Germany’s bid to defend its Olympic men’s team-pursuit title in Athens next year will have to start from scratch after suspensions were handed out to bickering riders Friday in Frankfurt.
The German Cycling Federation (BDR) did not hold back in its punishment of its top track riders, whose internal quarreling led hosts Germany not to present a team for the event at the recent world track cycling championships in Stuttgart.
The BDR’s decision to disband the team and start afresh came after some nasty nitpicking between Robert Bartko and Jens Lehmann at the recent world championships.
Lehmann, the Olympic individual pursuit champion who hails from Leipzig, was not selected for the team event; Bartko was chosen instead. Lehmann was then openly critical of Bartko after he was eliminated from the individual pursuit on the championships’ opening day, and the dispute reached critical levels in the German camp.
On Friday, the sanctions handed down mean that Lehmann, who is being seen as the instigator of the dispute, will miss out on next year’s Olympics – he was banned until August 31, 2005. Christian Bach, Daniel Becke and Sebastian Siedler also received suspensions.
BDR chief Sylvia Schenk was particularly critical of Lehmann.
“For his conduct there is no apology,” said Schenk. “Before the scandal he openly encouraged (Robert) Bartko’s opponent in the singles.”
Bach, who is the only one of the quartet to have apologized for his conduct, received a ban from the German pursuit team until the start of 2004 and is the only one of the sanctioned riders who has a chance of making the Olympic team.
Siedler will not represent his country until August 31, 2004 – meaning he will miss the Olympics, as will Becke, who like Lehmann was banned until August 31, 2005.
In addition to their suspensions, the four riders will no longer benefit from financial aid, such as sponsorships or government assistance.
Schenk said a new German foursome would travel to Athens for 2004.
“In any case we will go to Athens with four riders,” said Schenk. “Good young riders are waiting in the wings.” –Copyright 2003/AFP