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Garzelli starts stage 6 despite positive drug test

Giro d’Italia leader Stefano Garzelli announced Saturday that he would not quit the race and will compete in the sixth stage despite testing positive for an outdated masking agent used to hide steroids. "I wanted to quit the Giro but my team asked me to stay," said Garzelli, who tested positive for the diuretic Probenecid – often used as a masking agent -- after winning the second stage last Monday at Ans, Belgium. "It's a stupid thing that can ruin a career, a reputation, a life,” said Garzelli, who expressed shock at the news of a positive test. Garzelli vowed Saturday that he would

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Two riders test positive for Nesp

By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002

Photo: Photo Sport International

Giro d’Italia leader Stefano Garzelli announced Saturday that he would not quit the race and will compete in the sixth stage despite testing positive for an outdated masking agent used to hide steroids.

“I wanted to quit the Giro but my team asked me to stay,” said Garzelli, who tested positive for the diuretic Probenecid – often used as a masking agent — after winning the second stage last Monday at Ans, Belgium.

“It’s a stupid thing that can ruin a career, a reputation, a life,” said Garzelli, who expressed shock at the news of a positive test.

Garzelli vowed Saturday that he would retire from the sport if a second B-sample provided a positive drugs test.

“If Tuesday’s B-sample confirms the positive result I’ll say goodbye to cycling with a clear conscience.

“It would be ridiculous to take this product. I don’t know how it got intomy tests,” added the 28-year-old, who turned professional in 1997 and whoseearly years were spent as lieutenant to drug-tainted cyclist Marco Pantani.

It is the first positive test for Garzelli, who protested his innocence and said that he wanted to await the results of the second B-sample.

The winner of the 2000 Giro further consolidated his race lead and was wearing the leader’s pink jersey after winning Friday’s fifth stage when the race crossed into Italy for the first time.

Garzelli, who rides for the Mapei team, began the day 43 seconds ahead of fellow Italian Francesco Casagrande at the top of the standings. He has since lost the overall lead to Telekom’s Jens Heppner, who was part of a strong break of 12 men who finished five minutes ahead of the main field.

The 28-year-old Garzelli, winner of the Giro in 2000, was among the race favorites having finished second in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege last month.

The race was plunged further into chaos later Saturday with the revelation that two other riders had returned positive tests for the new endurance-boosting drug Darbepoetin, or Nesp, officials said.

The riders were named as Russian Faat Zakirov of the Panaria team and Italian Roberto Sgambelluri of the Mercatone Uno team. Sgambelluri continued in the race while the Panaria rider pulled out.

The Panaria team has been in an uncomfortable spotlight this week after rider Antonio Varriale was arrested late Monday night by investigators in Brescia and immediately provisionally suspended both by his team and the Italian Cycling Federation.

On Friday another Panaria rider, Nicola Chesini, who was the lanterne rouge (rider placed in last position), was arrested at the end of the fifth stage.

Panaria team boss Bruno Reverberi said: “We have no explanation. We think this is related to the Varriale affair.”

The tests are a blow for organizers who have been bidding to emerge from last year’s drug-tainted Giro, when doping products were found during the 2001 edition, launching an investigation by prosecutors concerning more than 100 people.

Padua magistrate Paola Cameran is conducting one of the two police inquiries into last year’s Giro, while the other is under the supervision of Florence magistrate Luigi Bocciolini.

One of the biggest scandals to hit the Giro was in 1999 when Pantani, wearing the leader’s pink jersey, was thrown out of that race before the start of the penultimate stage. A pre-race blood test showed that his hematocrit level – red blood cell content – was higher than 50 percent, an indication of EPO use.

In 1998, Pantani became one of a select band of men to win the Giro and that year’s Tour — though that edition of the French race, too, suffered its own drug scandal.


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