September 27, 2007 (Stuttgart, Germany) — The 2007 Road World Championships in Stuttgart are almost becoming a sideshow to the legal conflicts surrounding the event. In one camp are the proponents of dope-free cycling, including German Sports Minister Susanne Eisenmann, who is president of the event’s organizing committee, the City of Stuttgart, and the German television chain, ZDF, all wanting to broadcast a clear message of zero doping tolerance.
The other camp includes the Spanish (RFEC) and Italian (FCI) cycling federations, claiming a need to protect the legends of cycling by allowing champions to race and former champions to attend the event. The UCI seems to be caught somewhere in the middle.
Much of the controversy now surrounds whether 2006 Road Worlds Champ, Paolo Bettini (Belgian Quick Step-Innergetic) and Danilo di Luca (Liquigas) should be allowed to race. Bettini is under fire for not signing the UCI anti-doping pledge although there are no apparent legal measures that the UCI can invoke to stop the Italian cyclist from competing at Stuttgart. Bettini is notably objecting to financial penalties included in that pledge, calling them “coercion” and “extortion” in a signed letter to the UCI dated yesterday, although the same letter affirms that he is willing to provide a DNA sample if Spanish authorities demand this. Luca is about to receive a three-month ban for a doping offence investigation related to Luca’s connections with Dr. Carlo Santuccione according to Reuters.
Adding to the controversy are reports that Bettini supplied testosterone to Patrick Sinkewitz (formerly with T-Mobile) who tested positive in July 2007 for the hormone. Both Sinkewitz’s lawyer, Michael Lehner and Bettini’s lawyer, Guido Marangoni have issued statements denying such reports.
Road World organizers filed a motion in Stuttgart regional court today to block Bettini from competing in the elite men’s race on Sunday reports AFP. Apparently this motion is based on his alleged refusal to provide a DNA sample, although Bettini’s letter clearly indicated that he will provide one. Strongly behind the organizers is Eisenmann, whose name means “iron man” in German. The German television chain, ZDF, suggested that they may stop covering the Worlds because of this controversy.
Yesterday, the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) ruled in favour of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) competing as part of the Spanish team despite the UCI’s objections based on Valverde’s ties to the Puerto doping scandal. Subsequently the UCI agreed that other cyclists associated with Puerto, Australian Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) and Czech Rene Andrle (ONCE-Eroski) can also now participate at the 2007 Road Worlds.