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
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.