By Susan Westemeyer
Team Gerolsteiner had planned its 2005 season around its stars, Davide Rebellin, Danilo Hondo, and Levi Leiphiemer, but those plans have had to be changed after Hondo's positive doping test. The team will be looking to youngsters Fabian Wegmann (24) and Markus Fothen (23) to fill Hondo's place in the spring races and the Tour de France.
But they lack a sprinter - and a good German sprinter is on the market. However, "even though Erik Zabel is in contract negotiations, he is not an option for us," said Stefan Göbel, Communications Director for team sponsor Gerolsteiner, "Because his salary would blow us away."
Hondo was also in contract negotiations with his team, and the money (a lot of it) which would have gone to him is now free. "It's too early to say what we'll do with it. Maybe we'll use it as a cushion for next year," said Göbel, who further noted that the team does not expect to add a sprinter until the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Hondo himself is keeping silent. His manager, Steffen Blochwitz, said, "Our attorney advised us not to go public. He sees good chances of avoiding having a ban imposed."