Defending world champion Paolo Bettini arrived in Stuttgart on Wednesday night, ready to defend himself against accusation made by former Quick-Step team mate Patrick Sinkewitz and defiant about riding the world championships despite his pressure from German Interior Minister not to let him start.
According to reports on German television, Sinkewitz ?who failed a dope test in June while training for the Tour de France, is quoted in a document as naming Bettini and former rider Davide Bramati as his suppliers. The German admitted he had used ‘Testogel’ patches to help aid recovery.
Told of the television accusations as he traveled to Stuttgart, Bettini immediately denied the accusations and called Sinkewitz to find out what he had said. Sinkewitz denied ever having named Bettini on the telephone but Bettini told him to either issue a formal statement retracting the accusations or get ready to face legal action.
“Sinkewitz was a team mate and until the opposite is proven I still consider a friend. I?m sorry for the problems he?s had,” Bettini told Cycling Weekly at Stuttgart airport, minutes after landing.
“I spoke to him on the phone before I got on the plane. I said I wasn?t worried about the accusations and told him: ?If as you say you didn’t say what has been reported then issue a denial immediately. If you have said what has been reported then you will have to be held responsible for your actions.”
Sinkewitz and Bettini were team-mates at Mapei and Quick-Step, before the German switched to T-Mobile in 2005. He wants to help investigators as a principal witness in order to reduce his ban, which is expected to be two years.
Bettini was shocked by Sinkewitz?s allegation and refused to accept that he could be stopped from riding Sunday?s World Championship road race because of the Sinkewitz allegations and because he has not signed the UCI?s ‘Commitment to a New Cycling’ document and because the German Interior Minister has threatened to freeze funding.
?The UCI aren?t happy because I defended my rights by contacting a lawyer about the UCI document. They weren?t happy with the contents of my document, saying it wasn?t a voluntary agreement. I raced several ProTour races such as Hamburg and the Tour of Germany in August and there weren?t any problems. Now the ?Bettini case? suddenly turns up at the World Championships. What else can I say??
?McQuaid is the boss of the UCI. If the thing that has upset McQuaid is the fact that I won?t accept the clause in the document concerning a rider?s loss of money if they test positive, then that?s proof that they?re only interested in the money, but money has nothing to do with ethics. I promised I?m not involved in Operacion Puerto, promised to not make mistakes in the future and to give my DNA in the future if needed. The only clause I was against was about the money. I agreed to everything else.?
?I?m defiant and determined to ride in the World Championships, but from now on I won?t let anyone drag my name through the mud.?
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Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.