By Andrew Hood
Hermida EPO tests negative
Spanish mountain biker José Antonio Hermida was cleared Wednesday of suspicion of taking EPO after urine samples taken at the world mountain bike championships earlier this month came back negative.
Spanish national team officials confirmed that samples taken Sept. 11 in Les Gets, France, did not show traces of the banned blood booster.
The Olympic silver medalist was not allowed to start the 2004 world championships after two blood screenings revealed a high hematocrit count and he was given a 15-day “cooling off” period which derailed his world’s hopes.
Hermida tearfully defended his innocence of doping and explained that he’s been fighting the UCI for years to certify his naturally high hematocrit, which hovers around the official speed limit of 50 percent.
“I have not taken any drugs, I have not done anything wrong,” said Hermida said at the time. “At the moment, I feel like my career is in the hands of the UCI. You can see how my life has changed from one to another.”
Hermida was tested along with the Spanish mountain bike team two days before the men’s elite cross-country race, giving urine samples as well as blood samples that revealed a 50 percent hematocrit. UCI vampires returned the next morning and Hermida gave a reading of 52 percent, enough to earn him a required 15-day cooling off period.
Hermida said he sent medical reports in 1997 and again in 1998 to demonstrate a naturally high hematocrit, but because it wasn’t consistently above 50 percent, the UCI wouldn’t give him an exemption.
Hermida was the second Spanish rider disqualified from the 2004 world championships, following Alejandro Diaz de la Peña.
Rogers stands by IOC decision
Newly crowned world time trial champion Michael Rogers said he accepts the IOC ruling on allowing Tyler Hamilton to keep the Olympic time trial gold medal.
Rogers finished fourth behind the American, who later failed tests for banned blood transfusions. Hamilton’s second “B” sample was rendered unable to be tested after it was inadvertently frozen. Without the results, the IOC ruled that Hamilton would be allowed to keep the gold medal.
The ruling, of course, meant Rogers would not move up from fourth into the bronze medal. Wednesday’s victory in the world time trial seemed to soothe Roger’s disappointment from Athens.
“In the case of Hamilton, I respect the decision of the IOC,” Rogers said. “If the ‘B’ sample didn’t come back positive, then we should respect what the IOC decided. I was fourth on the day and that’s the place I finished.”
Bettini arrives by special delivery
Olympic champion Paolo Bettini is the heavy favorite going into Sunday’s elite men’s road race and traveled to Verona on Wednesday to make his final preparations.
The Italian super-star wasn’t content to drive or fly from his hometown along the Tuscan coast southwest of Florence. Instead, Bettini arrived via helicopter piloted by two-time world champion Gianni Bugno.
Bugno is a licensed helicopter pilot who flew in the Italian national guard, but gave the Olympic champion a ride north to Verona in one of the birds. Reports say Bettini arrived without incident.
Upcoming world’s venues announced
The UCI released Wednesday the schedule of upcoming world championship venues through 2007.
The next three road world championships, starting in 2005, will be held in Madrid, Spain; Salzburg, Austria; and Stuttgart, Germany. The UCI also announced that the 2009 road world championships will be held in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
The next three mountain-bike world championships, starting in 2005, will be held in Livigno, Italy; Rotorua, New Zealand; and Fort William, Scotland.
Upcoming world championship venues:
road: Madrid, Spain
track: Los Angeles, United States
mountain bike: Livigno, Italy
cyclo-cross: St. Wendel, Germany
road: Salzburg, Austria
track: Bordeaux, France
mountain bike: Rotorua, New Zealand
cyclo-cross: Zeddam, The Netherlands
road: Stuttgart, Germany
track: Palma de Mallorca, Spain
mountain bike: Fort William, Scotland
cyclo-cross: Hooglede-Gits, Belgium
cyclo-cross: Treviso, Italy
2005 Giro start announced
Whether or not the Giro d’Italia will be part of the ProTour next year, race organizers are moving ahead with plans for the 88th edition of the Italian grand tour. Officials confirmed that next year’s race will start in the Reggio Calabria on May 7 with a prologue and an opening road stage across the region.