<
>

Two riders will not start ninth stage

7/13/2004

LIMOGES, France -- Two cyclists being investigated in doping
cases were ejected from the Tour de France on Monday, a decision
one of the riders said was "cruel."

Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said Stefano Casagranda of the
Saeco team and Martin Hvastija of Alessio were no longer welcome
and would not start Tuesday's ninth stage.

"We do not want the serenity of the competition disrupted by
their presence," Leblanc said.

Hvastija was 124th in the overall standings, and Casagranda
155th.

"I don't understand such a cruel decision," Hvastija told The
Associated Press. He suggested that he and Casagranda were unfairly
picked on because they are not top performers.

"If we looked at all the little problems that we have, half of
the peloton should not restart," he said.

Hvastija said Italian investigators bugged a conversation he had
with a teammate during the 2001 Tour of Italy about a recently
banned substance. He did not reveal the name of the other rider or
the product, but said it had been legally used before.

He said he told his Alessio team about the "small case" before
the Tour, and that they supported him. He claimed Leblanc was aware
of it and "respected the decision of my director" to let him
race.

Meanwhile, Tour organizers have contacted judicial officials in
San Remo, Italy, about an article in the French newspaper Le Monde
that said one of Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service teammates --
Czech Pavel Padrnos -- has been summoned to appear before an Italian
tribunal for allegedly taking doping substances during the 2001
Tour of Italy.

Johan Bruyneel, the Postal team director, dismissed the report
last week.

"There is no case. It's not even worth considering having any
doubts about this boy because we're not speaking about any
forbidden substance," he said.

Before the Tour, organizers said all riders "implicated in a
judicial inquiry or under police investigation" would be barred.

David Millar of Britain and Cedric Vasseur of France, two of six
Cofidis team members under investigation for suspected doping, and
Danilo Di Luca of Italy have already been banned from the race.
Last week, Belgian Christophe Brandt was expelled.

Hendrik Redant, coach of Brandt's Italian team Lotto-Domo, said
the rider was sent home after testing positive for methadone, a
drug used to help recovering heroin addicts.

Brandt suggested that a laboratory error might be to blame and
said he was awaiting results of a second test.

Gabriele Coppola, a spokesman from Casagranda's Saeco team, said
the squad has not yet received official Tour notification seeking
to disqualify its rider and would not make a decision until getting
official word.

Casagranda had trained on Monday and was having a massage and
did not "want to talk to anybody," he said.

Asked if the team would take legal action against the Tour if
Casagranda is excluded, Coppola said, "That is our right."

Christian Prudhomme, the assistant Tour director, said he did
not expect the riders to race Tuesday. He said the teams have asked
for a decision in writing -- an indication that legal action could
follow.

Leblanc said he was prepared for any legal action taken by
riders thrown off the Tour.

"We accept the risk of judicial action taken against us," he
said.

In last year's race, Spain's Javier Pascual Llorente of the
Kelme team tested positive for traces of EPO, which works by
boosting oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Also Monday, 42 riders, including overall leader Thomas
Voeckler, were given blood tests. No anomalies that might hint at
doping were found, the sports governing body said in a statement.

Cyclists from Voeckler's Brioches La Boulangere team, along with
the teams Credit Agricole, Liberty Seguros, Illes Balears-B.
Santander, Rabobank were tested on the off-day in Limoges.

The blood tests, overseen by the UCI (Union Cycliste
Internationale), involved all the riders from each team, the
statement said.

Tuesday's ninth stage will take riders on a 100-mile run from
Saint-L Deonard-de-Noblat to Gueret in France's Massif Central area.

Armstrong, trying for a record sixth Tour win, is sixth, 9
minutes, 35 seconds behind Voeckler. His chief rival, Germany's Jan
Ullrich of T-Mobile, is 20th, 55 seconds behind Armstrong.