Valverde; Sinkewitz implicates Bettini; Minister freezes funds

Alejandro Valverde has been cleared to race in the world championships, while Patrik Sinkewitz has reportedly named Paolo Bettini and Davide Bramati as supplying him with testosterone. Germany's Interior minister has reacted by freezing a subsidy earmarked for the world's.

Valverde OK for world's

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde welcomed Wednesday the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision to allow him to compete in the world road cycling championships this week despite suspicions of doping.

"It wouldn't have been fair had they not let me race," Valverde said on the website of the Spanish newspaper Marca, adding that he backed "clean" racing.

The Spanish cycling ace condemned what he described as a battle between the different governing bodies of cycling. "The riders are being used in a war of interests between the different organisations and it's time for all those who love cycling to take a step forward and defend it," Valverde said.

Cycling "needs to be clean and non discriminatory", he said, adding there needed to be clearer guidelines to avoid such confusion in the future.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) had attempted to ban Valverde, a two-time silver medallist in the elite men's race, from the worlds based on their belief that he was implicated in the 'Operation Puerto' doping affair. The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) stood by Valverde, who made a last gasp appeal to CAS in a bid to compete in Sunday's road race, the blue riband event of the championships.

Valverde has always denied being involved in Operation Puerto, uncovered when police raided the premises of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in May 2006 and found bags of stored blood, banned doping products and lists of codenames allegedly belonging to top cyclists.

Secretary general of the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC), Eugenio Bermudez, said he was happy with a decision which he said "backed up our judgement," according to a federation statement.

Spanish national coach Francisco Antequera said the decision was "an important step for Spanish cycling", telling the Europa Press news agency he had always been optimistic about the outcome as there appeared to be a lack of proof of wrongdoing by the cyclist.

"Today is an important day and we hope things will now begin to calm down," Antequera added. He said that Valverde had heard the news through his lawyer and was delighted after going through some "bad days" awaiting his fate.

Spanish Sports minister, Jaime Lissavetsky, said the decision respected the "presumption of innocence."

"It is a good decision for Alejandro Valverde and for the Spanish cycling team," the minister said.

Bettini gave Sinkewitz testosterone - report

Olympic and world cycling champion Paolo Bettini supplied sacked German cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz with doping products, according to television reports in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

Sinkewitz, 26, was dismissed by T-Mobile during this year's Tour de France when abnormal levels of testosterone were found in his blood during a pre-race drugs test. The German later admitted he had used 'Testogel' patches to help aid recovery.

But according to reports on German channel ZDF, Sinkewitz is quoted in a document as naming 2004 Olympic road champion and defending world road champion Bettini, plus retired Italian Davide Bramati, as his suppliers.

"I got the Testogel from Italian riders and I can also name them, they were Davide Bramati and Bettini," he is quoted as saying.

Told of the television accusations, Bettini - who was on his way to Stuttgart from Venice airport - immediately called Sinkewitz to quiz him.

According to ANSA news agency, Sinkewitz denied ever having named Bettini.

Bettini is reported as telling his former team-mate over the telephone: "If as you say you didn't say what has been reported then issue a denial immediately. If you have said what has been reported then you will have to be held responsible."

Sinkewitz and Bettini were team-mates at professional teams Mapei and Quick-Step, before the German switched to T-mobile in 2005. He wants to help doping investigators as a principal witness in order to reduce his ban, which is expected to be two years.

Bettini meanwhile has given the International Cycling Union (UCI) a headache over his refusal to bow to requests for a DNA sample.

The UCI attempted to guarantee a scandal-free Tour de France this year by demanding all participating riders to sign a pledge promising not to dope.

Threatened with having to pay a year's salary if caught doping, the peloton was also asked to submit a blood sample to the ruling body to rule them out of any involvement in the ongoing 'Operation Puerto' doping affair in Spain.

Bettini is set to defend his rainbow jersey at the men's world championships road race on Sunday, but has so far refused to sign the UCI's pledge. He claims handing over a blood sample is akin to giving up one's basic human rights.

German minister freezes world championship subsidy

Germany's Interior minister reacted angrily to suspicions of continued doping in cycling by freezing a substantial subsidy to the organisers of the world road race cycling championships Wednesday.

The championships are under a cloud on the first day of competition due to beliefs that not enough is being done by the sport's authorities, or its stars, to show that the combat against the drugs cheats is advancing.

Despite never having tested positive for banned substances reigning world and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini is at the centre of the controversy.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) attempted to guarantee a scandal-free Tour de France this year by demanding all participating riders to sign a pledge promising not to dope. Threatened with having to pay a year's salary if caught doping, the peloton was also asked to submit a blood sample to the ruling body to rule them out of any involvement in the ongoing 'Operation Puerto' doping affair in Spain.

Bettini has steadfastly refused to sign the pledge, and says that handing over a blood sample is akin to giving up one's basic human rights.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble said Bettini's failure to give his support to the UCI's attempt to help clean up the sport has severely compromised the credibility of the world championships. Schauble is chief of top level sport in Germany and said he had immediately frozen the payment of a 150,000 euros subsidy to the organisers of the event.

"Before these championships it was clear from the start that they would provide a chance for a fresh start for this sport," he said in a statement. "When a rider refuses to sign a pledge which aims for a new, cleaner cycling and then he manages to participate in the event then the credibility of the sport's fight against doping is destroyed.

"When it is the world championships themselves that refuse to embrace this fresh start, then they have to assume the consequences."

© AFP 2007

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