By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Although the definitive results of American Floyd Landis' "B" sample from Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France are not yet available, and may not be communicated for a few weeks, it's now clear that Phonak can claim the dubious prize as the cycling team with the greatest frequency of doping scandals in the sport.
The team fired Austrians Jochen Summer in early 2001 and Mathias Buxhofer in 2002 after they tested positive for banned substances, but the first big scandal broke for the Swiss squad just before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when 1998 world champ Oscar Camenzind was found positive for EPO from a surprise, out of competition test conducted by the UCI. The former postman subsequently retired.
Next up in the scandal sweepstakes for Phonak were American Tyler Hamilton and Spanish rider Santi Perez. After winning a time trial in the 2004 Vuelta a España, the newly crowned Olympic TT champ was controlled positive for blood doping in Athens. Hamilton's Phonak team-mate Santi Perez, who finished second in the '04 Vuelta, was also controlled positive for blood doping when he was checked at home with a surprise test. Both riders were given two year suspensions.
Even though the Swiss squad cleaned house by firing key management in late 2004, last year produced more Phonak doping scandals under new management. First, Slovenian rider Tomas Nose was caught with illicit doping products in his suitcase at the Tour of Georgia, and was fired by Phonak in April. Just before last year's Dauphiné Libéré in June, Spanish rider Santi Gonzalez was found to have high haematocrit in a team check and was fired by Phonak. In August, Fabrizio Guidi tested positive for EPO, but his B sample returned a negative result, so he was cleared, and is still racing with the team.
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