Cycling: Jalabert jibe may lead to ban

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CYCLING'S GOVERNING body, the UCI, is ready to ban Laurent Jalabert, the world's top-ranked cyclist, from next week's World Championship after he compared top officials to neo-Nazis, the French daily L'Equipe said yesterday.

Frenchman Jalabert recently described the UCI as a "dictatorship" and its commissioners as "half Dracula and half neo-Nazi". The UCI president, Hein Verbruggen, told L'Equipe that Jalabert has until Sunday to apologise or be excluded from the World Championships, which begin next Tuesday in Maastricht in the Netherlands.

"If Laurent Jalabert doesn't send us a letter of apology before 4 October ... he will be excluded from the World Champi- onships," Verbruggen said.

"We can not let this pass, Jalabert wanted to put his comments on the table wittily, but I find his sense of humour intolerable. Comparing people to neo-Nazis, that's not funny and that's going too far." Jalabert has promised to apologise, but has still not done so, Verbruggen added. Any suspension could last between one and six months.

The Festina team might challenge its expulsion from the World Championships. Festina were kicked out of the Tour de France after admitting to using the banned substance EPO. But Festina's lawyers will argue that there should be a presumption of innocence in favour of the cyclists, who have still not appeared before a disciplinary tribunal.