Friday, June 30, 2006

Tour de France: Doping Scandal [J. Mark English]

Nate Vinton, New York Times --

HAMBURG, Germany, June 30 — Top-ranked cyclists Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso will not compete in the Tour de France after being suspended by their team managers today amid an explosive doping scandal that has upended the sport on the eve of its most important race.
Among the many riders ruled out of competition today , Basso and Ullrich were the biggest. The two men were considered the top favorites to win this year's tour, which begins on Saturday. Last year Basso finished second behind Lance Armstrong, while Ullrich — the 1997 winner — was third.
"It's my responsibility to suspend Basso," said Bjarne Riis, the leader of the Danish team CSC. "I need to think of the team — that's the most important thing. I have confidence in Ivan. But it is up to him and his lawyers to prove these allegations false."
The T-Mobile team suspended Ullrich along with a teammate, Oscar Sevilla, and a longtime coach, Rudy Pevenage, after team representatives reviewed evidence "clearly proving" that the three men were in contact with Eufemiano Fuentes.
Fuentes is the Madrid-based doctor that Spanish authorities have placed at the center of a massive doping ring that reportedly involves up to 58 riders, including some of them the biggest names in the sport.
"Last night and this morning we got hold of documents from the Spanish investigators clearly proving that there has been contact between the three we now suspended and the Spanish doctor Fuentes," Philipp Schindera, a spokesman for T-Mobile, said in a telephone interview.
The team reviewed materials obtained by organizers of the Tour de France, who had requested that Spanish authorities share them following a steady stream of media reports that described leaked details of the investigation.