By Andrew Hood
Giro d’Italia winner Danilo Di Luca was hit with a three-month racing ban Tuesday that will force him out of this weekend’s ProTour showdown at the Giro di Lombardia.
Di Luca received the suspension for alleged links to controversial Italian doctor Carlo Santuccione, who is the center of an ongoing investigation dubbed “Oils for Drugs,” which dates back to 2003.
Police believe that Santuccione is the ringleader of an alleged doping ring involving cyclists and other athletes. Di Luca was heard in telephone taps conversing with Santuccione, but has denied all wrong-doing.
Di Luca was hounded by media as he entered the 90-minute hearing before Italy’s Olympic Committee (CONI) on Tuesday, saying he was “very calm, as always.”
The Liquigas captain has been under fire on and off since 2004 for alleged links to Santuccione and was forced out of the 2004 Tour de France when the first suspicions made headlines.
Di Luca pulled himself out of last month’s world championship when CONI threatened him with a four-month suspension. That ban was reduced to three months, which won’t amount to much more than a slap on the wrist coming at the end of the racing season.
It could cost him a shot at a second ProTour individual title in three years, however. He will be forced out of Saturday’s running of Lombardia, the season-closer and final ProTour event.
Di Luca holds a slender 15-point lead to second-place Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), who’s made a late-season surge with a strong fourth-place run at the Vuelta a España.
Erasing the 15-point difference certainly isn’t beyond reach. With 50 points for the winner, 40 for second, 35 for third, 30 for fourth, 25 for fifth and 20 for sixth, the Australian will need to be among the top 6 to snatch away the leader’s white jersey.
Even if Di Luca isn’t there to defend his lead, it could be a fitting reward for Evans, who’s had a season full of close calls, including second at the Tour de France, second at the Dauphiné Libéré and fourth at the Vuelta.
Pereiro doesn’t want think about CAS
While the Spanish media toasts Oscar Pereiro as the official winner of the 2006 Tour de France following Monday’s yellow jersey ceremony in Madrid, there remains the outside chance that Pereiro could have the jersey taken away if Floyd Landis wins his appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
Landis, who saw his 2006 Tour victory stripped after urine samples he submitted after his epic Stage 17 ride to Morzine showed a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 11.1-to-1, well above the 1-to-1 ratio normally seen in a healthy adult male or WADA’s limit of 4-to-1.
In a very public hearing in May of this year, Landis and his legal team mounted a full-scale attack on procedures employed at the French National Anti-Doping Laboratory (LNDD).
While Landis was successful in showing that the lab had violated international standards in reaching its T/E ratio finding, the majority of the three-member hearing panel found that follow-up tests, using a much more complex Carbon Isotope Ratio test were conducted properly.
As a result, Landis was found to have committed a doping violation during the Tour and suspended until January 29, 2009.
Landis filed an appeal of the decision to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week. The decision means that a final resolution of the case – and of the question of who actually won the 2006 Tour – may still be months away.
Pereiro, however, doesn’t want to hear anything about CAS or the possibility of having the decision overturned.
“Nothing is going to take away the dream right now, not Landis nor his appeal to CAS,” Pereiro said Monday. “It’s a demonstration of good faith on part of the Tour de France to have given me this winner’s jersey without waiting to see what CAS decides. No one is going to ruin a day as joyful as this one.”
Revised ’06 podium: Klöden 2nd, Sastre 3rd
With Oscar Pereiro elevated to winner of the 2006 Tour, others behind him in the GC naturally also bounce up. After the disqualification of Floyd Landis, Andreas Klöden will slot into second at 32 seconds back with Carlos Sastre nudging into third at 2:16 back.
There was no immediate reaction from Klöden, who is reportedly poised to leave Astana and join Milram for the 2008 season.
Sastre said last month he wasn’t satisfied despite moving up to the Tour podium for the first time in his career.
“It doesn’t matter because all this is yesterday’s news. I did all I could in that year’s Tour and I have no regrets. I was satisfied with my result and I have moved on,” Sastre said. “This whole business hasn’t been good for anyone or for cycling, so I cannot take satisfaction to move up in this manner.”
Schmidt new DS at CSC
With Alain Gallopin exiting to join the new-look Astana team with Johan Bruyneel, Team CSC has tapped former German pro Torsten Schmidt to fill the vacancy. Schmidt rode six years with Gerolsteiner and the previous two with the continental outfit, Team Wiesenhof.
“After having ended my career as a rider I had no doubts whatsoever that I wanted to continue within the cycling sport, and this fantastic opportunity to work with Team CSC couldn’t be more perfect for me,” said Schmidt, 35. “I’m very much honored to get the chance to work for the best cycling team in the world and I look forward to being a part of the work, which makes this team so unique. I’m humbled by the task before me, but of course I’m hoping that I’ll be able to contribute.”
Former Italian cyclist Vito Taccone has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 67. Taccone won the best climber’s jersey in the 1961 and 1963 Giri d’Italia and also made his mark with winning four successive stages.
Earlier this month, Taccone chained himself to the railings of a court in his home town of Avezzano to protest his innocence after being arrested in June on suspicion of involvement in the trade of stolen or fake brand-name goods.
by Agence France Presse