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Leipheimer Accused of Doping at Gerolsteiner

August 5, 2010
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Levi Leipheimer’s Gerolsteiner team director accused the American of doping during the 2005 season

(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Leipheimer Accused of Doping at Gerolsteiner

A former team manager of Levi Leipheimer has claimed the American narrowly escaped a positive test for blood doping during the 2005 Tour de France. Leipheimer, who currently races with Team RadioShack, has been accused by his former team manager at Gerolsteiner, Hans-Michael Holczer.

Holczer said during a presentation of his book “Garantiert Positiv” (“Guaranteed Positive”) that Leipheimer’s blood values during the 2005 Tour “showed a very high probability of manipulation”. The German said the blood readings were so abnormal that he was advised by International Cycling Union (UCI) to take the American off the race.

“It was clear to me: Leipheimer had manipulated,” Holczer said Wednesday. Holczer claimed that the UCI told him durung the race’s first rest day that Leipheimer’s blood readings had an off-score co-efficient of 132.8, only 0.2 under the limit of 133. A normal score is 85-95, and anything over 133 suggets that doping has taken place. The sport’s world ruling body allegedly advised Holczer to try and find a reason to remove Leipheimer from the race.

However the German admitted he did not know how to react, given the fact that one team member, Danilo Hondo, had tested positive earlier that year and that Gerolsteiner would pull the plug in the event of a second positive.

“I was caught between a moral obligation and a legal threat,” Holczer said, admitting he felt under huge pressure after Hondo’s positive test. “Ever since then we were sitting on an economic landmine. I was facing total bankruptcy.”

Leipheimer went on to finish sixth overall in the 2005 Tour de France, 11:21 behind winner Lance Armstrong. A few weeks later he won the Tour of Germany, notably beating former Tour winner Jan Ullrich. The Californian finished 13th overall in the 2010 Tour de France.

In September 2007 Gerolsteiner, a German mineral water company, announced it would end its sponsorship of the team at the end of 2008. It was shortly after the 2008 Tour de France that they suffered their worst doping scandal, when it emerged that both Bernhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher had tested positive for the new blood-boosting drug CERA EPO (erythropoietin). Shortly after the Beijing Olympics in August, Schumacher and Italian Davide Rebellin also tested positive for CERA.

Former US Postal Teammate Backs Landis’ Claims

A former teammate of Lance Armstrong has reportedly backed claims by disgraced cycling champion Floyd Landis that Armstrong took part in and encouraged doping within the US Postal team. A New York Times report said an ex-teammate of Armstrong, who wished to remain anonymous, had spoken with investigators detailing “some of his own drug use, as well as the widespread cheating that he said went on as part of the Postal Service team – all of which he said was done with Armstrong’s knowledge and encouragement.”

The report said the rider in question “has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or methods” and “asked that his name not be used because investigators advised him not to speak publicly about the information he provided”.

Several of Armstrong’s former employees and teammates have been contacted by federal investigators. A lawyer for American George Hincapie, Zia F. Modabber, said in July that 

former US Postal rider Hincapie was likely to talk to investigators once the Tour was over.

Another former US Postal rider, Tyler Hamilton, is currently serving an eight-year ban for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Times report claimed that Hamilton’s lawyer, Chris Manderson, said Hamilton had received a grand jury subpoena but did not say whether Hamilton had already provided testimony.

The federal investigation is being led by Jeff Novitzky, a special agent for the Food and Drug Administration. Novitzky forged his reputation as drugs-buster when he led a successful 

probe into the BALCO doping scandal, which ultimately led to a prison term for former athletics queen Marion Jones.

Armstrong, who has never tested positive, has categorically denied the allegations and said that Landis has no credibility. At the end of his final Tour de France appearance last month, Armstrong said he would deny any involvement in doping “as long as I live”.

A federal prosecutor, Doug Miller, is in charge of the investigation, which is being pushed along because a 10-year statute of limitations on some of the charges they are investigating is set to expire next spring. The Times report said more riders are expected to meet with the grand jury as early as next week.

Tondo, pictured here in the Giro d’Italia, has emerged as a promising climber
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Collarbone Break for Tondo

Cerv‚lo TestTeam rider Xavier Tondo suffered a broken collarbone after a crash in the fourth stage of the Tour of Poland Wednesday. He abandoned the race, currently led by Dan Martin of Garmin-Transitions.

“We will not perform surgery; he will recover completely without it,” said Andreas Goesele, Medical Officer of Cerv‚lo TestTeam. “This way he can start training again in a reasonably short time.”

Tondo himself remains optimistic for a quick return to competition.

“I knew the final of yesterday’s stage was pretty tricky so I went to the front to be safer and I felt really good,” the rider explained. “I took a drink and I didn’t see the gap in the road. I went down and when I stood up I immediately felt that my collarbone was broken.”

“Fortunately it is a little fracture, and I hope to be fit in time for my next goal, the Vuelta a Espa¤a,” he added.

Bernhard Eisel on his way to winning the 2010 edition of Gent-Wevelgem
(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Eisel Sticks with High Road

Team HTC-Columbia will count on the services of classics specialist and leadout man Bernhard Eisel for 2011 and 2012. Eisel recently helped the team to five stage wins at the Tour de France and pulled off a major victory earlier in the year winning Ghent-Wevelgem.

“Bernie is an integral part of the team and important for us in many ways,” says Team Manager Rolf Aldag. “We have a long relationship with him and we rely on him as a road captain, where he does a great job of leading by example on and off the road, and as a leader for the classics.”

“A diverse rider like Bernie who has a multifunctional role in the team is essential and we are pleased to have him back for the next two years of racing,” added Aldag.

“I’m really happy to be back again,” said Eisel, who is also considered a key support rider for sprinter Mark Cavendish. “For me this team is the best because I get the freedom to ride for my own goals in the classics and I enjoy riding for the best sprinter in the world at the Tour de France, which is my second goal each season.”

“We have a lot of fun on this team and together we get stronger and stronger each year so I’m happy with that,” he added.

Perget to AG2R La Mondiale

The French AG2R La Mondiale, directed by Vincent Lavenu, has announced the addition of Frenchmen Mathieu Perget and Romain Lemarchand to the team for the 2011-2012 seasons. The new recruits come on the heels of Lavenu’s deal to keep rising stars Nicolas Roche and Christophe Riblon, as well as 2009 Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Rinaldo Nocentini. Other riders confirmed to stay with AG2R include Guillaume Bonnafond, Cyril Dessel, Martin Elmiger, John Gadret, S‚bastien Hinault, Blel Kadri, and Yuriy Krivtsov.

Veikkanen to Omega Pharma-Lotto

The Belgian Omega Pharma-Lotto team has signed a two-year deal with Finnish national champion Jussi Veikkanen. The 29-year old, professional for six years, has claimed five national titles and stage wins a the Tour de la M‚diterran‚e, Deutschland Tour, and Route du Sud.


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