Cycling: Pantani leads protest

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The Independent Online
DEFENDING GIRO champion Marco Pantani and other leading cyclists, angered by random blood tests carried out by doctors of Italy's Olympic Committee (Coni), yesterday threatened a massive withdrawal from the Tour of Italy if further controls are enforced.

The Dutchman Jeroen Blijlevens won the 157-kilomtere stage from Foggia to Lanciano, with the Latvian, Romans Vainsteins, second and Italy's Fabrizio Guidi third, but the drugs issue overshadowed everything.

Pantani, the Giro leader Laurent Jalabert, and world road champion Oscar Camenzind, said that tests performed by teams of Coni doctors on cyclists of three commercial teams before the start of yesterday's seventh stage were a useless and unneeded repetition.

"Blood tests had already been performed by doctors of the International Cycling Union at the start of the race [last Saturday]," Pantani said. "It was an evident lack of respect... the next time we are ready to stop the race and return home.

"We already undergo anti-doping urine tests every morning. It looks like a political move in occasion of Italy's most prestigious race," added Pantani, who said the cyclists were not opposing random anti-doping tests by UIC doctors, but a duplication of controls by Coni.