- OLY - American Vaughters ousted by wasp

Tour de France 2001
Wednesday, July 25
American Vaughters ousted by wasp

SARRAN, France -- The short end of a flying insect this week exposed a shortcoming in professional cycling's tough anti-doping policy, Tour de France riders said on Wednesday.

American cyclist Jonathan Vaughters was forced to drop out of the Tour just a few days from the finish after he was stung by a wasp, causing his right eye to swell up to the point where he could no longer see out of it.

Vaughters, a member of France's Credit Agricole team, was not allowed to treat the wound while he remained in the race because doing so would have involved using a kind of cortisone injection forbidden under the sport's anti-drugs rules.

So the cyclist abandoned the race early into Tuesday's 232.5-kilometer stage from Pau to Lavaur in southwest France and proceeded to get the treatment he needed.

Ironically, his decision to abandon came as French newspaper Le Monde reported that of 16 urine samples taken from Tour riders after the 12th and 13th stages of this year's race, eight showed traces of corticoids -- substances considered by sports bodies to be performance-enhancing.

However, all riders whose urine showed traces of the substances were allowed to continue racing because they had special prescriptions for the drugs, Le Monde said.

The paper quoted Michel Boyon, president of French anti-doping council CPLD, as questioning the need for riders to take the corticoid products in the first place. He said that data from the tests in the 12th and 13th stages pointed to a "significant proportion" of riders taking corticoids with doctors' prescriptions.

"Either an athlete needs corticoids to heal a disorder, in which case he should rest during the treatment process, or the athlete's condition does not warrant the use of these products and the doctor should make another treatment choice," Boyon told the paper.

"At the CPLD, we are convinced that in 95 percent of cases where the use of corticoids is justified, an alternate treatment exists," he said.

Fellow riders reacted with disbelief at the circumstances under which Vaughters was forced to abandon the world's most famous bicycle race.

"It's ridiculous," said Jens Voigt, a Credit Agricole team mate who won Wednesday's 229.5-km stage from Castelsarrasin to Sarran.

Voigt said he felt extremely sorry for Vaughters particularly because the Colorado rider's goal was simply to finish the Tour, having been denied that privilege in each of the last three years because of injury.

"It's hard to understand. He didn't want to cheat -- he just wanted to go to Paris," Voigt told reporters after his stage win.

Frederic Bessy, another of Vaughters' Credit Agricole team mates, said doctors with cycling's governing body, the UCI, should be allowed to bend the rules in urgent conditions.

"Jonathan spent two weeks with us and it's a major disappointment for him and the whole team that he was unable to finish," the French rider told Reuters.

"The anti-doping laws are very strict and it's for the good of everyone. But there are some specific points that should be reviewed.

"It would be worth letting a UCI doctor make a decision in extremely urgent conditions, of which this was certainly one," he said.

Maarten Den Bakker, a member of the rival Rabobank team, said a "stupid" and "unfair" rule had kept Vaughters from reaching the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

"It's not doping -- it's just common sense that you give the right medicine to someone who has had this kind of reaction to a wasp sting," Den Bakker said.

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