Casagranda and Hvastija ejected from Tour

Jean-Marie Leblanc confirmed the worst fears of Martin Hvastija and Stefano Casagranda and tonight b

Jean-Marie Leblanc confirmed the worst fears of Martin Hvastija and Stefano Casagranda and tonight b
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE "At the start of the Tour de France in Lige we made a speech about the war on doping. Some people's reaction was to demand actions, not words. 'OK,' we can say now, 'here you have the actions.'" It was with these words that, on Monday afternoon, Christian Prudhomme, the deputy director of the Tour de France, effectively signalled the end of the road for Stefano Casagranda (Saeco) and Martin Hvastija (Alessio) at the 2004 Tour de France. Forty-eight hours after magistrates in Padua confirmed in writing that Hvastija and Casagranda remain under investigation for doping offences, Prudhomme and his immediate superior, Jean-Marie Leblanc, announced that they would "not wish to see Hvastija and Casagranda resuming the Tour on Tuesday." Prudhomme and Leblanc were addressing the press on the Tour's rest day in Limoges less than one hour after verbally informing the Alessio and Saeco teams of their decision. Alessio-Bianchi directeur sporif Bruno Cenghialta has already threatened the Socit du Tour de France with legal action. Both teams have requested that the Tour organisers confirm their sanctions in writing later this evening. Hvastija and Casagranda are the latest victims of a Socit du Tour regulation which dictates that any rider cited in an ongoing police inquiry into doping or under formal legal inquiry is unwelcome at the Tour. The same rule prevented Danilo Di Luca, Cdric Vasseur and David Millar from entering the 2004 Grande Boucle. As well as underlining the Tour's uncompromising new stance on doping, today's announcement vindicates French newspaper Le Monde, whose report last Wednesday - a follow-up to an earlier expos - prompted Leblanc and Prudhomme to seek assurances from the Italian authorities. "I don't know how Le Monde obtained the information, but I would like to know," Prudhomme told procycling this evening. The Tour's two leading figures condemned Hvastija and Casagranda this afternoon after a fax confirming their compromised position lay unread at Tour HQ in Paris over the weekend. "As you all know, our offices are closed on Saturday and Sunday," Jean-Marie Leblanc explained. All attention now shifts to Pavel Padrnos (US Postal) and Stefano Zanini (Quick Step), the pair Le Monde alleges will answer charges of doping in San Remo later this year. Leblanc and Prudhomme stressed tonight that they are still being kept waiting by magistrates in San Remo for a letter which either validates or disputes Le Monde's claims. "Better late than never", said Leblanc of Hvastija and Casagranda's exclusion on Monday, some 11 days after they were first implicated by Le Monde. "Better never than late", on the other hand, may be the motto which best sums up Padrnos and Zanini's current sentiments.
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