Despite recent declarations from Tyler Hamilton, Danish cycling federation officials say it remains powerless to push Bjarne Riis on questioning over alleged doping practices within the former CSC team.
Tom Lund, president of the Danish cycling union, admitted he’s frustrated, but says there’s little he can do to try to pry information out of the stoic Riis concerning alleged links to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the ringleader of the Operación Puerto blood doping ring.
“There’s nothing we can do because the Danish federation has no jurisdictional power over the teams. They have licenses with the UCI, so it’s a UCI issue,” Lund told VeloNews on Monday. “If we called Bjarne in, or if we start an investigation, we’d be the laughing stock. We simply have no power over the team owners.”
Several of Riis’s former riders were nabbed in the Puerto sting back in 2006, which uncovered an international doping ring involving scores of riders across dozens of teams that included Hamilton, who rode with Riis in 2002-03, as well as then-CSC team captain Ivan Basso and Jorg Jaksche.
Riis long denied knowing Fuentes, but Hamilton insists in his autobiography, “The Secret Race,” that it was Riis who gave him Fuentes’ contact information.
Hamilton also claims Fuentes and Riis were later seen together, something that Riis has categorically denied.
Hamilton was in Copenhagen earlier this month to promote his book, which is causing a bigger stir in Denmark than the Armstrong affair.
“I have little more to say on the matter from what I have already said,” Lund said about the Hamilton allegations. “I have appeared on every TV show in Denmark and been interviewed by every newspaper over the past few weeks. I don’t want to be interviewed by every media in the world every day about this story. I have said what I want to say.”
Lund insisted that the Dane, who has admitted his doping practices during his racing career, has an obligation to tell the truth and suggested that the growing body of evidence hints there is more to the story.
“If you take Hamilton’s book on top of the USADA report, plus some of the statements from riders like Jaksche, then it becomes interesting what Bjarne Riis has to say about this,” Lund said. “I have been very frank and outspoken about Riis. The next time I will say something is when Bjarne decides to talk about this whole issue. Everybody in the sport has an obligation to speak out about these things, especially now, perhaps we have a chance to change the sport for the better.”
Hamilton’s book meticulously outlines his doping practices throughout his career, including his two-year stint with Riis at CSC. Though Hamilton had some good things to say about Riis, he alleges Riis was aware of and encouraged his doping practices.
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank officials did not respond to VeloNews, but Riis so far has refused to publicly comment on Hamilton’s allegations dating back nearly a decade.
In the wake of the Puerto scandal in 2006, Riis denied direct involvement with Fuentes, but Hamilton’s latest revelations reveal there could be more to the story.
It could be difficult to press Riis, however, because he is simply refusing to answer queries from the media. Danish journalists say Riis is not speaking about Hamilton or Fuentes.
Whether the UCI takes up the issue remains to be seen, but that’s unlikely considering it has its plate full with the Armstrong affair and an internal review of the UCI’s conduct during the Armstrong era.
One thorn could be the upcoming hearing of the Puerto case in Spain. After nearly seven years since the initial police raids, Spanish courts in early 2013 are finally set to consider legal charges against Fuentes, former director Manolo Saiz and others involved in the sting.
It remains to be seen how far the Spanish court will dig, however, because an anti-doping law was not passed until after the Puerto raids, meaning that Fuentes and others are only facing relatively minor charges, such as endangerment of public health.
Riis, meanwhile, will spend the next week on Spain’s Canary Islands, where riders from Saxo-Tinkoff are holding their first team meetings ahead of the 2013 racing season.