Cervélo TestTeam sticks to guns and removes rider before start of Tour de France

The Cervélo TestTeam strictly applied its internal rules and ejected Xavier Florencio for what some would say was a minor violation.

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Buried at the bottom of Saturday’s opening prologue results was the name of Spanish rider Xavier Florencio, the day’s lone non-starter of the 2010 Tour de France.

Cervélo management decided late Friday to kick Florencio off its nine-man Tour de France roster after discovering he was treating saddle sores with a cream that included ephedrine, a substance on the UCI’s banned product list that could trigger a positive test for elevated levels.

Cervélo officials said Florencio violated internal team rules by not clearing the cream with team doctors, who strictly monitor which products riders are taking to assure they are not running afoul of anti-doping rules.

“Our alarm systems worked. The important thing is that the internal rules that we have are established with the agreement of the riders,” said Cervélo team manager Joop Alberda. “If you make the rules, you have to stick to the rules.”

Due to the last-minute nature of the decision, Florencio could not be replaced, meaning that Cervélo began the 2010 Tour one man down.

Florencio later apologized to his teammates and said he did not realize the cream contained ephedrine.

“After the Tour de Suisse, I was training in Andorra and I came down with some hemorrhoids, which were becoming more painful by the day. I went to the pharmacy and they gave me a (cream), which is what everyone in the world uses to treat them,” Florencio said.

“I read the instructions and I didn’t see any warning for athletes. This morning (Friday) before training, I put on the cream for the last time. Later in the afternoon, I told the team doctor about the problem I had and what I was using. The doctor informed me that the cream contained ephedrine, and that they notified the UCI, because it can take two or three days to clear the system, and I could end up giving a positive in case I was tested. The next step, logical, was that I was removed from the team.”

Florencio was a key member of the squad designed to help 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre at Cervélo, which brings a powerful team loaded with riders to help defending green jersey champion Thor Hushovd in the sprints.

Alberda said respect for Cervélo’s strict anti-doping rules and policies were more important than starting the season’s most important race with one fewer rider.

“It’s sad that it happened one day before the Tour, but that doesn’t change anything. We stick by our rules,” he said. “Now we had to make a choice about staying within the rules, or violating our own rules, and if you do that, then there’s no point in having any rules at all.”

Alberda said the publicity surrounding the incident is already having an impact, but in ways perhaps the team didn’t expect.

He said two potential sponsors approached him during Saturday’s prologue about possibly backing Cervélo.

“This morning, we have two new sponsors who want to join the team because they liked it that we are so strict, that we are transparent and that we communicate it clearly to the rest of the world,” he said.

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