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Monday’s EuroFile: Miller insists ‘we are not cheats’; Cofidis stands by team; Petacchi plans; Astarloza looks Down Under

Reigning world time trial champion David Millar defended his Cofidis team despite some current and former members being caught up in the latest doping scandal to rock cycling. "We are not cheats," Millar told the English daily The Guardian on Monday. "I'm confident in the team and I hope Cofidis remain in cycling for a long time." Last week, French police began an investigation into team masseur Bogdan Madejak and former Cofidis racer Marek Rutkiewicz. Rutkiewicz is accused of smuggling growth hormones and other drugs into France, but said this week he is innocent of anything involving

By Andrew Hood

Reigning world time trial champion David Millar defended his Cofidis team despite some current and former members being caught up in the latest doping scandal to rock cycling. “We are not cheats,” Millar told the English daily The Guardian on Monday. “I’m confident in the team and I hope Cofidis remain in cycling for a long time.”

Last week, French police began an investigation into team masseur Bogdan Madejak and former Cofidis racer Marek Rutkiewicz. Rutkiewicz is accused of smuggling growth hormones and other drugs into France, but said this week he is innocent of anything involving drugs.

Police also allegedly found banned drugs at the home of track racer Robert Sassone, a former Cofidis rider, during a raid last week. He was quickly fired by his new team, St Quentin-MBK.

Millar said the scandal is “sad and annoying” and insists it does not reach beyond the two former team members and soigneur currently at the center of police investigations.

“This is not a Cofidis scandal but an isolated incident among one of the team,” Millar told The Guardian on Monday. “This is a scandal involving [Bogdan] Madejak, not a collective conspiracy.”

Millar and his Cofidis teammates are at a training camp near Calpe, Spain, but plan to return to France on Tuesday.

Cofidis won’t leave sponsorship
Despite a widening investigation by French authorities, Cofidis team backers say they won’t be abandoning the sport. “We are not going to leave cycling because they shouldn’t have to pay for something they have nothing do with that’s the fault of one, two or three individuals,” according to an official announcement released by the team over the weekend. Team manager François Migraine insists it’s a “major error” to compare the latest investigation to the “Festina Affaire” of 1998 that revealed the depth of organized doping within cycling. “I’ve thought about it and running away won’t solve anything,” he said. “The captain of the ship doesn’t jump overboard when it’s sinking. I respect (the staff) and I have no intention of abandoning cycling.” Petacchi eyes MSR, Giro, Tour, Olympics
Fassa Bortolo sprinter Alessandro Petacchi says he wants to start the 2004 season off with a win at Milan-San Remo with the hopes of scoring his first World Cup victory. “Last year was incredible, but 2004 presents a lot of interest, with a World Cup at San Remo, the fight with Cipollini in the Giro and the ‘azzurra’ jersey in the Olympics,” Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Astarloza wants another JCTDU
Spanish rider Mikel Astarloza is keen to defend his title of the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under, which begins Tuesday in Adelaide.

“It is very important for me to perform well this year as I am the defending champion and I really want to try and win it again,” Astarloza said on the race web page. “I began solid training for this event in November last year so I am happy with my form and all is going well.”

Astarloza claimed the lead in the 2003 event after Stage 5 when officials resorted to a count-back of previous stage places to break a dead lock with Denmark’s Lennie Kristensen (CSC).

Seven riders were within nine seconds of his lead on the final day and this generated some of the most hotly contested sprinting in the history of the event. Despite it being only his second year in the professional ranks Astarloza kept his cool and his team did the job, working tirelessly to give the young Spaniard his first professional victory.

“It was my first win and will always be special to me,” said Astarloza who was given a hero’s welcome when he returned home to Spain after his win. “I have my winning jersey, race number and a photograph framed and hanging on the wall in my house.”