Files suit against USOC and Strock

Wenzel says Strock's illness wasn't serious enough to end career.

Wenzel says Strock’s illness wasn’t serious enough to end career.

Photo: VeloNews File Photo

Former U.S. Junior national team coach René Wenzel has formally denied charges that he doped his riders 11 years ago in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, in response to a lawsuit filed against him by Greg Strock, a one-time member of the team. Wenzel is also seeking damages from Strock and a U.S. Olympic Committee official for public statements they made in connection with the case.

In a lawsuit filed late last year against Wenzel and USA Cycling, Strock outlined a series of charges, including allegations that Wenzel and another coach had on several occasions in 1990 injected him with what they allegedly described as “extract of cortisone.” Strock alleged that the injections were in fact the drug cortisone, which eventually suppressed his immune system, led to a serious infection and cut short a promising cycling career. Strock, who has since gone on to medical school, said he only recently concluded that the injections were the cause of his illness.

Wenzel, meanwhile, denied that he had ever given Strock any medications. Wenzel said that on one occasion a French physician, Michel Tregaro, prescribed a drug to treat an illness and that any injections were handled by the team’s Scottish soigneur, Angus Fraser, who Wenzel believed was “legally allowed to give injections of non-prohibited, non-prescription substances” to members of the team. Wenzel also suggests that Stock’s confusion about what he received is due in part to Tregaro’s characterization of the drug Surelen, a French product that includes vitamins and amino acids.

Wenzel said he “understood (Surelen) contained in part ‘extrait corticosurrenal’ which the French doctor explained was an extract of cortisone, and which (I) further understood from the doctor to be safe and legal.”

In the response filed with the court, Wenzel also names the other coach who was allegedly present in a hotel room with him and Strock in Spokane, Washington, in August of 1990. While conceding that he accompanied Strock to the room occupied by then-U.S. national coach Chris Carmichael, Wenzel said the two did not go to the room for an injection of “extract of cortisone,” or a performance-enhancing drug, as was alleged in Strock’s suit.

“Mr. Wenzel admits that Mr. Carmichael had a briefcase from which he produced a vitamin injection,” but added that the injection was made at Strock’s request.

When contacted by VeloNews, Carmichael said he had “no recollection of an alleged incident that happened more than 10 years ago.” When asked if he had ever been contacted in the case by Strock or his attorneys, Carmichael said that he didn’t care to comment on any aspect of the matter beyond noting that he didn’t recall the alleged incident in question.

Wenzel also went on to suggest that Strock’s illness — from whatever cause — wasn’t serious enough to end his career, pointing out that Strock went on to race again in 1992 and then turned professional in 1993, riding for Saturn, a team Wenzel himself later coached.

Wenzel also asked the court to consider a counterclaim for slander because of interviews that appeared in VeloNews, the Sunday Times of London, other news outlets and on National Public Radio. Wenzel also pointed to a February interview with CBS, scheduled to be aired in April on “60 Minutes II.”

That program — tentatively scheduled for a mid-April airing — will also include an interview with Erich Kaiter, another member of the junior squad at the time. Kaiter told VeloNews that he, too, will file suit in the case within a month.

“The main thing is to get the word out about this,” Kaiter said. “I still believe that things haven’t changed all that much from when this happened to me ten years ago.”

Wenzel’s counterclaim against Strock comes on the heels of a slander and invasion of privacy lawsuit he filed against the U.S. Olympic Committee and Dr. David Joyner for comments Joyner made last year on another CBS program. Joyner told interviewers that the coach of the 1990-91 junior team had been fired as soon as the U.S. Cycling Federation learned of alleged doping. Wenzel said that his position was eliminated as part of a staff cut and had nothing to do with allegations of doping. Wenzel is seeking unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees in that suit.