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