Court rules Bettini may ride despite not signing pledge

Updated: September 28, 2007, 9:24 AM ET
Associated Press

STUTTGART, Germany -- A local court cleared defending champion Paolo Bettini to compete in Sunday's world championship road race despite the Italian cyclist's refusal to sign an anti-doping pledge.

In a defeat for the host city, the court rejected arguments Friday that such a refusal was enough to keep him out of the event.

"We regret the decision but we accept it," Stuttgart Mayor Wolfgang Schuster said.

Stuttgart claimed it had a binding deal with cycling's governing body, the UCI, to bar any rider who has not signed the anti-doping charter. The UCI denied that.

"The judge recognized our rules and it is something that I have been saying all along," UCI President Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press.

He said the host city was totally out of line to seek a court ban and undermine the success of the weeklong championships.

"The people of Stuttgart deserve better. They deserve better treatment," he said.

Despite the court ruling, Schuster stuck to his line that McQuaid was soft on doping.

"Whether Paolo Bettini starts or not is not a legal one but it's about the credibility of cycling. The UCI has to realize what it signals when it guarantees Bettini's start," Schuster said. "It is definitely not a sign of a new beginning."

Instead, McQuaid accused the German media, egged on by local politicians, to cast a negative light on cycling. "The German media are like vultures around cycling waiting for a story, waiting for a positive test," he told the UCI congress.

Another Italian rider, Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca, won't be competing in Sunday's race. Di Luca withdrew Thursday after the Italian Olympic Committee recommended he be banned for four months for doping.

"I appreciate the fact that Di Luca pulled himself out," McQuaid said. "It is a good thing."

Di Luca was not pleased.

"It's a scandal," Di Luca said. "I'm going home without ever being banned, after months of sacrifice. [The decision] only served to prevent me from racing the world championship. ... I will be cleared 100 percent."

Late Wednesday, the UCI was forced to allow Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Allan Davis of Australia to compete despite their alleged links to the Operation Puerto blood doping investigation in Spain.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press