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83-Steelers-43
06-30-2006, 03:39 PM
Top five '05 finishers won't start Tour this year
ESPN.com news services

STRASBOURG, France -- The Tour de France was stripped of the four top 2005 returning finishers on Friday after Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo were named in a doping investigation in Spain.

The decision to prevent those cyclists and others from racing threw the sport's premier race into upheaval the day before it begins.

Basso finished second in last year's Tour behind American Lance Armstrong, now retired. Ullrich was third and Mancebo fourth. Alexander Vinokourov, who was fifth last year, is also out because his team, Astana-Wurth, withdrew.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said the organizers' determination to fight doping was "total."

"The enemy is not cycling, the enemy is doping," he said.

Riders being excluded will not be replaced, meaning a smaller field than the 189 racers originally expected.

It's the biggest doping crisis to the hit the sport since the Festina scandal in 1998 nearly derailed the Tour. The Festina team was ejected from the race after customs officers found a large stash of banned drugs in a team car.

Basso, winner of the Giro d'Italia, and Ullrich -- the 1997 Tour winner and a five-time runner-up -- were among more than 50 cyclists said to have been implicated in a Spanish doping probe that has rocked the sport for weeks.

Basso, Mancebo and Ullrich's teams said Friday that because their names had come up in the probe they were being withdrawn from the Tour. Ullrich's T-Mobile squad said it also suspended rider Oscar Sevilla and sporting director Rudi Pevenage because of their involvement.

Ullrich insisted he was innocent, and vowed to fight the allegations.

"The only thing I can say so far is that I'm shocked, that I still have nothing to do with this, that I'm a victim now and that I'm prepared [for the Tour] in this year like never before," Ullrich told reporters outside his hotel near Strasbourg, before leaving for home.

"This is the worst case of my career so far. I'll go on fighting at any rate. But at this moment, I'm desperate."

Basso was returning to Italy, his team said.

A total of nine riders who signed up for the Tour were implicated in the Spanish probe, said cycling's governing body, the UCI. Five of the riders were with the Astana-Wurth team, which withdrew from the race Friday. The team's former director was among those arrested in Spain.

The UCI identified the implicated Astana riders as Joseba Beloki of Spain, runner-up at the 2002 Tour and third in 2001 and 2000; Allan Davis from Australia; Alberto Contador and Isidro Nozal from Spain; and Sergio Paulinho from Portugal.

At Astana, "it looks like a system of team doping," Prudhomme said.

Just a day earlier, the Court of Arbitration for Sport had ruled against Tour organizers' call for Astana to be barred from the race.

The Spanish scandal erupted in May when police carried out arrests and raids, seizing drugs and frozen blood thought to have been readied for banned, performance-enhancing transfusions.

Since then, the names of riders said to have had contacts with Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor among those arrested, have leaked in Spanish media.

Then, after more leaks on Thursday, Spanish authorities released details from the probe to Tour organizers and other cycling bodies, showing which riders were implicated in the investigation. It was on the basis of that official information that Tour teams decided to act.

The UCI noted that while the probe implicated the riders, it had not yet established that they had cheated. Nevertheless, Tour organizers pushed for their exclusion and teams agreed, in keeping with their ethical charter that allows riders to be barred from racing while they are under investigation for doping.


T-Mobile received information implicating Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage from Tour organizers, including documents from the Spanish government, team spokesman Luuc Eisenga said.

"The only thing I can tell you is that the information is clear enough and didn't leave any doubt," he said.

Another T-Mobile spokesman, Stefan Wagner, told Germany's n-tv television that the team was acting on information indicating "that there was contact between the two riders and Rudi Pevenage and the Spanish doctor ... who is at the center of this doping story."

Asked whether T-Mobile would consider cutting ties with Ullrich completely, he replied "certainly ... we are now demanding evidence of his innocence."

"If this evidence can be provided, then we have a completely new situation," he said. "If it cannot be provided, nothing will change about this situation."

The Spanish Cycling Federation said on Friday the riders named in the police investigation into doping could not be presumed to bear the same degree of guilt.

"The degree of presumed involvement in doping is of varying degrees and it is not possible to generaliZe when taking about names, substances or the practices that were used," the federation said in a statement.

The extent of Basso's implication was not immediately clear. But his team said the suspicion hanging over him would have made his participation in the Tour difficult.

"It would be big chaos if those riders remain in the race," said the manager of Basso's team, Bjarne Riis. "We have to protect cycling."

Riis noted that Basso's contract forbids him from working with doctors from outside their CSC team.

"Ivan must prove with his lawyer that he is innocent. I believe in Ivan but I have been forced to take the necessary steps," Riis said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/tdf2006/news/story?id=2505072

83-Steelers-43
06-30-2006, 03:40 PM
Hopefully the French will start worrying about these guys instead of being on Lance's @$$ every other month.

SteelerDan43
06-30-2006, 03:47 PM
Baseball is perfectly clean in comparison to Cycling and Track

clevestinks
06-30-2006, 03:57 PM
Whats the friggin world coming to? I bet Arnold never took steroids! LOL

83-Steelers-43
06-30-2006, 03:58 PM
Baseball is perfectly clean in comparison to Cycling and Track

Well that's saying a lot...lol.

SteelerDan43
06-30-2006, 04:02 PM
Well that's saying a lot...lol.

I wasnt making a comment saying baseball was clean but more that baseball isnt the only sport with a problem

83-Steelers-43
06-30-2006, 04:04 PM
I wasnt making a comment saying baseball was clean but more that baseball isnt the only sport with a problem

Well, I think it was already known that baseball is not the only sport in the world that has a steroid problem. But, "I don't want to talk about the past" and "I can't speak English all of a sudden". :sofunny:

SteelerzGirl
06-30-2006, 05:09 PM
Hopefully the French will start worrying about these guys instead of being on Lance's @$$ every other month.

Boy, isn't that the truth! And the French were the ones who ended up looking like the @sses when they made untrue accusations against Lance. There's always some type of scandal w/The Tour de France. Geesh... There's never any scandals at the Tour de Toona in Altoona, PA. :sofunny: