By Andrew Hood
Ex-Armstrong teammate to be questioned in bonus spat
The ongoing dispute between a Texas insurance company and Lance Armstrong involving an unpaid $5 million Tour de France bonus is taking another twist.
According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, officials from SCA Promotions Inc. will travel to New Zealand this month to interview ex-Motorola rider Stephen Swart about doping allegations revealed in a book published this summer.
SCA has refused to pay following the publication of an unauthorized biography in France, “LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong,” which alleges the six-time Tour winner has used banned performance-enhancing products.
The unpaid bonus has prompted a lawsuit in Texas state court by Tailwind Sports Inc., which owns the U.S. Postal Service team, and Capital Sports and Entertainment, Armstrong’s agency. Armstrong’s lawyers argue that the Tour victories met the approval by cycling authorities and that Armstrong’s due the bonus.
Armstrong has vehemently denied the book’s allegations and cleared all anti-doping tests en route to winning the sixth Tour. Armstrong has never been disciplined for a doping sanction during his career.
“Lance has made it unambiguously clear that he does not use, nor has he ever used, performance-enhancing drugs,” read a statement released by Capital Sports and Entertainment last month. “The baseless and mean-spirited doping allegations against Lance are not supported by any facts.”
SCA, however, is evidently stepping up its own investigation. It has placed the money in a custodial account with JP Morgan and requested Armstrong’s medical records. On Aug. 16, CSE officials provided 54 pages of medical records to SCA.
Company president Bob Hamman is expected to travel to New Zealand to personally interview Swart, a former Motorola rider who alleges in the book several riders on the team in 1995 decided to use the banned blood booster EPO.
In 2001, Tailwind Sports, the parent company of Armstrong’s cycling team, paid SCA an insurance premium of $420,000 before the Tour de France to pay bonuses if Armstrong won. SCA paid a $1.5 million bonus in 2002 and a $3 million bonus in 2003.
Basso ready for Lombardia
Ivan Basso tried to win the world title last weekend with two blistering attacks on the final laps of the men’s road race, but was squelched by the dominant Spanish team.
Now the Team CSC captain is looking ahead to Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia to cap his 2004 season that saw a breakthrough Tour de France stage victory and podium performance. “I’ve more or less always done well in the Tour of Lombardy and this year’s course suits me very well,” Basso said on the team’s web page. “There are some nice opportunities to put pressure on the peloton at the end and our tactics will be rather simple; to make the race as hard as possible. I believe the peloton will explode on one of the last climbs and I predict that not many riders will be able to keep up in the final part of the race, which would be just perfect for me.” Another setback for Kelme
News that Valenciana-Kelme won’t be part of next year’s 20-team Pro Tour lineup is having further implications for the venerable Spanish team. Star rider Alejandro Valverde is expected to bail and now efforts to find a new co-sponsor seem doomed.
The team was expecting to get a major boost from the second division soccer club of Elche, a city near Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. According to reports in the Spanish media, a change in the soccer club’s marketing plans could torpedo the new sponsor effort.
T-Mobile on youth movement
T-Mobile is bolstering its lineup with younger riders, in part to meet requirements in the new Pro Tour league. The German squad has signed up 21-year-old Dutch rider Bas Giling, 22-year-old Austrian Berhard Kohl and 21-year-old German Marcus Burghardt. “We want to give the young riders their chance and allow them time and space to develop within the team,” said team spokesman and future manager Olaf Ludwig. “We have had lengthy discussions with them both, and we have concluded that they would be a great addition to our squad.”
According to a report on the team’s page, Burghardt impressed the team management when he rode for the team as a stagiaire at the recent International Tour of Rheinland-Pfalz.
“We are not expecting any overnight success from these young riders. We have recruited them for the future,” Ludwig said.