Cycling: Jalabert jibe may lead to world championship ban

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The Independent Online
CYCLING'S GOVERNING body, the UCI, is ready to ban Laurent Jalabert, ranked best in the world, from next week's world championships after he compared top officials to neo-Nazis, the French newspaper L'Equipe said yesterday.

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 the Frenchman 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 championships," 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.

Separately, the newspaper reported that four cycling sponsors - BigMat, Casino, Cofidis and Le Francaises des Jeux - want to draw up a code of conduct to prevent repeats of the doping controversies that marred the Tour de France.

Meeting in Paris, the sponsors agreed that doping cases should be dealt with more quickly, and that there should be stiffer sanctions for offenders.

"We want to contribute to the redefinition of the rules that must govern professional cycling," the group said, adding that they want to establish "a charter that is respectable and respected."