By Shane Stokes
A week may be a long time in politics, but it seems even longer in cycling. Since 24 year old Linus Gerdemann took a good-news mountain stage win and the yellow jersey last Saturday, team-mate Patrick Sinkewtiz has tested positive, race leader Michael Rasmussen has been under a cloud and German television has withdrawn live coverage of the event.
UCI President Pat McQuaid may be frustrated with these latter developments but he feels that Gerdemann's victory and his ongoing decent debut in the race is a plus for the sport. "Linus is an absolutely superb representative for the sport of cycling now and what it is going to be in the future," he said on Friday
"What he did is absolutely very encouraging. I sat at home and watched it [stage seven] on television; I was thrilled to see him do that. I was also very happy with the comments that he came out with afterwards [in relation to racing clean], and also the comments that he made after Sinkewitz's positive A sample. I think he is a good example of the type of rider that we want in the sport in the future."
German television decided after that positive test to withdraw all live coverage from the race. McQuaid said that this is an over-reaction, and that it is unfair to penalise a sport which is doing more than most in this area.
"I think that it is a great pity that the German television stations have decided to do what they did. I think it is completely unfair to the sport of cycling that is doing so much in the fight against doping. There are other sports that are really doing very little. For instance, there was a big story in Britain yesterday about golf. The British media featured a statement from Gary Player saying that some top golfers are using human growth hormone and other doping products. Right now, there is no testing being done in golf, and yet the German media will cover the German Open golf and the British Open golf. They are not even looking for doping substances there.
"I feel it is unfair to pick on cycling, which does so much testing and which actually catches guys. I mean, Sinkewitz was caught in a test, which shows that the system works, and so to pull the coverage on that is unfair. It is unfair to the German public, it is unfair to all of the German sponsors who are putting so much effort into the fight against doping, and it is completely the wrong decision."
Future of the team and Puerto delay
As a result of the negative headlings, the T-Mobile sponsors have said that they will sit down after the Tour and decide whether or not to stay involved. McQuaid feels that any withdrawal of sponsorship would be a mistake.
"I think it would be a great pity if T-Mobile decided to pull out at this point of time," he stated. "I understand that this is political in Germany, there are politicians jumping in to get involved and I see that even Sylvia Schenk has made comments which are completely unnecessary.
"T-Mobile does have public money in it and there is a lot of pressure on them. I understand that, but I think it would be a great pity if it happened [if the sponsor pulled out]. I think that the team is doing the maximum possible to prevent doping, as much as you can do. But you simply cannot control guys 24 hours a day."
Cyclingnews asked McQuaid about the current situation with regards the Operación Puerto case, and when he thought that it might be possible to compare DNA samples from riders [as has been agreed in the new UCI charter against doping] and the blood bags found in Eufemiano Fuentes' clinic last May.
"You've got to bear in mind that the judge has closed the case in Spain," he stated. "We have appealed, as did [former Kelme professional Jesus] Manzano. His appeal was turned down by the judge but he had only appealed to him; the UCI, WADA and the Spanish prosecutor had appealed to the Madrid High Court.
"We are waiting on the result of the appeal, and have been told that it may not come until September or October. In the interim, nothing can move on that case. Everything is confidential and everything is closed. Nothing can happen at the moment."