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McQuaid: ‘Schleck can race’

UCI president Pat McQuaid says cycling’s governing body is powerless to stop Frank Schleck from starting Sunday’s elite men’s road race. The Luxembourg rider, who wore the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France, has been linked to the Operación Puerto blood doping ring via supposed bank documents that reveal he paid nearly 7,000 euros in the spring of 2006 to the ring-leader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. “At this moment in time, he’ll race,” McQuaid told journalists on Saturday. “We have no evidence to stop him.”

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By Andrew Hood

McQuaid meets with reporters on Saturday.

McQuaid meets with reporters on Saturday.

Photo: Agence France Presse

UCI president Pat McQuaid says cycling’s governing body is powerless to stop Frank Schleck from starting Sunday’s elite men’s road race.

The Luxembourg rider, who wore the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France, has been linked to the Operación Puerto blood doping ring via supposed bank documents that reveal he paid nearly 7,000 euros in the spring of 2006 to the ring-leader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

“At this moment in time, he’ll race,” McQuaid told journalists on Saturday. “We have no evidence to stop him.”

McQuaid was hoping to talk about his new peace deal between the grand tours during a press conference Saturday, but the mood turned sour when McQuaid was peppered with questions about alleged links between Schleck and Puerto, the Spanish doping investigation that’s still mired in Spanish courts.

German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported Friday that Schleck, 28, allegedly transferred the money in March 2006.

Schleck, who rides with the CSC-Saxo Bank team, has adamantly denied that he doped, but Italian police raided the Luxembourg national team hotel in late-night raids Friday night as the tension cranked up in Varese.

Schleck has been called before the Duchy’s anti-doping commission Monday, but McQuaid said that’s not enough to keep him out of the worlds.

“If it were proven true, I would be very disappointed in Frank Schleck,” McQuaid said. “We have to follow the rules. Unless we have evidence, we have to let him start.”

McQuaid said the Luxembourg federation could take action to remove Schleck if they saw reason to do it.

Anne Gripper, the UCI’s anti-doping coordinator, said that the UCI would try to make contract with Luxembourg officials ahead of Sunday’s start, but cautioned reporters not to expect swift action.

“We have to balance fairness with firmness,” she said. “We have to have strong evidence before we even open a disciplinary process. It’s not like when we have a result from a lab.”

The Puerto scandal has haunted cycling since 2006, but the UCI said its hands are tied by inaction from the Spanish courts.

Allegedly more than 50 riders were involved in the widespread blood doping ring, but so far only three riders – Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Jörg Jaksche – have served racing bans.

Last year, the UCI tried to prevent Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde from starting the 2007 worlds, but the Court of Arbitration in Sport ruled that Valverde could race.

“Last year, we believed we had evidence from the Puerto affair that would have stopped (Valverde) from racing. We tried to stop him from racing the worlds, but it was the decision of a judge that allowed him to compete,” McQuaid said. “We don’t have the same strong evidence that could stop Frank Schleck.”

Valverde, winner of the 2008 ProTour prize, is scheduled to start Sunday for the Spanish national team.