Cycling's reputation as a sport dirtier than dirt got a shot in the arm today with allegations by a former team manager
that Bay Area cyclist Levi Leipheimer was doping during the 2005 Tour de France.
Hans-Michael Holczer, the former boss of the Gerolsteiner team -- for which Leipheimer raced -- says the Santa Rosa cyclist's ratio of newly generated red blood cells
was suspiciously low, indicating a recent transfusion. The manager says Leipheimer should have been summarily ejected from the race.
The accusation here is regarding "blood doping," the injection into one's body of his own or someone else's blood. By increasing red blood cell mass, one expedites delivery of oxygen to the muscles. It is a well-known -- if gruesome -- practice in both cycling and track.
Holczer claims he declined to pull his star athlete from the tour, however, because he has feet of clay. Following the earlier flunked doping test by team member Danilo Hondo, he was worried sponsor Gerolsteiner, a bottled water company, would jump ship. "I was caught between a moral obligation and a legal threat," Holczer said. "After [Hondo's positive test] we were sitting on an economic landmine. I was facing total bankruptcy."
Further complicating matters, Holczer said the above yesterday at a press conference for an after-the-fact, tell-all book. It's title is Garantiert Positiv -- Guaranteed Positive. It's also guaranteed that books like this sell better when you have juicy revelations to spill.
The charges against Leipheimer come during open season on cycling heroes. Federal officials are investigating allegations made by disgraced former U.S. Postal rider Floyd Landis against erstwhile teammate Lance Armstrong; Landis has also fingered Leipheimer.
Those allegations transcend the simple matter of athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs because of contracts between the USPS and San Francisco team management company Tailwind Sports
specifically allowing the government to cut off funds if team management allowed doping. If the team's owners knew about doping and covered it up, they would have denied Postal Service officials
their contractual right to cease showering tens of millions of dollars on
the team -- thus making the case for possible allegations of fraud.
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