Punch puts Cipollini out of tour

Mario Cipollini was thrown out of the Tour of Spain and suspended by his Saeco team yesterday after attacking another rider at the start of the fifth stage.

Mario Cipollini was thrown out of the Tour of Spain and suspended by his Saeco team yesterday after attacking another rider at the start of the fifth stage.

Tour organisers expelled the 33-year-old Italian, regarded by many as the world's best sprinter, after he punched the Spanish rider Francisco Cerezo during registration for the stage. Cerezo, who rides for the Vitalicio team, needed three stitches to his forehead but was able to start the 94.5 mile stage between Albacete and Xorret de Cati.

Saeco said in a statement: "What has happened is far from appropriate behaviour for our team. The rider will be suspended for an indefinite period. Cipollini will not ride for the team until the matter has been investigated.

"The team would like to apologise to the riders, the organisers and the people of Spain for the incident."

On Spanish radio, Cipollini added his own apology, directed at Cerezo. "I know that I committed a brutal act but, if you can forgive me, please forgive me," he said. "It is not in my character to do such a thing."

Cipollini said Cerezo, of Vitalicio, insulted him during Tuesday's stage. When the fifth stage got under way, Spain's Eladio Jimenez climbed to victory after reeling in a 79-mile breakaway by Italy's Fabio Roscioli.

The track cyclist Neil Campbell has been withdrawn from the British Olympic team following medical tests and will not be replaced.

The British Cycling Federation said in a statement yesterday the 26-year-old had been suspended as a member, which means he cannot compete at Sydney. It gave no details about the test results.

The Federation said that Campbell had been withdrawn from the Olympic squad two weeks ago to undergo "urgent medical tests" and had been suspended pending a full enquiry.

"As a consequence, Campbell has not been entered for the Olympic Games. He will not be replaced as no other British rider has met the sprint selection criteria," the Federation statement said.

Campbell had been named earlier this month as a candidate for the one kilometre time trial in Sydney.

A federation spokesman, Phil Ingham, said a further statement was likely to be released early next week.

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