By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart
A considerable-sized scrum of journalists and photographers cluttered the centre of the press room at the Stuttgart World Championships on Thursday morning when the Minister for Sport in Stuttgart Susanne Eisenmann disclosed that a court injunction has been taken out by the race organisers to try to block the participation of Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca in the Elite road race on Sunday.
Earlier this year representatives of the UCI, the German Ministry of the Interior, the German cycling association, the City of Stuttgart and the State of Baden Württember signed an agreement in relation to the hosting of the world championships. It is this agreement which is being tested in the court, with the organisers seeking to find out if commitments made then in relation to the anti-doping fight are legally binding.
Should it turn out that they are and Bettini and Di Luca start, it has been indicated that legal action may be taken against the UCI, particularly if television coverage is withdrawn for the event.
"The championships won't be cancelled but we are unhappy with the situation," said Eisenmann. "After the great win by Kupfernagel yesterday, it is such a shame that all this is happening."
The German ZDF television company are reportedly considering its withdrawal from the event, although no decision has been made. It is the official host broadcaster for the championships; Cyclingnews has spoken to overseas broadcasters who believe that even if ZDF withdraws, it will continue to provide television images. If this is the case, it would be the German television coverage which is lost rather than the worldwide pictures.
Should the Stuttgart court find that the agreement the UCI has with the organisers is legally binding, the governing body will find itself in a difficult situation. CAS ruled yesterday that it could not prevent Alejandro Valverde from starting the championships; as regards Bettini, the UCI itself says that it doesn't have the power to block riders who don't sign the Commitment for a New Cycling agreement.
It also stated yesterday that because of this, it never made a commitment with the organisers to exclude riders from the championships should they not sign.
President Pat McQuaid strongly criticised Paolo Bettini earlier this week for not signing the document. The Italian is believed to have put his name to a modified version, in which he declared that he was not involved in Operación Puerto and, contrary to other media reports, would provide DNA if required to do so. However he refused to agree that a year's salary should be handed over if he tested positive. McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Wednesday that the UCI would not accept modified versions of the charter.
Bettini has also faced allegations that he supplied Patrick Sinkewitz with doping products. However Sinkewitz's lawyer Michael Lehner has stated that the rider never referred to or mentioned Bettini during procedures arising out of the German's positive doping control in June.
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