Franke wants T-Mobile investigation stepped up

Too many unanswered questions, says doping expert

Doping expert Werner Franke wants federal investigators to step up the probe into the doping suspicions hanging over defunct German cycling team T-Mobile.

Franke, a professor of microbiology, wants some answers on the conduct of the T-Mobile cyclists who, he claims, are suspected of having doped at the private University Clinic Freiburg in the summer of 2006.

The T-Mobile team changed their name to Team High Road at the end of last year after Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent company, terminated their sponsorship in light of former rider Patrik Sinkewitz's doping confessions.

"The question is whether five, six or seven cyclists who were on the 2006 Tour de France went to Freiburg," Franke told German agency SID.

The scientist said he suspects a group of T-Mobile riders visited the hospital and he wants the "most brutally possible clarification" so there are no more doubts about the cyclists' conduct.

The group Franke is suspicious about include German Matthias Kessler, Australian Michael Rogers, Italians Giuseppe Guerini and Eddy Mazzoleni, plus the Ukrainian Serguei Gonchar.

German cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz has already admitted doping during the 2006 Tour during an interview in Der Spiegel last year.

Franke says he felt compelled to speak out because the criminal investigation is not proceeding fast enough for him. "It cannot be that the investigation after half a year hasn't revealed anything," he said.

The Freiburg public prosecutor's office and the Federal Criminal Investigation Office have been investigating the private offices of former T-Mobile doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, who worked at the Freiburg hospital. Sinkewitz has already confirmed Heinrich and Schmid gave him blood transfusions, but has refused to name any other cyclists.

After he was suspended for a year by the German Cycling Union (BDR) after a positive drugs test last June, Sinkewitz could now face a prison sentence if he persists in concealing the names of others guilty of doping offences.

A report in Monday's edition of Der Spiegel - quoting sources close to the case - say German criminal investigators looking into the allegations of improper doping practices at the private University Clinic Freiburg are starting to "lose patience with Sinkewitz."

© AFP 2008

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