German cycling VP resigns over Zabel; Ullrich stays stumm

"This signal sends out the wrong message."

Top sprinter Erik Zabel's inclusion in a preliminary squad for the world road cycling championships has led to the resignation of German cycling federation vice-president (BDR) Dieter Kuehnle.

Germany's Zabel, a former six-time winner of the Tour de France's green jersey, was named Wednesday in a preliminary 21-man squad for the competition to be held in Stuttgart from September 26-30.

However the fallout from Zabel's recent confession to having "briefly" used the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) in 1996, when he won the first of his six points competitions at the Tour de France, has failed to settle.

After the German cycling federation (BDR) voted six to two in favour of his inclusion, Kuehnle stormed out of the meeting and resigned in protest over what he feels is the pro-Zabel attitude of BDR boss Rudolf Scharping.

"I am sorry I have had to make this decision but I don't agree with the federation's decision," said Kuehnle.

"The BDR has to show courage, but this signal sends out the wrong message."

The 62-year-old had pleaded for the introduction of a new generation of riders, but has encountered resistance to the idea from senior BDR figures, particularly Scharping.

Kuehnle is not alone. Stuttgart's organising committee president, Susanne Eisenmann, had demanded Zabel's exclusion to help encourage a new start in German cycling after several high-profile doping scandals.

Eisenmann slammed the BDR's decision, claiming it contradicted the work being done to repair the sports tarnished image.

"We are completely unsatisfied with the decision to include Zabel," Eisenmann told German daily newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten on Thursday.

"We must wonder about the integrity of this decision at a time when we talk about a new start for professional cycling."

The German squad will be cut from 21 to 14 when it is finalised on September 18.

Meanwhile, Bernd Dittert, coach of the German Under-23 side, will continue in his post, the BDR has announced, after they launched an inquiry following doping allegations in the German media.

Dittert, who won gold in the Team Time Trial at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, has been given the backing of BDR president Scharping.

Ullrich maintains silence

Meanwhile, Zabel's former team-mate, 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich refused to answer questions about the doping allegations he faces when asked about them during a rare public appearance on Thursday.

Ullrich, 33, was at the Eurobike trade show in Freidrichshafen, on the request of his sponsors and spoke at a press conference to mark the event which lasts until Sunday.

The Greman retired in February after he was linked to last year's Fuentes doping scandal in Spain and has been keeping a low profile since announcing his retirement.

"If I were to say something on these charges, I would choose which media to speak to and the date to talk," was Ullrich's reply when asked about the charges.

Ullrich said in July he would only speak "when Germany was ready to listen" and has always insisted he is innocent.

The former T-Mobile captain retired after being sacked by his team in July 2006 when details of the Fuentes scandal first emerged.

© AFP 2007

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