Under fire Beloki to leave Brioches?Close
Just when it seemed that things couldn't really get much worse for Joseba Beloki, the Basque has sufJoseba Beloki may have gained a contract that he says makes him the third highest paid rider in the sport when he joined Brioches La Boulangre, but apart from a healthy financial windfall into his bank account each month not much else has gone right for the Basque since he joined the French team. So poor has Beloki's form been this season that Sunday's abandon from the final stage of the Bicicleta Vasca was hardly surprising. However, the same could not be said about Ag2r team boss Vincent Lavenu's threat to sue the Basque rider following Beloki's comments at the end of last week about being prevented from using medical products that are apparently used by other teams. Beloki was widely quoted as saying he was mystified as to why he prevented by his Brioches team from using the asthma-controlling product Pulmicort he has used since he was a child. Brioches and the French federation, he said, refused to countenance use of the product because it contains cortisone and could lead to a positive dope test. At the same time, the UCI allows its use to treat when justified by medical tests. Beloki told L'Equipe he had spoken to various riders on the Cofidis and Ag2r teams who, he claimed, used the same product despite the French federation's stance. "Why can they, who also ride in France, use it and I can't?" he asked L'Equipe. The next day the same paper quoted Lavenu as saying: "I'm outraged by these lies and the damage they cause to the sponsors and the team. I reserve the right to take legal action." But as quickly as that small storm blew up, it was swept away by a new Beloki revelation, as the Basque announced there was a chance he could leave the Brioches set-up at the end of this season rather than staying until the end of 2005 as his contract states. The rider has reached an agreement with Brioches team boss Jean-Ren Bernaudeau to consider staying with the team if Bernaudeau can find a new sponsor to replace Brioches and ensure the team a place in the Pro Tour. If not, Beloki is open to other offers. According to the Spanish press, Beloki's main reason for wanting to opt out is his French team's lack on assistance on the medical front. Beloki has been struggling with breathing problems in recent weeks that were easily and legally treated when he was with ONCE, while his younger brother, Gorka, suffered so badly on one stage of the Bicicleta Vasca with the same problems that he had to abandon the race and receive urgent treatment in hospital. Beloki's discontent was further increased when he learned of Brioches' decision to pull out of the sport at the end of this year from a journalist rather than his team's management. He is also reported to be unhappy with an instruction for him to ride the Route du Sud later this month and take part in a training camp in the Alps, when he was expecting to prepare for the Tour de France in his own way in the Basque Country. Beloki's consolation may be that hefty wage packet, but that short-term financial gain with Brioches may have cost him a greater long-term gain. Who knows where he might have been heading if he'd opted for the smaller salary from Liberty Seguros, but the chance to ride the Tour de France alongside Roberto Heras, Isidro Nozal and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, and with Manolo Saiz plotting his every move?