There’s been a lot of little things going on in the pro ranks. Here’s a wrap up from the Associated Press.
First is the long awaited UCI blood passport program to catch cheats has named five riders. Maybe the bigger news is the program maybe showing the sport is really cleaning up.
AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) — Five cyclists face doping charges based on suspicious test results gathered in a pioneering blood profiling system.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) said Wednesday it wants disciplinary cases opened against three Spaniards — Igor Astarloa, Ruben Lobato and Ricardo Serrano — and Italians Pietro Caucchioli and Francesco De Bonis.
They are the first riders facing charges based on evidence provided by the biological passport system that was launched 18 months ago by the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency.
Caucchioli’s team Lampre said it had suspended the rider according to the terms of his contract.
Astarloa was the world road race champion in 2003. Lobato was a Saunier Duval teammate last year of Riccardo Ricco, the Italian who won two stages of the Tour de France before being thrown out of the race for doping.
The governing body said the announcement was “a very important step in the battle against doping.”
“The UCI is proud, once more, to be the pioneering international federation in this field,” it said in a statement. “The UCI emphasizes that these proceedings are being initiated as a result of the recommendations of the independent experts appointed when the biological passport program was launched.”
More than 800 riders have been giving blood and urine samples for laboratory teams to create individual body chemistry profiles. Scientists can search for evidence of doping rather than identifying specific substances. Suspected doping is spotted by fluctuations from their known baseline levels.
Scientific analysis is presented to a panel of nine UCI-appointed experts who decide if the evidence is strong enough to support opening a disciplinary case.
The UCI has said it would wait for clear evidence before bringing the first cases to ensure the system stands up to expected legal challenges.
It said fighting doping by using blood profiling tactics “will greatly reduce the possibility that cheating in the future by any athlete who decides to disrespect the rules of the sport remains undetected.”
Armstrong’s Astana team solves financial woes
BRUSSELS (AP) — Lance Armstrong’s Astana team appears ready to participate in the Tour de France after reaching an agreement with its Kazakh backers to solve financial problems that have plagued the team this year.
Astana riders have held repeated protests since April over debts owed by the Kazakh Cycling Federation, putting the team’s participation in the Tour in doubt.
The agreement “gives riders and staff of the team sufficient guarantees for the operation and functioning of the Team for the remainder of the season,” the statement said.
Bruyneel added: “With only 16 days left to the Tour de France, the riders need rest in their minds. … It was hardly imaginable that our strong team would not have been able to participate in the world’s largest cycling event.
Ex-mountain bike champ Missy Giove takes cycling to a whole new level of doping.
WILTON, N.Y. (AP) — A former mountain biking world champion is being held on $250,000 bail after federal authorities say they seized more than 200 pounds of marijuana from a truck she was driving in upstate New York.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say 37-year-old Melissa Giove, of Chesapeake, Va., and 30-year-old Eric Canori of Wilton were charged Tuesday with conspiring to possess and distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.
Police say they seized nearly 400 pounds of pot from the truck and from Canori’s home outside Saratoga Springs, 25 miles north of Albany.
At a detention hearing Thursday, Giove and Canori were jailed on $250,000 and $500,000 bail, respectively.
Sprinter Tom Boonen banned again from the Tour.
PARIS (AP) — Tour de France organizers banned former world champion Tom Boonen from next month’s race after the Belgian rider tested positive for cocaine for the second time in less than year.
The 28-year-old Boonen’s latest positive test came in April. The Quick Step team rider previously tested positive for the drug in May 2008 and was banned by Tour organizers from last year’s event.
“Following Tom Boonen’s recent test, after a first test in 2008, the Tour de France, after meeting Quick Step team representatives, can only state that the image and behavior of Tom Boonen do not match the Tour de France’s image or the one that should be promoted by such an exceptional champion,” the Amaury Sport Organization said in a statement.
ASO said that Boonen, who was resting between the spring classics and the preparation races for the Tour when he tested positive, was entitled to take an appeal against their decision to the French Olympic Committee.
Despite the Tour ban, the ruling International Cycling Union said Thursday that it would not take any sanctions against the rider.
Experts have said he only came in contact with the drug as others used it around him. The levels in his hair samples were very low and he did not ingest it.