Floyd is my hero because in the face of the biggest travesties of “justice” I have ever seen, he stood proud, determined, true to himself and his family and did not bow to those who define “the game” by making its rules, prosecuting those deemed to violate those rules and then stack the deck with those responsible to judge those “violations”. He made them work for it and we are all the beneficiaries of his efforts even though he ultimately derived no benefit, whatsoever.
I go back and forth on the ultimate question of Floyd's guilt or innocence, but I absolutely agree that the rush by organizers and WADA to be tougher and tougher on drugs has trampled the ideals of fair play, sportsmanship, and athletes' rights. It's unfortunate the riders don't have the leverage to create something akin to the major league baseball players' union.
Landis was also ordered to pay $100,000 toward the US Anti-Doping Agency's legal costs. He is eligible to return to racing in January 2009, just in time for the Tour of California, but I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) he would be subject to the no-UCI-teams-for-2-additional-years proviso (assuming there's still a UCI in 2009).
April 16, 2008
New website urges Armstrong investigation
Presented with minimal comment -- Byron at Bike Hugger forwarded a new site called investigatelance.org, that urges Congress to open an investigation into whether 7-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong lied under oath at the SCA Promotions lawsuit (some background from Outside Online here).
Who's behind the website? I can't tell -- it's been registered through an outfit that anonymizes domain registrations -- but it's interesting the site went live just a week after the Trek/LeMond split and references the SCA Promotions suit, where Greg and Kathy LeMond both testified (as did Betsy Andreu) against Armstrong, who won the suit, and received the $2.5 million bonus at issue.
September 20, 2007
Landis loses appeal, stripped of title
Immediately after last year's Tour, Landis was accused of cheating when a urine test suggested Landis had an elevated ratio of epitestosterone-to-testosterone, which should normally be approximately equal. Landis has fought the charge, and still has the option of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The three-man panel found that the Chatenay-Malabry lab near Paris mishandled Landis's sample, but 2 of 3 panelists felt that a follow-up test with a mass spectrometer was convincing evidence that Landis had used synthetic testosterone. Chris Campbell, who was named by the Landis team and also dissented in the Tyler Hamilton case, was the dissenting voice. “The documents supplied by LNDD are so filled with errors that they do not support an Adverse Analytical Finding. Mr. Landis should be found innocent.”
“It's not a great surprise considering how events have evolved. He got a highly qualified legal team who tried to baffle everybody with science and public relations. And in the end the facts stood up.”
Right -- we wouldn't want to get science mixed up in all this.
TrustButVerify notes that the suspension is to run through January 29, 2009, which, to me, seems a bit punitive, given that Landis has not competed since the end of July, 2006.
CyclingNews quotes Pat McQuaid that Pereiro will inherit the 2006 Tour title, but I don't think, given the state of relations between the ASO and the UCI, I would take that to the bank. We've already got a Tour without a winner, the 1996 edition, since Bjarne Riis admitted to doping during that Tour. I'm sure the ASO will weigh in shortly.
August 08, 2007
Astana's Kashechkin positive for doping out of competition
Astana's Andrey Kashechkin, who was 3rd in the Dauphiné Libéré, has been suspended by the team after testing positive for a homologous blood tranfusion.
Astana announced a 1-month racing layoff after leaving the Tour de France under a cloud when leader Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for the same sort of blood doping. Kashechkin was apparently tested out of competition on August 1st in Turkey.
The team is awaiting results from the B-sample.
A team press release said:
“This new hard blow does nothing but reinforce the will of the Astana Cycling Team's management to set up drastic measures for a clean cycling.”
Bike maker BMC has already severed ties to the team, while Skoda reconfirmed its sponsorship before the latest news, with the caveat that it “is willing to support a team that is fully committed to a new start.”
July 30, 2007
Mayo positive for EPO during Tour
The hits just keep coming at Radio Tour. Saunier Duval's Iban Mayo has been suspended pending a B-sample after his July 24th A-sample tested positive for EPO.
“In line with the fight against doping that the team fully support, the rider is immediately suspended until the B sample has been tested,” Saunier Duval said in a statement.
“If that is confirmed as positive as well, we will proceed to rescind his contract.”
Mayo finished 16th overall in the 2007 Tour.
Quotes an AFLD official who says all the Tour tests should be complete in the next five days or so.
July 28, 2007
Vinokourov B-sample positive, launches defense
Vinokourov released a statement through his lawyers:
“I have always raced clean. Never before this year's Tour de France have I ever been accused of violating any doping law,” the Kazakh added.
“These test results simply make no sense. Given all the attention paid to doping offences, you would have to be crazy to do what I have been accused of, and I am not crazy.”
There was no mention of Vinokourov's samples from after his Stage 15 victory.
July 27, 2007
Walsh: Contador "definitely cheating"
In a new interview with Macleans.ca, David Walsh, author of From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France and chief sportswriter for The Sunday Times, says he's been following the Tour, and isn't sad to see Vinokourov and Rasmussen shown the door.
DW: Why is it sad? They’re cheating. It’s sad that they cheat, but it’s good news when they get caught. What is sad is that the guy who’s wearing the yellow jersey now, Alberto Contador, is definitely cheating.
Walsh says he's sure that even the riders still in the race are cheating because they climbed the Col d'Aubisque “faster than Lance Armstrong ever went up it.”
Walsh, an outspoken critic of Armstrong, believes the teams that are trying to compete clean are “getting screwed, as they have been for the last 15 years.” He briefly discusses how riders get around positives by carefully scheduling drug use, transfusions, and hormones to minimize the chance of being caught.
Details how Contador was initially lumped into the Operación Puerto names, but eventually cleared because his name appeared only in non-doping contexts.
Rumor of rider positive after Stage 14
A Danish newspaper is reporting that a jersey holder tested positive after Stage 14, when Contador edged Rasmussen, and that Christian Prudhomme will announce the result in a press conference at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Your jerseys at that point were Rasmussen, Contador (white), Soler (polka-dot), and Boonen (green).
If it turns out to be Rasmussen, we may have more information on why he was withdrawn. If it's one of the others, they should just give it up.
Update: HLN.be reports that Barloworld's Mauricio Soler is the likely rider to be named, and that the team hotel has already been raided by police.
Update to the update: This appears to have been an unfounded rumor. Soler checked in this morning, finished 42nd in the TT, and Christian Prudhomme addressed the rumor during his press conference: “We spoke with the commissionaire of the UCI and they said there was no case.”
(Via cycling fans anonymous.)
July 26, 2007
France reacts to Tour's three strikes: Vino, Moreni, Rasmussen
Hugh Schofield, writing in The Independent, provides some reaction from French newspapers: from Aujourd'hui en France: “Cheats, Get Out!” (in French, “Tricheurs dehors!”); in La Nouvelle Republique, “It's the Tour of Shame.”
The Associated Press notes France Soir's front page obituary (at right), which said the Tour died today, “at age 104, after a long illness.” Any names pointedly missing?
"The Tour must be stopped.”
“This procession of cyclists has been transformed into a caravan of ridicule,” Liberation wrote. “If the organizers really want to save cycling, they should stop the competition and declare a pause of a few years, enough time to treat these athletes-turned-druggies.”
Liberation.fr | La mort du Tour (in French)
July 25, 2007
Rasmussen withdrawn, fired by Rabobank
CyclingNews reports that Rabobank has withdrawn Michael Rasmussen from the Tour, and that he will not take the start tomorrow.
CyclingNews suggests it could relate to a report by Italian TV commentator Davide Cassani, who claims to have seen Rasmussen training in the Dolomites on June 13th or 14th, while Rasmussen claims he was in Mexico for training.
DeRooy will not withdraw the entire team, but will allow the riders to choose to start the stage tomorrow.
Adds that Rasmussen is also fired from the team.
However the team has learnt that Rasmussen lied to them over where and what he was up to during the month of June when he was in fact in Italy and not in Mexico as he had told them.
Petacchi cleared of Salbutamol charge, but...
Milram's supersprinter Alessandro Petacchi was cleared yesterday by the Italian Cycling Federation after testing well above the threshold value for the asthma medication salbutamol at the Giro d'Italia.
Petacchi is one of many cyclists who carry “therapeutic use exemptions,” documents provided by doctors that allow them to use substances that are generally off-limits to treat specific ailments.
The Italian Olympic Committee recommended a 12-month suspension, but the disciplinary committee of the national federation said Petacchi could return to racing immediately.
Cyclingnews reports Petacchi might not want to book any race travel just yet, as the UCI may begin an appeal “within days.”
"The UCI will ask for the file and we will then study it once we receive it," said UCI chief Pat McQuaid."We don't know all the details of the Italian federation's decision, but we will be making a request for the file in the next 24 hours."
"It is a possibilty that we appeal," he added.
L'Equipe: Moreni of Cofidis positive
Cristian Moreni of the Cofidis squad has tested positive for exogenous testosterone, according to l'Equipe.
Moreni apparently tested positive in a random test after Stage 11, where he finished 102nd. Adding a cruel twist to the story, Moreni and his Cofidis teammates were among those who delayed the start of the stage to call attention to their “Movement for a Credible Cycling.”
Cofidis will exit the Tour - here's the story in l'Equipe.
He has been arrested by French police, while the hotel of the Cofidis team in Lescar has been searched.
Notes that Cofidis chose not to ask for a B-sample test (I thought that was the rider's call), and claims Cofidis was “invited to withdraw” as was Astana yesterday.
Notes that Cofidis has the 2nd largest budget in the Tour, at about $13.6 million annually (behind T-Mobile, more than $20 million).
L'Equipe reports another positive
We'll have another positive test result announced a little bit later. L'Equipe reports that one of the samples collected after Stage 11 tested positive for high levels of testosterone, and that it has already been run through an IRMS test to check for exogenous testosterone. Reportedly, the IRMS suggests a man-made source.
Two riders who would have automatically been tested after Stage 11 were stage winner Robbie Hunter and yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen, but a number of other riders were randomly selected for testing, as well.
The rider's name is to be announced at 1500 CET, which I make to be 10 a.m. Eastern. Update: CyclingNews has updated their story to note that no announcement was made. Could it be another Astana? Or do they not want the spectacle of pulling a rider off the course, even though they risk tarnishing another stage?
July 24, 2007
Tour will continue after Vino bombshell
Tour director Christian Prudhomme and ASO president Patrice Clerc addressed Alexandre Vinokourov's positive doping test in a press conference in Pau.
Asked whether the Tour should just be canceled, Clerc seemed to think it inconceivable:
“We have started a war on doping, and unfortunately in war there are losses, but it is out of the question to quit,” Clerc said. “There was never a question the Tour would stop. Then the cheaters would win.”
Clerc also said that neither Astana nor race leader Michael Rasmussen should have been invited to the 2007 Tour. Clerc said of Rasmussen, leading the race by 2:23:
“In a period of crisis such as we are living in at the moment, a champion must be a good example,” said Clerc. “His attitude, his lack of respect shown to the administrative rules, which is unacceptable, should be made known to us and we would have refused his participation, because he is not a good role model for the others in the peloton.”
No news yet on the reassignment of Vinokourov's stage wins.
Prudhomme blamed the UCI:
“The system is a complete failure. It does not protect the greatest cycling race. We have to blow this system,” he said.
He added that organisers had been informed of Vinokourov's positive test by Astana, not the UCI.
'Jesus Christ, I'm speechless': Vinokourov positive, Astana out
Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov apparently tested positive for homologous blood doping (receiving a transfusion of someone else's blood) after Saturday's time trial victory, and the entire Astana team has withdrawn from the Tour immediately.
David Millar was in the midst of a press conference when the news spread. Asked about the story, he said, “Jesus Christ, I'm speechless. It makes me sad. I have the impression the riders will never understand.”
A senior French anti-doping official confirmed to The Associated Press that there was a positive test for a blood transfusion taken from a rider at the Tour on Saturday, but said he didn't know the name of the cyclist involved. He said the test found two different types of blood, one from the rider, one from a donor.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.
The B-sample will be tested, but Astana policy is that riders are suspended immediately on notification of a positive A-sample. Astana management notified Tour officials, who “invited the team to withdraw.”
Vinokourov would be the first rider positive for homologous doping since Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez in 2004.
Once again, L'Equipe breaks a doping story from Châtenay-Malabry's lab.
Ken Conley looks at who stands to gain from Vino's ejection and Astana's withdrawal from the Tour. Notably, Cadel Evans would take the stage win from Saturday's ITT, and Kim Kirchen for yesterday. I bet Zubeldia would have sprinted it out if he had known the stage win was up for grabs yesterday. Tour officials haven't yet announced any action resulting from Vinokourov's positive.
Paul Kimmage reports on his questioning (back in London) of Vinokourov on his relationship with Michele Ferrari.
July 20, 2007
VeloNews: Rasmussen had blood substitute in 2002
VeloNews is reporting that yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen asked an American mountain bike racer to carry blood substitute to Italy for him in 2002.
The racer, Whitney Richards, says Rasmussen asked him to bring a pair of cycling shoes he had left in the United States to Italy when he moved there to live with his girlfriend in March 2002.
A mutual friend delivered the box to Richards, who opened the box while packing, thinking he could save space by packing the shoes and leaving the box. Richards says the box was full of silver envelopes labeled “Biopure.”
Richards said he called a friend, Taro Smith, who holds a Ph.D. in physiology, and Smith recognized the contents as Hemopure, a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier derived from cow's blood.
Richards and Smith said they poured the contents down the sink, rather than risking Richards being detained at customs.
Richards claims that Rasmussen was angry when Richards arrived without the package, asking if Richards had “any idea how much that shit cost?”
“The nerve of the guy," Richards added. "Not only is he a drug cheat, but he didn't give a damn about anybody else. He was willing to put me out there to carry that crap through customs... into Italy at a time when they were investigating Dr. [Michele] Ferrari and people were lobbing accusations at Lance Armstrong. Think about what it would have been like for Italian customs to catch an American with a bunch of bike gear and cows blood at the border.“
Richards talked to VeloNews later in 2002, but only off the record, and asking that Rasmussen not be identified. He later was a source for David Walsh's current book, From Lance to Landis but again asked that neither he nor Rasmussen be identified.
Why did he come forward now?
“[Rasmussen has] won Tour stages before,” Richards said. “It's not that. It was the press conference on Monday that got to me. Someone asked him about Bjarne Riis' involvement with drugs and he went on about how he's clean and then added, ‘You can trust me.' That's what set me off.”
Asked about the allegations on Friday, Rasmussen said he knew Richards' name but “I cannot confirm any of that.”
Rasmussen off Danish national team, will boycott Tour of Denmark
Current Tour de France race leader Michael Rasmussen has been dropped from Denmark's national team, which will keep him from competing at the World Championships in Stuttgart.
It will likely also stop him from competing in the Danish national mountain bike championships in August, and keeping him out of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where Rasmussen had discussed racing a mountain bike.
Rasmussen apparently didn't report his whereabouts before two random drug tests that were to be conducted May 8 and June 28. The UCI then warned Rasmussen that a third no-show “would be considered as a positive test.”
Rasmussen talked to Danish reporters: “I have tried to give my explanations to the DCU but they haven't accepted them,” he said. “But this isn't something that will interfere with my participation in the Tour de France.”
Tour race director Christian Prudhomme sided with Rasmussen:
“Some questions seem legitimate to me. Why now since the warning dates back to June 29? Why did Mr Worre wait until July 19 with Rasmussen in the yellow jersey to give elements he had at his disposal since June 28,” he said.
“Why has he not talked before the start of the Tour de France, why issue a statement late yesterday? Why speak yesterday about competitions that will take place in September and next year?”
Prudhomme also mentioned that Rasmussen was cleared to race at the Danish national championships June 30th, and was tested both there, and several times during the Tour.
Rasmussen said he won't participate in August's Tour of Denmark:
“I cannot take part in a race arranged by an organization which looks to thwart me in this way,” he said.
July 18, 2007
Sinkewitz “non-negative” for testosterone
T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz, who withdrew from the Tour after Sunday's stage when he broke his nose in a collision with a fan, tested high for levels of testosterone in a test June 8.
Once officially notified, Sinkewitz will have 5 days to ask for his “B” sample to be tested.
T-Mobile's general manager, Bob Stapleton, told Eurosport:
“He is suspended and if the analysis of the B sample is also positive his contract will be terminated.”
For once, UCI president Pat McQuaid said he would await the B sample before making a comment.
German state television has suspended its coverage of the Tour until the Sinkewitz case is resolved.
T-Mobile is one of several teams that have instituted more frequent testing of riders after recent doping admissions, some by former Telekom (the T-Mobile team's precursor) team members.
Adds Sinkewitz' reaction:
“Me? Why me? I don't know anything about it. This can't be,” was his reaction, reported in German on-line sports magazine Kicker. “I am due to have an operation and I can't think about it now.”
July 12, 2007
Kessler facing 2-year suspension after "B" sample positive
Astana's Matthias Kessler, who won a stage of last year's Tour, looks likely to be suspended for 2 years for a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone level.
That's the same test that implicated 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis, although Kessler, tested out of competition in April, had a ratio about 8 times as high as Landis. LNDD claims Landis' T-E ratio was around 11:1, while Kessler's was around 85:1.
Yahoo! Eurosport quotes a biochemistry professor:
"...a natural level of over 15 to 20 is impossible according to studies carried out so far."
July 05, 2007
Riis, Stanga will skip Tour
After Tour director Christian Prudhomme said Riis was unwelcome at the Tour, the team's sponsors voiced their support for the 1996 Tour winner, but today Riis said he couldn't face the Tour right now:
“The recent times have been hard on me privately and I must now honestly admit that I do not have the power to face a three-week long and hectic Tour de France.”
It's Riis' honest admissions that got him here: He admitted back in May that he used EPO through much of his career, including when he won the 1996 Tour de France. In his interview with Der Spiegel, Jörg Jaksche, who rode with Riis at Telekom and for Riis at CSC for a season, said he doped with Riis' knowledge while racing for CSC.
Team Milram director Gianluigi Stanga, who was Jaksche's director at Polti in 1997, will also skip the Tour.
July 04, 2007
CONI recommends year ban for Petacchi, out of Tour
The Italian Olympic committee recommends a 1-year ban on super sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, after Petacchi tested high for the asthma medication salbutamol in May.
Petacchi, who won 5 stages of this year's Giro d'Italia, holds a “therapeutic use exemption,” or TUE, for the otherwise banned substance. With a TUE, he is presumed innocent with salbutamol levels of up to 1,000 nanograms/millileter, but one test reported a level of 1,320 nanograms/millileter. Petacchi pled his case with an official of CONI, the Italian Olympic committee, on Monday.
Petacchi is the leader of the Milram Tour team, which is largely built around delivering him to the front of the pack with 200 meters to the finish line of the race's flat stages.
In light of the recommendation, Milram removed Petacchi from its provisional Tour roster, replacing him with Andrey Grivko of Ukraine.
June 30, 2007
Jaksche admits Puerto link, discusses widespread doping
Former Telekom, ONCE, and Liberty Seguros rider Jörge Jaksche has admitted he was a client of Eufemiano Fuentes, and said he has used performance-enhancing drugs since 1997.
Jaksche spoke to the German newsweekly Spiegel. He has promised to provide information on doping to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the UCI, and national authorities.
He confirmed that he is the rider identified in investigators' files as Number 20 and “Bella,” the name of his dog, and that his blood is among the bags recovered from Fuentes' clinic.
“I believe it's important for the future of the sport that someone comes out and says, ‘OK, this is how it happens here.’ ”
Former Jaksche teammate Alexandre Vinokourov, the favorite in this year's Tour de France, dismissed Jaksche's allegations that doping was “either actively conducted by the team leadership or tolerated:”
“Jaksche was contacted by Der Spiegel and offered lots of money. It's easy to give evidence when's there's a big cheque being dangled in front of you.
“If you're given €5 000 to dish the dirt on someone, you're not going to do it. But if its €100 000, you'll find a story to justify the amount.”
Vinokourov also spoke to L'Equipe about his ties to former Lance Armstrong trainer Michele Ferrari. “Ferrari has never offered me any medication. He is just my physical trainer and if I'm talking as openly as this it's because I've nothing to hide,” Vinokourov said.
Update (7/3): Cyclingnews.com offers a lengthy story detailing Jaksche's Der Spiegel interview.
June 29, 2007
Jaksche to "speak out" on doping
Jörg Jaksche, who rode for Telekom from 1998-2000 then worked for Manolo Saiz at ONCE and at Liberty Seguros, is set to speak to the press and anti-doping officials.
Jaksche offered no details of the testimony he would provide, but he is among the riders suspected of involvement in Operación Puerto, and was held out of the Tour de France last year.
His first interview will be with Germany's newsmagazine Der Spiegel, but he promises to also speak to officials of the World Anti-Doping Agency, the UCI, and German justice authorities.
As recently as June 20th, Jaksche told cyclingnews.com:
...he will not join the ranks of riders who have confessed to being involved in the Telekom 1990s doping scandal or Operación Puerto, in which his name had arisen. "I have nothing to confess," he said.
Jaksche signed with Tinkoff Credit Systems this spring, but was held out of the Giro d'Italia when Giro organizers asked teams not to include racers who appeared in the files of Operación Puerto investigators.
Jaksche, 30, has also ridden for Polti and CSC, and started 6 Tours de France.
cyclingpost.com | Jaksche ready to reveal truth: “The rider's attorney announced that Jaksche will not only be admitting to the use of forbidden substances; he is also willing to witness against others.”
June 28, 2007
Piepoli also facing investigation
Saunier Duval's Leonardo Piepoli initial “non-negative” finding from the Giro d'Italia came back alongside Alessandro Petacchi's and Iban Mayo's.
Like Petacchi, Piepoli tested positive for salbutamol, with some reports quoting a level of 1800 nanograms/milliliter, about one-third higher than Petacchi's.
Like Petacchi, he'll speak with an investigator from the Italian Olympic Committee about his Adverse Analytical Finding next week. He was left off Saunier Duval-Prodir's Tour squad.
Mazzoleni, Di Luca, Petacchi called before CONI
Two separate doping investigations by the Italian Olympic Committee will bring Alessandro Petacchi, Danilo Di Luca, and Eddy Mazzoleni before investigators next week.
Petacchi hopes to present his therapeutic use exemption for the asthma medication salbutamol and be cleared to race in the Tour de France, after one of his 5 doping tests from the Giro d'Italia came back with a salbutamol level of 1320 nanograms/milliliter. His other Giro tests were all below the trigger value of 1,000 nanograms/mL.
Petacchi is suspended from competition until the committee reaches a decision, which puts him out of the Italian nationals and threatens his spot in the Tour.
Di Luca and Mazzoleni will appear before the same investigator as Petacchi, Ettore Torri, as part of a hearing on what's been called the “Oil for Drugs” case, resulting from raids conducted during the 2004 (!) Giro d'Italia. Di Luca has already ruled out a Tour ride, after winning the Giro, but Mazzoleni, 3rd in this year's Giro,
may be is suspended during the investigation, which would will keep him off the Astana squad. The case apparently took its name from evidence that some ridres may have been trading massage oil for performance enhancers.
June 27, 2007
Kessler suspended after testosterone test
Astana's Matthias Kessler has been suspended from competition after an out-of-competition test in April was positive for testosterone.
Kessler said he will immediately request that his “B” sample be tested.
This may very well be the “non-negative” result the UCI had previously mentioned by one of the so-called “men in black,” riders who were training in plain jerseys.
Kessler won Stage 3 of last year's Tour with a monster attack on the Cauberg.
Petacchi hearing will decide Tour fate
Team Milram's Alessandro Petacchi, one of the sport's outstanding sprinters, faces a hearing to explain his high reading for salbutamol during the Giro d'Italia last month. The UCI notified Italian officials yesterday that Petacchi is officially “non-negative” after registering a salbutamol level of 1,320 nanograms/millileter after his Stage 11 Giro win in Pinerolo.
Salbutamol is a common asthma medication that can have stimulant and anabolic effects at high doses. Many endurance athletes, including Petacchi, have therapeutic use exemptions allowing them to use inhaled salbutamol to address exercise-induced asthma. The World Anti-Doping Agency tries to control salbutamol levels by setting a limit of 1000 nanograms/milliliter in rider urine samples. A higher level is an “adverse analytical finding,” which shifts the burden of proof onto the athlete, who must prove the finding resulted from use of a salbutamol inhaler.
Petacchi has asked for an immediate hearing before CONI, the Italian Olympic committee, so he may clear his name before the Tour. He told La Gazzetta dello Sport:
“Why would I have done something different from other times? I have the responsibility of the team on my shoulders, with the sponsors that are always speaking against doping.
“Yes, I may have done one spray more, but I have done nothing illegal. I do not want to lose the Tour.”
Petacchi has won 4 Tour stages in his career, all in 2003. He was dominant in this year's Giro, winning 5 stages. He has been left off the start list for this weekend's Italian national championship.
June 26, 2007
If it's June, we must be awaiting the other shoe
Just like last year, cycling fans sit less than two weeks before the Tour, with doubts about many of the sport's biggest names.
Alessandro Petacchi and Leonardo Piepoli are still waiting on results from “B” samples taken during the Giro. One or more of the 2007-dominating Astana team has tested non-negative in out of competition tests while training in plain jerseys, leading the UCI to refer to them as “men in black.” “B” samples to come.
Meanwhile, four Giro racers will face interviews from Italian officials over suspiciously low levels of hormones. Giro champion Danilo Di Luca, Eddy Mazzoleni, Riccardo Ricco, and Gilberto Simoni all showed hormone levels that resembled preadolescents, which might result from the use of masking agents intended to hide doping.
The UCI is pushing a new Rider's Pledge as a stick to force riders to provide DNA samples. Back in April, I said “Six riders reportedly refused to join in [by providing DNA samples], but should suffer no consequences. For now, at least.” The Pledge is the UCI introducing consequences.
Posted by Frank Steele on June 26, 2007 in Alessandro Petacchi, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Danilo Di Luca, Doping, Gilberto Simoni, Riccardo Ricco | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
June 15, 2007
Basso gets 2-year suspension
Ivan Basso received a two-year supension for doping today.
The 2006 Giro d'Italia champion, who was 3rd in the 2004 Tour and 2nd in 2005, admitted in May that he was a client of Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the center of the Operación Puerto investigation. Basso maintained that he hadn't actually doped, but only banked blood he intended to use at the 2006 Tour.
“I accept the sentence," Basso said. "I'm going to continue to train and plan to return in 2009. I've got to look to the future.”
The Associated Press reports that Basso's suspension ends October 24, 2008, because “Basso was already suspended for nearly eight months by his teams this year and last.” Apparently, they're adding the ~6 months, including some outside the racing season, that CSC held Basso out of competition, and the nearly 2 months since Discovery Channel suspended him, and backdating the suspension. That seems a little unfair, since Basso was in competition at the Tour of California and Tirreno-Adriatico during that time. Thoughts?
June 14, 2007
UCI pushes for 2-year Basso ban
The UCI is recommending a 2-year-ban for 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso, who admitted last month he saved blood for later doping, but stopped short of saying he had used the refrigerated blood.
The Italian Olympic Committee has recommended a 21-month suspension “since it is Basso's first offense.”
The UCI made the recommendation in a letter to Italian cycling federation president Renato Di Rocco. The federation meets tomorrow to decide on disciplinary action against the former CSC and Discovery Channel rider.
Should the Italian federation give Basso the lesser penalty (which would allow him to start the 2009 Giro d'Italia), the UCI's anti-doping chief promised to appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Petacchi, Piepoli, Mayo "non-negative" at Giro
Giro organizers reported earlier this week that 2 Italians and a Spaniard had “non-negative” dope tests at the Italian grand tour last month. Today, Gazzetta dello Sport reports the riders are Alessandro Petacchi, Leonardo Piepoli, and Iban Mayo.
All three won stages, with Petacchi winning 5. Milram's Petacchi and Saunier Duval's Piepoli reportedly tested above the allowed threshold for asthma medication salbutamol, while Mayo, also riding for Saunier Duval, reportedly tested above the limit for testosterone.
Petacchi and Piepoli both carry medical clearances to use salbutamol, and Mayo reportedly has a high natural testosterone level. Officials must consider possible clearances and exemptions, and the rider's “B” sample, before calling the test results a positive and beginning any possible disciplinary measures.
Update: VeloNews offers a translation of Piepoli's comments:
"It's true that I take Salbutamol to treat my allergy.
"Mauro (Gianetti) asked me how much I had taken. But I don't know how many puffs I took. I take it each time I need it. It depends on the seasons."
Update 2: Mayo has been cleared: The UCI says an IRMS test ruled out “any possibility of testosterone administration.”
If the reports are true, they bring to mind the case of Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. He showed a high salbutamol level in the 2002 Tour, but wasn't punished. CyclingForums.com had a good discussion of the threshold values for salbutamol in 2003. In the Gonzalez de Galdeano case, the UCI ruled that they had no upper limit on salbutamol concentration, while representatives of the (then-new) World Anti-Doping Agency maintained that 1000 nanograms/milliliter was the maximum permissible level. Petacchi reportedly showed salbutamol levels of 1200 and 1400 nanograms per milliliter.
June 12, 2007
T-Mobile pulls Tour advertising in Germany
T-Mobile has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Tour de France TV coverage in Germany.
The company is apparently trying to distance itself from admissions by former riders for its team (then called Telekom) that team members, including 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, used EPO and other banned performance enhancers while racing for the squad.
T-Mobile has pledged to sponsor its team through 2010, the end of its current contract.
In case anyone misses the symbolism, the company has asked that the money be used to strengthen the German anti-doping agency instead.
Former T-Mobile star Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997, has never admitted to doping, but retired this year after being linked to Operación Puerto. He was turned down for an audience with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today, where he apparently hoped “ ‘rehabilitate’ the reputation of Ullrich and recall his merits and performances.”
June 07, 2007
Tour organizers: Bjarne who?
Tour de France organizers are telling the press that Bjarne Riis has been stricken from the Tour winners list after his admission last month that he used EPO for 6 seasons, including 1996, when he won the Tour.
Tour spokesman Philippe Sudres said: "We have removed him from the list because of the doping admission.
"We consider philosophically that he can no longer claim to have won."
2) Who, then, deserves the win? Jan Ullrich, who was 2nd in '96 riding alongside Riis at EPO-fueled Telekom? Richard Virenque in 3rd, riding for Festina, which gave us the most scandalous Tour since 1904?
The cynic in me wonders if this is a first step toward eventually declaring that the 2006 Tour had no winner. Some Tour officials have already said they don't consider Floyd Landis last year's winner, and now with Oscar Pereiro refusing to take a DNA test to clear up speculation that he's “Urko” in the Operación Puerto athlete files, organizers may prefer to have no winner to having an appointed and controversial winner.
May 29, 2007
Zabel to continue racing for Milram
Erik Zabel's Team Milram announced today that Zabel will continue to race for the team, despite admitting last week that he used EPO during the 1996 Tour de France, while racing for Telekom.
Zabel won't be sanctioned for his admission, since the doping happened more than 8 years ago. Zabel is a 6-time green jersey winner with 12 career Tour stage wins (two in 1996 -- Stage 3 and Stage 10).
“I am grateful that I can continue riding for Milram," said a relieved Zabel. "It was important for me to reveal my past. After I apologized to the public on Thursday, I wanted to apologize to the management and my colleagues, as well as to our main sponsor. I am grateful they appreciate my honesty and they have decided that I am allowed to continue to ride for the team.”
May 25, 2007
Riis confesses to 1996 dopingVeloNews | Riis confesses to having doped in winning Tour
The biggest wins of the mid-90s Telekom team were the back-to-back Tour de France wins by Bjarne Riis in 1996 and Jan Ullrich in 1997. With the admissions by much of that squad -- Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Udo Bolts, and others -- that they were using EPO and other banned substances throughout the period, it was harder and harder to believe the team leaders were riding clean.
Today, Bjarne Riis admitted he was doping when he won the 1996 Tour, and said he doesn't feel like a worthy Tour winner:
"My jersey is at home in a cardboard box," he said. "They are welcome to come and get it. I have my memories for myself."Riis had long suffered the nickname “Mr. 60 Percent” on the internet, a reference to a hematocrit that reportedly once hit a superhuman 64 (source: Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hondt, on Panorama), where 50 is the current legal limit.
Riis said he was speaking out for his current team, CSC, where he is the team director, and where he said attention on his possible involvement in doping while racing was an ongoing distraction. The team, he claims, is completely behind him.
So, who's next?
Cyclocosm | I Have Doper Mind Control, Bruseghin wins Giro HTT
Endless Cycle | Riis admits to EPO use
Team CSC Press Release
May 08, 2007
Basso's chimera: “Attempted doping”
Ivan Basso spoke to reporters today about his hearing with an Italian anti-doping official yesterday. He admitted that bags of blood found in the refrigerator of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and labeled “Birillo” were his, but he said he had never used a single bag to boost his performance, or used any other illegal substance or process.
Basso said the bags were banked for use in last year's Tour de France, and that he's therefore guilty only of “attempted doping.”
“I have never taken banned substances and I have never employed blood doping … I did admit having attempted to use doping for the (2006) Tour de France and I am ready to pay the penalty for that,” Basso said. “All my wins have been achieved in a proper and clean manner and I have every intention of returning to action and continuing with the job I love once I have paid the penalty.”
It will be interesting to see whether any of the documentation found in Madrid suggests any more: There were reports last year of pages that appeared to be riders' doping schedule, and other reports of billing information for the doctor's services.
La Gazzetta also has video from the press conference.
May 07, 2007
Basso admits Puerto involvement in face of DNA test
Ivan Basso came clean today. At a hearing with an Italian anti-doping prosecutor, the defending Giro d'Italia champion admitted his involvement in blood doping.
Basso, 29, told Ettore Torri of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) he was in fact involved with Spanish Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, and said he would cooperate with the ongoing CONI investigations. Facing a likely DNA test to confirm or deny his involvement with the doping ring, Basso looks likely to be suspended from all racing for 2 years, and from ProTour teams for an additional 2 years.
Italian cycling federation head Renato Di Rocco:
The head of the Italian cycling federation Renato Di Rocco applauded Basso's decision to collaborate, telling the Gazzetta dello Sport, "Ivan has done exactly what everyone asked of Pantani, and Marco didn't do; now, we ask in the name of cycling to not leave Ivan Basso alone."
UCI president Pat McQuaid:
"Most of all I am very sad that a talented rider like Basso seems to have been involved in some illicit practices," he said. "On the other hand I'm trying to look at this news in a more positive light. Our constant efforts, with our other cycling partners, to put cyclists under pressure are paying off.
"Right now it's not easy to break the rules," he added.
Basso is expected to hold a press conference tomorrow to make a public statement.
AP Sports quotes Basso's lawyer that no further bombshells are expected: “ ‘This kind of activity was carried out individually,’ Martelli said in a telephone interview. ‘He never saw or heard of other riders.’ ”
Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian) | Basso confessa: "Tolto un peso dalla coscienza"
May 01, 2007
Tinkoff's Hamilton, Jaksche may be excluded from Giro
Tyler Hamilton and Tinkoff Credit Systems teammate Jorg Jaksche may be barred from riding in the Giro d'Italia, as Grand Tour organizers look to exclude any riders with a link to Operación Puerto.
Hamilton's case is particularly difficult, because he has just come off a 2 year suspension for blood doping, but UCI president Pat McQuaid has previously said he believes any involvement in Puerto, even if it dated from before the suspension, should be treated as a second infraction.
Grand Tour organizers agreed over the weekend to exclude riders associated with the Spanish investigation, and La Gazetta dello Sport reported on the full 6,000-page investigation file. They claim 49 additional riders (on top of 58 in the June 2006 report) are implicated by the full file.
There are some reports that Hamilton and Jaksche have been suspended, but the team denies this:
Tinkoff's Omar Piscina talked to the Associated Press today regarding Hamilton and Jaksche's alleged suspension. "We have no intention of suspending Hamilton or Jaksche. We haven't received any sort of notice from the authorities and nobody is investigating them as far as we know," said Piscina.
Piscina went farther with VeloNews:
“For me, Tyler and Jörg can start the Giro. Stories that they are suspended are not true,” Tinkoff general manager Omar Piscina told VeloNews on Monday. “Tinkoff has a list of 12 riders that can go to the Giro. Tyler is on that list and we expect him to race.”
Hamilton didn't ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege, an ASO-sponsored race he won in 2003, over the weekend.
VeloNews reporter Jason Sumner talked to Hamilton at the Tour de Georgia, and Hamilton denied any involvement:
“Take my hair if you want. Do whatever you want. For me it's all done. Nobody has ever called me about Operación Puerto. Nobody sent me any questions. People are welcome to call me. I don't know this guy - Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes,” Hamilton said. “I've never met this guy. If somebody has a question, please ask me. Sure they've sent my name out to the press and I've basically gotten railroaded. But they haven't asked for my hair. If you want my hair, take it.” Hamilton then plucked a hair from his head and offered to Sumner.
Basso leaves Discovery Channel, abandons season
Defending Giro champion Ivan Basso has left the Discovery Channel team, in the wake of a new look at reports he may have been involved in Operacion Puerto.
The Italian, signed by Discovery in December, is scheduled to appear in Rome before his national anti-doping agency this Wednesday after an agreement over the weekend by the Grand Tour organizers to continue to exclude riders believed to be involved in Operación Puerto.
Basso released a statement, saying in part:
“(Sports director) Johan (Bruyneel), (general manager) Bill (Stapleton) and my team mates have always believed in me and shown me great respect. This decision is my way of showing them that same respect. The team is trying to find a new sponsor and win bike races, and my situation is a distraction to both of those goals. It is important that everyone knows this was 100 percent my decision. Nobody asked me to leave. I am grateful to all of the staff and riders and wish them the best of luck.”
April 20, 2007
Tour director Prudhomme wants Puerto riders excluded again
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme still wants riders implicated in last year's Operación Puerto to be banned from this year's race, potentially derailing Ivan Basso's plans to ride for wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.
In a story in L'Equipe, Prudhomme said, “Cycling cannot afford to let riders named in the case enter the Tour if they are not cleared of suspicion.”
Jan Ullrich, who announced his retirement last month, is the only rider currently facing charges for involvement in the investigation. Other riders, including Basso, were named by investigators as possible clients of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, but, one by one, the others have been cleared by their national federations. The case was closed when a Spanish judge found that no laws were likely broken in Spain, which had no anti-doping law.
Prudhomme told L'Equipe that the DNA link that German officials claim to have made between Ullrich and 9 bags of blood stored by Fuentes gives him hope: “Now we know it's possible to establish the truth.”
April 04, 2007
German officials say Ullrich DNA in Fuentes fridge; ProTour embraces DNA tests
So it looks like the other shoe may have dropped from Jan Ullrich's retirement last month. German officials announced yesterday that a DNA sample they took from Ullrich was a match for some of the refrigerated blood recovered from an Operación Puerto raid. The Bonn prosecutor said charges are likely to be filed “relatively soon,” for fraud or for violating German medical regulations.
Ullrich's lawyers are saying that even a DNA match is no proof of doping. That is strictly true, in the same sense that a DNA match on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress was not strictly proof of oral sex. If in fact Ullrich's blood was in Eufemiano Fuentes' refrigerator, then Ullrich clearly lied when he said he didn't know Fuentes, and clearly was receiving medical treatments from a doctor whose specialty appears to have been sports doping.
On a related note, the UCI chose today to announce that all 20 ProTour teams and a large majority of riders have agreed in principle to DNA testing. Six riders reportedly refused to join in, but should suffer no consequences. For now, at least.
February 26, 2007
Ullrich hangs up cleats without license or contract
Jan Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour and was 2nd four times, announced his retirement from pro cycling today, amid continuing problems stemming from his alleged involvement in Operación Puerto.
Ullrich was among the riders excluded from the 2006 Tour the day before the prologue. He was dropped by T-Mobile as a result, and is under investigation by both the German and Swiss cycling federations.
“All these wrong allegations really put me down,” the 33- year-old German said today at a press conference in Hamburg broadcast by n-tv. “My career as an active cyclist is definitely over.”
Ullrich said he has taken a job as consultant and representative to Austria's Volksbank team.
In his career, Ullrich never finished the Tour de France lower than 4th place. In 2005, his most recent Tour, he was 3rd behind Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso, another rider implicated in Operación Puerto, but who is now racing for Discovery Channel after being cleared by the Italian cycling federation.
“I never once cheated as a cyclist ... I still don't understand why I was not allowed to compete in the Tour last year.”
Also lists his full palmares, including a Vuelta win in 1999, two world time-trial championships, an Olympic road gold, and two overall victories in the Tour of Switzerland.
February 11, 2007
IOC "censures" Dick Pound for Armstrong comments
The L.A. Times reports that the International Olympic Committee chided World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound on Friday for comments he made suggesting that Lance Armstrong used EPO during the 1999 Tour.
In 2005, when L'Equipe claimed to have cross-matched rider urine samples from the 1999 Tour against an experimental study reportedly performed to calibrate the EPO test, Pound jumped on the results to claim that Armstrong had used EPO during that Tour.
He did so despite the fact that the samples were provided to WADA on the express condition that they couldn't be used in any disciplinary action.
The IOC statement reportedly:
endorsed the ethics commission's carefully worded finding that Pound's public remarks "could have been regarded as likely to impugn the probity" of Armstrong. The remarks, it added, were imprudent in light of the Olympic charter's goal of "a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play" within the movement.
Armstrong filed a complaint back in 2005, and the IOC has jurisdiction because Pound is an ex officio member as WADA chief. The IOC stopped short of finding an “incriminating element” in Pound's statements, “but noted that he had refused to respond to its requests that he respond to Armstrong's complaint.”
I've looked, but can't find the announcement on the official IOC website.
Armstrong: “Armstrong called Pound ‘a clown’ and an ‘absolute disaster when it comes to giving interviews.’ ”
“Lance Armstrong has probably killed a Brazilian rain forest with all the paper he has used to file his complaints against me,” he said. “He’s gone bananas.”
“He keeps alive this whole thing that he should be trying to fade away, that a French accredited laboratory found that he had six positive samples for EPO in 1999,” he said. “Maybe he thinks if he huffs and he puffs, all of this will go away, but it won’t.”
February 08, 2007
Landis wins delay of AFLD hearing
Landis faces a 2-year suspension from racing if he cannot explain a urine test that found an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone during the 2006 Tour de France, which Landis won. The AFLD will revisit the Landis case in late June, after the USADA hearing, which is now scheduled to begin May 14th.
It seems a small concession from Landis, who has no team contract and can't race until the USADA decision, but his statement specifically rules out any chance he will race in the 2007 Tour de France.
"He understood perfectly that if he didn't act today, we would start the procedure immediately," [AFLD president Pierre] Bordry said. "We will let Landis defend himself as he wishes before the USADA."
Includes a translation of the full AFLD statement.