DRUGS IN SPORT; Banned riders reprieved

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The Independent Online
THREE SWISS cyclists involved in one of the drugs scandals overshadowing this year's Tour de France have had their suspensions reduced by one month, according to a statement issued by the International Cycling Union (UCI) yesterday.

Alex Zulle, Armin Meier and Laurent Dufaux, all members of the Festina team, had originally been suspended for eight months and fined SFr 3,000 (pounds 1,360) by the Swiss Cycling Federation last week. They will now be eligible to return to competition on 1 May 1999.

The decision to shorten the ban appears to have been prompted by a televised confession from the three riders, in which they admitted taking banned substances during the Tour. "The executive committee has appreciated the attitude of these riders who have assumed their responsibilities." a spokesman for the UCI said, after an executive committee meeting in the Dutch town of Maastricht.

Banned substances were originally discovered in a Festina team car at a checkpoint on the Franco-Belgian border days before the start of the Tour de France in July. The Festina riders were expelled after team officials admitted to systematic controlled administration of the drugs.

The executive committee also decided to submit professional riders to medical examinations four times a year and formed a new council to combat the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in cycling.

The council is to be chaired by the president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, and will include the Italian, Maurizio Fondriest, and the Dane, Bjarne Riis, as representatives of the riders, the UCI said. The 10-member body will also include representatives from teams, national federations and race organisers.

"[The council] will have to ensure the financing of the fight against doping and consult the anti-doping commission, as well as the commission for security and sporting conditions." a UCI spokesman said.

The UCI has created a fund of Sfr3.8m (pounds 1.72m) - coming from the UCI itself, national federations, organisers, teams and riders - to fight banned substance use in 1999. Riders will also have to give two percent of their race premiums to the council.

Meanwhile Commonwealth Games officials yesterday confirmed that a cyclist, Stephen Alfred of Trinidad and Tobago, and a shooting competitor, Rustam Khan of Pakistan, tested positive for banned substances at last month's Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Alfred has been disqualified from the Kuala Lumpur games and also banned from the 2002 games in Manchester. Khan has had his results nullified, and his case referred to the Commonwealth Games Association of Pakistan and the International Shooting Federation to impose sanctions.