By Andrew Hood
There’s a brewing storm over speculation that four elite men competitors from last weekend’s road world championships in Canada might have failed anti-doping tests.
According to reports in the European press, urine samples from two Spanish, one Belgian and one Italian rider have been shipped to the UCI’s anti-doping lab in Switzerland for tests to detect the presence of EPO, a banned performance-enhancing product.
The French sports daily L’Equipe reported that pre-race random blood screenings Friday and Saturday revealed “abnormal parameters” and urine samples were later taken for additional testing.
Eurosport, the European sports television cable channel, went so far to report on its web-page Thursday that sources confirmed “at least one Spanish rider may have failed a dope test.” UCI president Hein Verbruggen, however, told the network that “there is no story here,” and that the speculation was not worthy of a response.
Other UCI officials have confirmed that urine samples have been taken, but refused to speculate further until analyses are completed.
Under UCI testing rules, if a rider fails a test, a second “B-sample” is taken and the rider’s name won’t be revealed until their respective cycling federation has been contacted. Test results usually take at least five days to complete.
Manuel Pueyo, the president of the Spanish anti-doping agency, told the Spanish sports daily AS that “there’s no reason to think anything’s wrong.”
“The UCI made the control and all the Spanish riders were apt (okay to race),” Pueyo said. “None of them had their licenses revoked and all competed Sunday without problem.”
The Spanish press also reported that three riders were required to give additional urine samples after blood tests showed “abnormal” hematocrit levels.
“There were hematocrit controls and the next day they repeated the tests with three Spanish riders and many others. That’s logical,” Pueyo continued. “These tests don’t reveal positive or negative, but rather apt or not. All the Spanish riders were declared apt. There were no positives. I don’t know how you can talk about ‘abnormal parameters’ and blood tests when these results are already known. We still have to wait for the urine samples. The UCI is obliged to make as many controls as possible. We do the same thing in Spain. What bothers us is how this news has been released without foundation.”
Speaking to procycling magazine in England, UCI medical chief Mario Zorzoli rejected the notion that a new doping scandal is threatening to derail cycling.
“At this stage none of the rumors are true,” Zorzoli insisted. “The samples only went for analysis (Wednesday) and it will be three days before the results of any anti-EPO tests are known. If the ‘A’ urine sample was positive a ‘B’ sample would require another three days to analyze.”
Bertolini holds on to win Piedmont
Italian Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio) won Thursday’s 90th Giro di Piemonte in northern Italy, edging out Thomas Liese (Bianchi) to score an emotional victory.
Bertolini, Liese and Angelo Lopeboselli (Cofidis) were part of a successful three-man breakaway that peeled away from the main bunch with about 150km to go in the 199km race.
Team CSC, ONCE and Fassa Bortolo finally collaborated to trim a lead that topped out at nearly 10 minutes with 70km to go, but the trio were strong enough to hang on. Lopeboselli was dropped as Liese and Bertolini duked it out for the spoils. Julian Dean (CSC) won the bunch sprint coming in with the main group to take fourth at 1:41 back.
The Piedmont race was the second in a three-race series of one-day races that closes out the European racing season. Many racers skipped Thursday’s racing to be fresh for the Giro di Lombardia, the 2003 season season’s final major race and the final stop of the 10-round World Cup.
90th Tour of Piedmont (UCI 1.1), Italy, 189 kilometers
1. Alessandro Bertolini, Alessio, 4 hours, 35 hours, 29 seconds (41.16 kph)
2. Thomas Liese, Bianchi, +0:01
3. Angelo Lopeboselli, Cofidis, +0:49
4. Julian Dean, CSC, +1:41
5. Matteo Tosatto, Fassa Bortolo — same time
Italians gets racing bans
Five Italian races have received three-year racing bans, according to reports on the Italian wires Thursday. The Italian disciplinary commission handed out the penalties this week.
According to the reports, Francesco Fiorenza, Federico Fioravanti, Andrea Baccani, Matteo Gigli and Volodymyr Starchyk each received the three-year ban for failing anti-doping tests. The doping products were not named.
Another rider, Andris Reiss, was banned for two years while Daniele Troian and Vincenzo Lamberti were banned for two months for negligence.
London told to wait for Tour start
London’s hopes to host the start of the Tour de France will have to wait at least until 2007.
“There is zero possibility of the Tour de France having a grand depart in London in 2006 or before,” Leblanc told British daily The Independent. “We have already decided on French starts for the Tour for both 2005 and 2006, so the absolute earliest for London would be in 2007.”
The Brits are hoping to bring back the Tour to England, which last hosted stages in the 1994 Tour. Ireland hosted the Tour departure in 1998. Next year’s Tour is slated to start in Liége, Belgium. Van Petegem satisfied with bronze
Despite making the winning move in Sunday’s world championships, Belgian strongman Peter Van Petegem had to settle for the bronze medal.
Still, “Van Pet” told the Belgian newspaper Le Deniere Heure he’s happy with his performance.
“With the bronze medal at the world’s, and two victories in such ‘monuments’ such as Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, my season has been excellent,” Van Petegem said. “I have no right to be disappointed with what happened Sunday. Also, I’m not obsessed with it. Who says I’ll never win a world’s?”