Phonak: 'A black day for cycling'

Phonak respond to their ProTour rejection by saying they did all that was asked of them to fulfill t

Phonak respond to their ProTour rejection by saying they did all that was asked of them to fulfill t
PICTURE BY LAVUELTA.COM Phonak have issued a strong condemnation of yesterday's announcement by the UCI's licensing commission not to grant them a ProTour licence. In a statement on the Phonak website, the Swiss team says "this is a black day for Swiss and possibly international cycling. The fact is that without a ProTour licence there is great uncertainty about the future existence of the team." Although the statement goes on to say that the team "will adhere to the contracts for 2005 and will be striving to acquire wildcards", it immediately adds "that in the event of these possibilities not being achieved now or in the immediate future, a step-by-step retreat from professional cycling is unavoidable." Members of the Phonak team are set to meet next week to discuss the situation. The team recognises that many of its riders will be keen to move on given the lack of a guarantee that the team will be given wild card entry to major events. Phonak's statement mentions the team collapsing from the inside out. Phonak insists that it made the changes to its policy required by the licensing commission on doping cases and on the 15% contract rule for image agreements. However, according to Phonak, it seems the commission was moving the goalposts over entry criteria. "In the end it came down to the question of whether or not the team is acceptable from the point of view of the commission's ethical principles. The introduction of this ethical question can, however, also be seen as a change to the requirements in the process for the granting of licences. Despite that, the team was then not granted any further legal hearing in that respect." Phonak's statement continues: "The decision that has now been taken by the commission indicates that the hearing (of November 22) was in itself meaningless, i.e. that the decision had already been taken in advance and irrevocably on 12 November. Instead of absolutely refusing the licence, the commission could have granted a temporary or provisional licence. The commission could have acknowledged and rewarded the measures taken by the team." After weeks of uncertainty, the Phonak team is now in complete turmoil. Team leader Tyler Hamilton has been sacked after his positive - but still disputed - test for blood doping. Vuelta runner-up Santi Perez has failed a similar test and may well suffer the same fate as Hamilton, or find that his contract that runs out at the end of the year is not renewed. In addition, big money signings such as Floyd Landis, Santiago Botero, Victor Hugo Pe¤a and Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero now find themselves contracted to a team tainted by recent events and dependent on good will to get into major races. Landis has already been linked with other teams, and others are no doubt assessing their options. Landis and Perdiguero are now being linked in Spain with the latter's former Saunier Duval team. The UCI's commission made clear in its own statement that it was extremely unhappy with Phonak's challenge to Hamilton and Perez's positive tests for blood doping. It criticised "an attitude of consistently basing its defence by questioning approved methods, to which can also be added the fact that abnormal blood readings had already been detected within certain members of the team by the UCI in 2004." Unlike other teams who were contacted by the UCI in similar circumstances, Phonak's response was viewed to be inadequate. Contacted by Spanish news agency EFE, Santi Perez expressed his disappointment with the latest news. He also refused to say to what extent Phonak had been and were continuing to help him in his fight to clear his name after the blood doping charge. He did say that "if Phonak doesn't get into the ProTour the team will not need Tyler Hamilton, nor Santi Perez, nor in all probability a lot of the other riders who have signed for them for next season."
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