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By VeloNews Interactive Wire Services, Copyright AFP 2001
Disgraced Colombian climber Jose Jaime Gonzalez Pico has been recruited by Italian team Mobilvetta only days prior to the start of the Giro d’Italia. The 32-year-old, known as Chepe Gonzalez, who won the Giro’s mountains plaudits in 1997 and 1999, was sacked by team Selle Italia last month after he was charged with possession of doping products.
Gonzalez was charged by Modena (Italy) magistrates after the discovery of a range of doping products in his hotel room at the end of March during the Coppi-Bartali International Cycling Week.
He was sacked days later by Selle Italia, who also fired their Colombian team doctor Nino Alberto Beltran who was found with a range of drugs in his car, including growth hormones and anabolic steroids.
In accordance with a recently introduced anti-doping law in Italy a judicial inquiry was opened and the case was referred to the anti-doping commission of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
The arrival of Gonzalez, who won a stage in the 1996 Tour de France and won two stages in the Giros of 1997 and 1999, at Mobilvetta has raised a few eyebrows.
Mobilvetta were forced to line up for the start of last year’s Giro without then team leader Yevgeny Berzin because the Russian’s hematocrite (red blood cell) level was above the 50 percent permitted threshold on the morning of the prologue.
A level above the 50 percent permitted can indicate but does not necessarily prove use of the banned drug erythropoetin (EPO).
Copyright AFP 2001