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Friday’s Euro-file: Ban Rumsas, says Lance; Rumsas claims innocence; Ullrich in Switzerland

By Andrew Hood

If Raimondas Rumsas is guilty of doping charges stemming from this year’s Giro d’Italia, Lance Armstrong for one believes that the Lithuanian should be banned from the sport for life. “Rumsas? He is an idiot to take drugs after what happened last year and knowing that the UCI people were watching him,” Armstrong said after retaining the overall lead in the Dauphine Libere on Friday.

Rumsas has been temporarily suspended by the Lampre team for failing a doping test at last month’s Giro d’Italia. Sources close to his team say that Rumsas tested positive for EPO following the sixth stage of the Giro. Rumsas has asked that his “B” sample be tested for confirmation.

Rumsas finished sixth in the Giro and was third in the 2002 Tour de France — a performance that was overshadowed following the race when his wife Edita was arrested by French police after a large quantity of performance enhancing drugs were found in her car.

Rumsas, who has never tested positive before, faces a likely two-year suspension if his “B” sample is returned positive. However, a spokesman for the Lithuanian Cycling Federation said Thursday that be mitigated by the fact that Rumsas is the sole wage earner for a family that includes three children.

Armstrong, however, said the case reflects poorly on the entire sport and should be handled more seriously.

“He should be banned for life,” said Armstrong.

Neither Rumsas, nor his wife — who told police at the time that she was taking the drugs back home for her sick mother but was not released on bail from Bonneville prison (Haute-Savoie) until October, 2002 — have returned to France since her release.

Despite his podium finish last year, the Lampre team was ignored by Tour organizers for this year’s event, largely because of the Rumsas scandal.– Reuters

Rumsas denies doping charges
Lampre’s Raimondas Rumsas denies claims that he’s doped and has asked for a counter-analysis to be carried out after an earlier exam came back positive in the Giro d’Italia.

Rumsas was suspended Wednesday by his Italian team after the UCI notified the team of the positive result from a May 16 test. Rumsas finished sixth in the Giro, but wants the second test carried out.

“Rumsas has immediately asked for a counter-analysis to prove his innocence,” Rumsas’ lawyer Alexandre Varaut said in a statement. “He formally denies the use of doping products.”

Rumsas said on Friday he suspected he was the victim of a conspiracy cooked by his team.

“It could be that (Lampre) wants to get rid of me…” he said in an interview with Lithuanian daily Respublika, speaking a day after it emerged he had asked for a second drug test in a bid to prove his innocence.

“During Giro d’Italia all drugs were in the hands of our team’s doctors,” Rumsas said. “Everybody knew that I was under surveillance from all sides recently, so how could I use something after what happened last year after the Tour de France?

“If the results of the second test were positive I would be very surprised, but then suspicions would fall on doctors. I did not use any drugs on my own,” he added.

The Lithuanian, whose wife was at the center of a doping scandal at last year’s Tour de France, was suspended from his team until the second test comes back.

“The team management is saddened by the news especially after putting their faith in Rumsas after the events related to the 2002 Tour de France,” a team statement said. “We had decided to put our faith in Rumsas in the hope that he could prove his honesty and professionalism.”

The product hasn’t been officially revealed, but some reports have said it’s Nesp, the same blood doping product that got cross-country skiers in trouble during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Last year, Rumsas’ wife, Edita, was detained for more than two months for carrying suspected doping products on the same weekend her husband finished third in the Tour de France. She told police at the time that she was taking the drugs back home for her sick mother.

Rumsas cleared all Tour doping tests, but his Lampre team was not invited to race in this year’s Tour.

Valentinas Rutkauskas, the head of the Lithuanian Cycling Federation, said Rumsas could be banned for two years. But he added that if the second result comes back positive, Rumsas could face a six-month ban instead because he is the only wage earner in his family and it would be his first offense, AFP reported.

Ullrich tuning up with Swiss tour
Jan Ullrich will line up for the Tour of Switzerland on Monday, ready to test his form in the Swiss Alps ahead of the Tour de France, where he and his Bianchi team will take on Lance Armstrong and U.S. Postal and their bid for a fifth consecutive victory.

Armstrong will not be racing in Switzerland. Still, Ullrich, 29, who is still getting used to his new teammates at Bianchi and only returned to racing in April following suspension and injury, will face tough competition from the rest of the Swiss lineup. The provisional start list includes Italians Dario Frigo and Francesco Casagrande of Fassa Bortolo, as well as Alexander Vinokurov of Ullrich’s former team, Telekom.

The Tour of Switzerland has traditionally suffered from its proximity to the more prestigious French event, with many riders unwilling to tackle its series of alpine climbs only days before the start of the three-week Tour. But for other teams, such as Phonak and home favorite Alex Zülle, the defending champion, the 10-day Swiss race is a chance to overcome the disappointment of not being selected for the Tour de France.

The event kicks off with a 7km time trial on flat territory in the small northern town of Egerkingen on Monday, and reaches the big climbs at the ski resort of Saas Fee on the third stage on June 19. The next day includes the 2,478-meter Nufenenpass (Col de Nufenen), and the race squeezes another four 2,000-meter-plus alpine passes into the following two stages. The tour finishes in the central town of Aarau after three relatively flat stages, including a 32.5km time trial on June 24. –Copyright 2003/AFP

Martinez headed back to the trails
Miguel Martinez isn’t enjoying the 55th Criterium Dauphine race. It’s too hot, it’s too hard and it’s too fast – so much so that Martinez said he’ll only race mountain bikes next year.

“I want to win the gold medal again, so next year I will focus on mountain biking,” Martinez told VeloNews. “It’s better for me to race mountain bikes next year. And it’s more fun.”

Martinez is among a half-dozen former mountain bikers who’ve looked to road racing for new challenges. Cadel Evans, Michael Rasmussen, Lennie Kristensen and Dario Cioni all have had success after crossing over.

Martinez’ move to the road has been a little bumpier. He joined Mapei with Evans for the 2002 season and made a popular debut in the Tour, where he was active in a few breaks. Unlike Evans and the others, Martinez continues to keep his fingers in the mountain bike racing scene.

Since his Phonak team wasn’t invited to the Tour, Martinez said he’ll likely race some mountain bike events later this year. Then “Little Mig” will devote all his energies in 2004 toward repeating as Olympic gold medalist.

Sevilla to miss Tour
Oscar Sevilla’s been dogged with setbacks all spring and finally announced he won’t be started July’s Tour de France.

The Kelme rider has been unable to train properly following an operation to remove a cyst in the groin area. His training and racing schedule has been spotty since March and team management and doctors agreed he wouldn’t be in shape to race the centenary Tour in less than one month’s time.

“Following a meeting between the president of Kelme, the directeur sportif, and the medical staff, it has been decided that Oscar Sevilla will not take part in the next Tour de France,” a Kelme team statement said. “We are sorry for the fans of cycling, as we had wished his total recovery.”

Sevilla won the best young rider’s jersey in 2001 after finishing an impressive seventh place in his Tour debut, but was forced to pull out last year in the 16th stage with stomach problems.

Sevilla’s absence leaves a big hole in the Kelme lineup. The Spanish team lost stars Santiago Botero and Aitor Gonzalez over the winter and will sorely miss Sevilla’s star power and strong climbing legs.

Petacchi, Gonzalez won’t race before Tour
Fassa Bortolo’s Alessandro Petacchi and Aitor Gonzalez won’t be racing before the 2003 Tour de France. The team released its lineups for the upcoming races and neither rider will be at the Tour de Suisse or the Tour of Cataluyna later this month.

Both Petacchi and Gonzalez changed their plans in order to start the Tour. Petacchi was the dominant sprinter at the Giro, winning six stages and holding the pink jersey while Gonzalez performed well below expectations although he won a time trial stage.

Rising start Filippo Pozzato makes his comeback at the Cataluyna race, where he’ll join Michele Bartoli and Ivan Basso. Both Bartoli and Basso skipped the Giro in order to prepare for the Tour.

Racing for Fassa at GP Gippingen and the Tour de Suisse include: Fabian Cancellara, Mauro Facci, Dario Frigo, Kim Kirchen, Serguei Ivanov, Gustav Larsson, Sven Montgomery and Tadej Valjavec.

Starters at Cataluyna include: Michele Bartoli, Ivan Basso, Dario Cioni, Juan José De Los Angeles, Volodimir Gustov, Nicola Loda, Filippo Pozzato and Gorazd Stangelj.

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