Final ruling for Museeuw early 2006

After defence lawyers and prosecutors submitted written statements on Tuesday, the next judicial hearing into the doping case involving Johan Museeuw, Mario de Clercq, Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers has been set for December 6.

As a consequence, all four former riders, including veterinarian Jose Landuyt, a masseur and two couriers will not know until early next year if they will be asked to stand trial on drug charges. Lawyers defending the former cyclists and Landuyt argue the prosecution's research is null and void due to the quantity of evidence already leaked to the Belgian press, which involves extensive text message conversations between Museeuw and Landuyt dating back to August 2003. Furthermore, defence lawyer for Museeuw, Jef Vermassen, told the court that his client has already been sufficiently punished, referring to his two-year ban delivered by the Belgian Cycling Federation in October last year, six months after he announced his retirement from the sport.

Said Vermassen to the Associated Press: "Never before in an investigation in Belgium was the secrecy of the inquiry disregarded to such an extent. The damage to the reputation of this man [Museeuw] and to certain riders is incredible."

"It will likely take several more weeks for a decision," said prosecution spokesman Tom Janssen on the December hearing, who expects a final ruling early next year.

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