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By Andrew Hood
UCI ready to release ‘Puerto’ documents
Amid the Floyd Landis doping scandal, the UCI released a communiqué late Thursday outlining the next steps in the “Operación Puerto” doping investigation in Spain.
With Spanish authorities continuing its investigation, the UCI is moving forward with its own process to discipline riders with alleged contacts with the suspected blood doping ring operated out of Spain.
“The UCI is preparing to send the files of riders involved in [Operación Puerto] to the national federations concerned and has asked for disciplinary proceedings to be started in accordance to the rules,” the communiqué said.
Because there is no anti-doping law on the books in Spain, riders linked to the investigation will not face any legal charges. Only two doctors – Eufemiano Fuentes and hematologist José Luis Merino – could face charges for “endangering public health.”
Each respective cycling federation will handle any possible sanctions against riders on the Puerto list. First-time offenders could face a two-year ban while currently sanctioned riders face a life-time ban if proof of doping practices can be demonstrated.
There was no indication of which riders will be implicated. Initial reports had as many as 50 riders linked in the police dossier. Ahead of the 2006 Tour, nine riders from four teams were not allowed to start after their names were linked to the investigation.
Among those kicked out of the Tour were T-Mobile’s Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla, CSC’s Ivan Basso, Ag2r’s Francisco Mancebo, and Joseba Beloki, Allan Davis, Isidro Noval, Alberto Contador and Sergio Paulinho, all of Astaná. The “Astaná Five” received a letter from the Spanish courts this week clearing them of any formal investigation in Spain.
The UCI also said Thursday the ProTour president “has concluded that the information obtained by the Spanish authorities indicates that there was among one sole team in the ProTour, managed by the financial entity Active Bay (previously sponsored by Liberty-Würth and currently by Astana), a system of organized doping involving many of the riders.”
ProTour officials have demanded another review by the License Commission. Under request for the team’s association, the team will be allowed to compete, but only with riders not linked to “Operación Puerto.”
Comunidad Valenciana ends sponsorship
Thursday’s decision by Vuelta a España officials to revoke the invitation Comunidad Valenciana has prompted the under-writing sponsor to pull the plug on the team at the end of this season.
The Spanish wires reported that the exclusion from both the Vuelta and the Tour de France caused the Spanish regional government to cut off sponsorship of the continental team. Petacchi close to comeback
Alessandro Petacchi – the Italian sprinter who cracked his knee during a crash in the Giro d’Italia – is eyeing a return to competition next month.
Petacchi said he will test his legs at some smaller races, including the Regio Tour set for Aug. 16-20, with hopes of “racing and finishing” the Vuelta a España.
“I hope I can race and finish the Vuelta to be competitive for Paris-Tours (Oct. 8) and fight for the win,” Petacchi told AFP. “I’ve worked hard to recover my muscle tone but the leg is still five centimeters smaller than the other.”
Quick Step picks up two more
Quick Step-Innergetic has picked up two more riders going into the 2007 season. According to reports on the Belgian wires, Mauro Facci, 24, and Andrea Tonti, 30, will join the Belgian team to help Italian classics specialist Paolo Bettini. The team already has signed Gert Steegmans away from rival Davitamon-Lotto.