Pair of riders cleared to race

Updated: July 16, 2004, 5:52 PM ET
Associated Press

LA MONGIE, France -- Lance Armstrong's teammate and another rider were cleared to race in the Tour de France on Friday despite their involvement in a case of suspected doping, a cycling official told The Associated Press.

The Council of Professional Cycling settled a dispute between Tour organizers and cycling's governing body on whether Pavel Padrnos of Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team and Italy's Stefano Zanini of Quick Step-Davitamon could continue to race.

"We reject the demand of (Tour) organizers and decide that the racers Zanini and Padrnos will not be excluded from the 2004 Tour de France," CPC President Vittorio Adorni said in a statement.

Padrnos and Zanini have been called to appear in October in a case involving suspected doping in the 2001 Tour of Italy.

But Adorni said there was no reason to expel either rider.

"The fact they are called before a tribunal adds nothing to the judicial affair in Italy," Adorni added. "It is not a case for condemnation but an invitation for the riders to defend themselves before a the final decision."

"In the meantime," he said. "The riders benefit from the presumption of innocence like any other citizen."

Jogi Mueller, the U.S. Postal Team's spokesman, said the team never doubted Padrnos.

"As Johan Bruyneel (Postal's team manager) already said, he was convinced that taking Padrnos into the race was right because there was no case against him," Mueller said. "Otherwise he would not have taken the risk."

"For us, we are happy, but we were very much convinced that there was no case," Mueller added.

On Monday, Tour organizers barred riders Stefano Casagranda and Martin Hvastija because they are under investigation in a doping investigation in Italy.

Tour organizers said before this year's race that any riders involved or implicated in police or judicial doping investigations would be barred. Following that line, they asked UCI to exclude the riders, Tour president Patrice Clerc said.

But the UCI had contended that Zanini's case already had been dealt with and Padrnos' case was not a problem with doping.

"The UCI believes that Zanini's case has already been dealt with from a sporting point of view, because in this affair he already drew a suspension," Clerc said.

The decision came on a day when the three-week Tour de France enters the Pyrenees.

Padrnos was 115th overall after the 12th stage Friday. Zanini was 132nd in the overall standings.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press