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Tour de France Positives: What Now?

Catching up with the Dopers
A Special Report from the Gossip World Headquarters

D_medium Right on schedule, the French and UCI anti-doping authorities delivered the first three CERA positives from this year's Tour de France. Double-triple special tested with all the latest and greatest sciencey bits. Leonardo Piepoli (expected), Stefan Schumacher (mostly expected), and Riccardo Riccò (redundant) are the leading trio in the latest doping scandal to hit cycling. Predictions call for seven more by the end of this week. At this point, we have little reason to doubt the accuracy of these predictions. Watch out for that tsunami. Objects in this mirror may be closer than they appear.

Wednesday Update. There are a few updates in today's press worth noting. Rather than starting a whole 'nother thready on this topic, I'll drop an update here.

Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the authorities will announce one more positive today or tomorrow. The positive rider is of the top level, but not a major star. Whatever that means. Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director, says today that he expects one to two more positives, not more, and together with the UCI he criticizes the press for speculating. Bad press, very bad press. We feel suitably chastised. No, really.

• Pierre Bordry tells us two new tidbits today. First, the labs are working on samples from 3, 4, and 15 July. The testing is not yet complete.

Second, according to Bordry, 30 riders have anamolous blood levels that could indicate blood doping. This news repeats Bordry's original announcement about the re-testing - that the blood tests from about 30 riders raised suspicions and would be re-tested. This number grew in the telling to 40, and shifted wildly between being the re-test pool and the positive pool. It's clear from a careful read of Bordry's own statements, though, that the 30 riders are under scrutiny for abnormal levels. The labs have now tracked down the cause of three of those anamolies: CERA. "Soon, we will have the ability to prove autologus blood doping [doping with one's own blood], and we will re-test the samples," Bordry told German television channel ZDF. In the same interview, Bordry reiterated that there are currently 30 riders under scrutiny for abnormal blood parameters, though he declined to identify them "until later." He also noted that one of the riders who showed abnormal levels in the testing in Brest where the Tour began, one reverted to normal levels in subsequent testing. Bordry commented that they were surprised by how much this rider's levels changed during the race and how poorly he performed.

• Riccò is now confirmed positive for CERA on four occasions. Apparently more is better.

• The samples from the Olympics in Beijing for all sports will be re-tested for CERA.

• The Luxembourg ADA is continuing their investigation into the relationship between Fränk Schleck and Dr. Fuentes. Though not strictly related to the Tour positives, we can keep the story going here, since so far, there isn't much story out there. In a hearing held last week, Schleck admitted to paying Fuentes, but claimed never to have doped. The ADA, acting on information from the German authorities, are examining whether sufficient evidence exists to confirm a doping violation from Schleck. The Germans have suggested that there is. The Luxembourg ADA will reconvene and deliberate the case, once their investigation is complete. It remains unclear at this point, if the Luxembourg ADA is simply doing due diligence in the case or if real evidence confirming Schleck's use of Fuentes's services exists. We await more information.

End, Update. Read the original post below the fold.

Adverse Findings. If there's a positive side to the deepening spiral of scandal, it's the collaboration among the world's anti-doping authorities to catch up quickly with one of the newest doping methods. The collaboration began following the Giro when authorities in Italy found, but could not identify, a new and suspicious substance in some of the samples from the Giro. There followed much head-scratching, until first a urine, then a blood test for CERA emerged. Two labs, using two related, though distinct methods, screened this week's positives, before declaring an adverse analytical finding. The UCI lab in Lausanne and the AFLD lab at Chatenay-Malabry both certified the results. Cooperation among the Initial People. Perhaps the rapprochement between the UCI and the ASO really does mean peace in our time.

Betrayal! Oh woe, Oh woe! "We have all been betrayed by this man," said Holczer, DS of the soon-to-be disbanded Gerolsteiner team. Holczer has complained loudly and often about doping, but plainly could not keep his own house in order. Watch out for falling stones, Herr Holczer. The German Federation announced Tuesday that they had received the information about the Schumacher case, and would seek at minimum a 2 year ban for the German. They are also seriously considering a fine.

"Nonsense!" The German Olympic Committee, meanwhile, may also seek a reimbursement from Schumacher of his travel expenses from the Olympics. A round trip ticket from Germany to Beijing could be rather spendy. And I doubt very much Schumacher traveled coach. According to a Tuesday statement, Schumacher certified to them that he had never used doping. He lied to us! Shocker! If the Schumacher case stands up under the lawyers' scrutiny, the German Olymplic Committee will in all likelihood line up for its pound of flesh. Schumacher, who returned the positive tests at the start of the Tour in Brest on 3 July and in Toulouse before stage 9 on 15 July, said that he had "not undertaken doping" and called the charges "nonsense." Stefan, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Denkpause. Elsewhere in Germany, the national television networks, ARD and ZDF, are again making their usual noises about ending their Tour de France coverage. Another day, another scandal, another threat of boycott. Do we believe them this time? Look! Over there! A wolf! Peter Danckert of the German Bundestag, called for an end to state funding for the German Cycling Federation. Danckert, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), argued that cycling was "still not strict enough against doping." Thomas Bach, a vice president of the IOC, called for a "denkpause" for cycling, a temporary exclusion of cycling from the Olympics. The credibility of cycling is "null," he claimed.

A Nail in the Coffin. German riders, well aware of the threat the new scandal poses to their livelihood, reacted with disbelief. Because, really, they never could have imagined anyone would use doping, could they? Linus Gerdemann was "shocked" by the newest scandal. "Words fail me," he said. Jens Voigt, whose name has surfaced in the recent rumorage, commented that he hoped that this latest scandal was not the "final nail in the coffin" for cycling. We hope that also, Jens, and we hope even more that you are not going to help nail the coffin shut, mmm? Sebastian Lang, a team mate of Stefan Schumacher, recounted that the team "celebrated" the news of the CERA test. All, that is, except Schumacher, who became "quiet and withdrawn." Truth or fiction? You be the judge.

Share and share alike. Suspicion has quickly turned to Bernhard Kohl, who roomed with Stefan Schumacher during the Tour de France. It's not a good time for room-mates: Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli now joined in the CERA scandal, also shared rooms during the Tour. Contacted for comment, Kohl said he did not want to say anything until the news became official. He also criticized the speculation that has animated the press over the last week. Rumor continues to predict that a rider at the highest levels of the classification is among the forthcoming positives. Which one? As if we know that. Who do you think we are, Clair Fucking-Voyant?

Run away! Run away! Run away! In the meantime, Patrick Lefevere has proven quick to disavow Stefan Schumacher, whom he hired to ride for QuickStep next year. We have only a provisional contract with Schumacher, he explained. It does not go into effect until 1 January. "At the moment, Schumacher has nothing to do with the reality of QuickStep," asserted Lefevere. In the words of an anonymous Italian commenter, "Mamma mia, such hypocrisy!' Not so excited about Schumacher any more, are we now Patrick. And that sound you hear in the background? That's Paolo Bettini, laughing his ass off. Careful there, Paolo, don't spill your Brunello.

Che sera sera. In Italy, the reaction appears muted next to the hand-wringing and doom-speak in Germany. After the positive tests of Riccardo Riccò, the news that Leonardo Piepoli had his hand in the same CERA cookie jar is not the stuff of revelation. Nor, it seems, is the news that Riccò tested positive twice more, on 4 July in Brest and 15 July in Pau. Funny how they both tested positive on exactly the same days. Ha! Ha! CONI will treat the additional positives for Riccò as part of the same offense: same race, same dope, different day. The Modenese will not receive an additional sanction.

TGIF? For his part, Piepoli has a meet-and-greet with CONI on Friday at noon. CONI already had an interest in Piepoli, after Riccò named his team-mate in an effort to shake loose a shortened sanction. He only partly succeeded. Though Piepoli carried a Monaco license, CONI is taking the lead in his case so far. The decisions of the Monaco Federation seem unlikely to matter. So far, they've warranted no mention in the press. Anyway, should any disagreements arise, a quick trip to TAS should resolve them. Mauro Gianetti, DS of Saunier Duval, declared himself "disgusted" by the actions of Riccò and Peipoli. "I hope that they do not return again to the bunch," he said.

Now What? What ever do we do now, you ask? We wait. And hit refresh a lot. The next seven positives are due later this week. Some riders are probably still not sleeping well. Snarky, that Pierre Bordry. In his most recent interview with France 2, Bordry declined to comment on the names involved. When pressed on the question of late withdrawals from the World Championships, he said nothing. But he did look like he knew something we don't know. All things, both good and bad, come to those who wait. In the meantime? Let's go for a bike ride.