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International Road
Monday's EuroFile: Botero cleared; Basso wants same; Valverde tops
By Andrew Hood
VeloNews European correspondent
This report filed October 2, 2006

Santiago Botero has been cleared by Colombian cycling authorities of possible sanctions for alleged links to the Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain.

Botero, seen here at last year's Tour, is now able to ride... but his team has disappeared in the interim.

photo: AFP (file photo)

The disciplinary committee of the Federación Colombiana de Ciclismo revealed that the dossier of evidence forwarded by the UCI wasn't enough to punish the former world time trial champion.

"There's nothing to it," said Ettore Sangiovanni, president of the Colombian federation, in wire reports. "There's no real proof and only suppositions."

In June, Phonak suspended Botero along with Spanish brothers Ignacio and José Enrique Gutiérrez after alleged links to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Botero actually admitted working with Fuentes, but said there were no illegal practices or banned performance-enhancing products featured in his treatments and training programs.

Other riders also linked to Fuentes have been cleared to race by their respective national federations for a lack of evidence. Sergio Paulinho was cleared by Portuguese authorities and went on to win a stage at the Vuelta a España last month.

The decision throws a wrench in efforts by the UCI to sanction riders linked to Fuentes. UCI president Pat McQuaid said riders could face a two-year ban for first-time offenders and vowed to challenge the cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if bans aren't handed down.

Basso wants charges dropped
Italy's Ivan Basso, who was excluded from the Tour de France because of suspected doping, on Friday asked the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to settle the affair.

It was the second time the rider and his agent Massimo Martelli had had a meeting with the CONI anti-doping official Francesco Cosenza following an earlier meeting on August 30.

"The CONI official has made investigations which, from our point of view, were positive..." Martelli said. "Ivan has asked for the affair to be settled."

The 28-year-old Basso, who won the Giro d'Italia this year, is accused of benefiting from a Spanish blood-doping network organized by doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, which was discovered by police in May.

He hasn't raced since the news was revealed on June 30, the day before the Tour de France started. Basso could take the issue before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if he is cleared of suspected doping in Italy due to a lack of evidence against him.
Agence France Presse

Valverde has lock on ProTour title
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) looks to have the 2006 ProTour title in the bag despite skipping Sunday's Züri Metzgete.

Overall threat Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) only finished 18th on a day when he needed to win to have a chance to spring ahead.

With his victory, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bounced from ninth into second place in the ProTour standings with two races to go. Valverde has a 112-point advantage on Sanchez with Evans sitting a further 11 points behind with only Paris-Tours (Oct. 8) and the Giro di Lombardia (Oct. 14) on tap. With only 90 points in play, Valverde can sleep easy even if Sanchez wins both races.

Valverde won Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège to spring into the ProTour lead back in April. Since then, he held the lead despite dropping out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone. He came back to finish second overall at the Vuelta a España.

Valverde will skip Paris-Tours, but race at Lombardia to "enjoy the party" that will come with succeeding Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) as overall champion of the season-long series.

ProTour standings after Züri Metzgete (Oct. 2):
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne), 285pts
2. Samuel Sanchez (Spain / Euskaltel), 173
3. Cadel Evans (Australia / Davitamon-Lotto), 162
4. Andrey Kashechkin (Kazakhstan / Astana), 156
5. Alessandro Ballan (Italy / Lampre), 155
6. Tom Boonen (Belgium / Quick-Step), 154
7. Fraenk Schleck (Luxembourg / Team CSC), 150
8. Ivan Basso (Italy / Team CSC), 138
9. Stefan Schumacher (Germany / Gerolsteiner), 133
10. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan / Astana), 121
11. Christophe Moreau (France / AG2R), 118
12. George Hincapie (U.S. / Discovery Channel), 117
13. Levi Leipheimer (U.S. / Gerolsteiner), 114
14. Carlos Sastre (Spain / Team CSC), 114
15. Jorg Jaksche (Germany / Astana), 110
16. Filippo Pozzato (Italy / Quick-Step), 107
17. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland / Team CSC), 106
18. Damiano Cunego (Italy / Lampre), 106
19. Michael Boogerd (Netherlands / Rabobank), 105
20. Thor Hushovd (Norway / Credit Agricole), 104

Ten-year anniversary for Armstrong
Monday marks the 10-year anniversary that Lance Armstrong learned he had life-threatening cancer.

On Oct. 2, 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage-three testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. Doctors told him he had a 50-50 chance of surviving and said it would be unlikely he could return to the highest levels of competitive cycling.

Armstrong, then 25, underwent extensive surgery and chemotherapy treatments and was declared cancer-free just weeks later. The rest, of course, is history.

Check out Chris Brewer's interview with Armstrong's mom at www.thepaceline.com.

Saunier Duval denies Mayo move
Saunier Duval officials are denying reports in the Spanish daily El Correo on Sunday that Basque star Iban Mayo is poised to join the team for 2007. Mayo is unhappy with a two-year deal that's been offered by Euskaltel-Euskadi that's reportedly at a much lower salary than he's enjoyed the past three seasons.

Mayo has until Oct. 11 to respond to the Euskaltel offer, but Saunier Duval officials told several Spanish media outlets that there's no accord finalized with the Basque climber.

Haimar Zubeldia accepted a two-year contract extension during the recent Vuelta a España to stay with the Basque-only team.