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The storm surrounding the Rock Racing Team's roster for the Amgen Tour of

California(AToC) has subsided a bit with the announcement from team owner

Michael Ball that the squad will start only five riders on Sunday, leaving

Oscar Sevilla, Santiago Botero and Tyler Hamilton on the sidelines.  The

team will be composed of Michael Creed, Doug Ollerenshaw, Victor Hugo Pena,

Freddie Rodriguez and Super Mario Cipollini.  The entire team voted to start

with the shortened roster.

 

At issue here is whether the three Rock Racing riders are part of any active

doping investigations.  At a press conference on Saturday, Michael Ball

provided documentation, a letter from the Federacion Ciclismo de Colombia

indicating that Botero is not under investigation, a letter from Real

Federacion Espanolo de Ciclismo indicating that Sevilla is not under

investigation and also a letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid indicating

that Oscar Sevilla is not currently under investigation.  Ball maintains

that Tyler has never been informed that there is a pending anti-doping case.

Furthermore Ball contends that Hamilton cannot be sanctioned for anything

stemming from Operacion Puerto because according to the rules it would

'pre-date the case for which he has already served a suspension'.

 

Race organizers maintain that there is an open investigation involving the

named riders citing that the Operacion Puerto case was been re-opened on

February 14th.  However, Sevilla, Botero and Hamilton have not been explicitly

named in the new investigation.  Given that they were all named in the 2006

Operacion Puerto it can be assumed that they will be named and investigated,

but at this time it is only speculation what the prosecutors in Spain are

doing.  Is that enough evidence to assert that the three riders are currently

under investigation?

 

Obviously, this is a very touchy situation for both sides.  There is enough

gray area here to feel that both sides have made a case, however, since it

appears that the race organization's ousting is based on the re-opening of

the Operacion Puerto case, it would be prudent to verify that the case has

indeed been re-opened.

 

One thing that is interesting in this whole sordid affair is that the USADA

recently told AToC race organizers that it cannot comment if there are any

active investigations on riders.  This is to protect a rider from being tainted

undeservedly or any unwarranted actions if the investigation finds no illegal

activity.  So, how does the race organization know of any active investigations

if the national doping agencies will not comment?  We are treading very closely

to stripping all rights riders have to fair and impartial treatment.

 

Bruce

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