Cycling Body To Hand Over Names

Tuesday, August 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An appeal by the International Cycling Union was rejected in Switzerland's highest court, and the sport's governing body must reveal to authorities which riders were tested for the drug EPO during last year's Tour of Italy.

The court ruled Tuesday that the union must give Italian authorities documents that put names to 15 blood samples. A doctor who checked the samples, which were seized by Italian police, said 13 of them showed signs of EPO, according to court documents.

The union had refused to identify the riders, claiming that information was protected by medical confidentiality. It argued that releasing the names was unnecessary to the investigation — which is examining illegal drug trafficking, not use by individual athletes.

The Italians asked for and received formal judicial assistance from the Swiss. The union took its case to the federal court after losing in a state court.

The blood tests were conducted on June 4, 1999, before the 20th stage of the Tour of Italy, from Pedrazzo to Madonna di Campiglio.

That stage was won by the defending champion, Italian Marco Pantani, who was leading the race. The following day, Pantani was banned from the competition after another blood test showed an abnormal red blood cell count.

A high count is often considered a sign of likely EPO use, though the union has yet to approve a test for the drug and imposes a 15-day ban on health grounds.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee approved tests for EPO to be conducted at the Sydney Games next month.

EPO, or erythropoetin, enhances endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells in the body.

In its ruling, the Swiss court rejected claims by the union that the names should not be given because tests on the blood samples couldn't prove EPO use and were therefore of no use in a criminal investigation.

``Contrary to what (the union) seems to think, the investigation does not aim to target riders who broke the rules of sporting ethics by taking drugs but rather to see whether — contrary to Italian law — the suspects were involved in the trafficking of medicines, including EPO, and restricted products,'' the court said.

It said it would be up to the Italians, not the Swiss, to decide whether the information was of use.

Italian authorities have spent more than a year investigating the trafficking of doping products in Italy by doctors and sports promoters.

They decided not to take action against a number of riders in that case, but Pantani is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 13 for using prohibited substances in a race in 1995.