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By VeloNews staff and wire reports
Well it was supposed to be a dramatic day at the Giro d’Italia… it’s just that we expected the drama to involve bikes, mountains and athletes instead of police, drugs and lawyers.
Stage 18, slated to be the most difficult of the 2001 Giro, has been cancled after police staged a series of raids on team hotels in San Remo last night. But according to reports from teams now arriving at what was supposed to be the finish of today’s stage in Anna di Vinadio, the Giro will resume tomorrow, picking up with stage 19’s 184km ride from Alba to Busta Arsizio.
According to sources close to the investigation, Italian police arrived a hotels in San Remo Wednesday night and seized “a number of substances that could be doping products” during their Wednesday evening raid on team hotels. Among the products seized were caffeine, corticoids, testosterone and corticosurrenal stimulants. Those products are now on their way to be examined at Italy’s national anti-doping laboratory. Other suspect and unlabelled medicines were found, as were vials of blood, assumed to be taken from riders to test hematocrit levels.
Earlier Thursday the organizers of the Giro agreed with the race jury to cancel Thursday’s 18th stage.
Organizers did say the 19th stage scheduled Friday between Alba and Busto Arsizio would go ahead as scheduled.
But the riders held a meeting to discuss their reaction to the searches that led to the 18th stage being cancelled, with their participation on Friday also in question.
Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen said he had sympathy for the riders’ position.
“They (the riders) are very emotional and I understand that. I told them, ‘I want the race to continue but I understand your indignation.’”
Verbruggen, who insisted that the UCI has EPO-related doping issues under control, added that he has “always said, and I did at the 1998 Tour de France, that the judiciary must do its work. But on how they do that work there is a lot that needs to be said.” Verbruggen referred to the 1998 Tour which was overshadowed from start to finish by doping scandals with police raids, arrests and drugs finds dominating the headlines.
Each team sent a rider as a representative to the meeting between the competitors that immediately followed the one with the race organizers where the decision to scrap the stage had been taken.
Before the 18th stage was cancelled the teams and organizers had previously agreed to reduce the 18th stage by almost 100km because the police raids, involving more than 200 officiers, had prevented some riders from reaching their rooms until midnight.
That meant the riders were in no condition — or mood — for Thursday’s onerous 18th stage, which would have been a 230km trek with several difficult climbs, some 2000m above sea level.
The cyclists attended an emergency meeting that lasted three hours Thursday morning with many including former Giro winner Marco Pantani, who had already decided not to contest the 18th stage, making their views known.
Race leader Gilberto Simoni arrived at the original meeting an hour late.Barring a change in the situation, the Giro is still scheduled to end in Milan on Sunday.
We will, of course, update the page as soon as information becomes available and we expect to have a report of events from VeloNews’s man in Italy, Lennard Zinn, later this morning.
Copyright AFP2001VeloNews technical writer Lennard Zinn and technical editor Charles Pelkey contributed to this report