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No charges in UK cycling doping case over lack of records

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LONDON (AP) No charges will be brought over the doping investigation that cast a cloud over the reputation of British cycling and Bradley Wiggins, the former Tour de France champion and the country’s most decorated Olympian.

But Britain’s anti-doping agency did express concern Wednesday that its investigation was hampered by the failure to retain accurate medical records in a sport that prided itself on meticulous precision planning as the country became an Olympic superpower.

The case centered on the contents of a medical package dispatched from the shared British Cycling-Team Sky medical facility in Manchester to Wiggins at the 2011 Dauphine Libere race in France, a key pre-Tour race. It was couriered by a British Cycling employee despite Wiggins competing for the Sky team in the race, a year before winning the Tour de France.

Details about the package were leaked last year by the Daily Mail newspaper and it took months for Team Sky to disclose the contents of the package, eventually telling a parliamentary hearing in London it contained Fluimucil, a brand name for a legal decongestant containing acetylcysteine used for clearing mucus.

But there is no paper trail or written evidence of the treatment and the U.K. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating whether the substance was in fact the banned corticosteroid called triamcinolone. UKAD said Wednesday that it “remains unable to confirm or refute the account that the package delivered to Team Sky contained Fluimucil.”

“Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said. “This is a serious concern.”

Team Sky was established in 2009 by Dave Brailsford, the brains behind Britain’s 14 medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the target of producing the country’s first Tour – a feat accomplished by Wiggins in 2012. Team Sky’s Chris Froome, his former teammate, has won it four times since.

Brailsford held dual roles with the British Cycling governing body and the team sponsored by the Sky satellite broadcaster before stepping down from his performance director job at British Cycling in 2014.

A shared medical storage facility in Manchester is emblematic of the blurred lines between the two, supposedly separate entities are at the heart of the case that anti-doping investigators and legislators tried to untangle.

British Cycling said it has now implemented “significant changes” to its management of medical services to establish clearer boundaries.

“The relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky developed rapidly and as a result, at times, resulted in the blurring of the boundaries between the two,” British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said. “This led to some failings in the way that processes and people were managed.”

Making no direct reference to the failure to keep detailed medical records, Team Sky said: “We have co-operated fully with UK Anti-Doping over the last year.”

The British parliamentary inquiry, which investigated the incident, plans to issue a report by the end of the year. Damian Collins, who heads the sports committee, said there are “serious and worrying problems” within British cycling relating to anti-doping.

U.K. Anti-Doping said the case could be reopened if new evidence emerges. Some information on the case has been passed to the General Medical Council regulatory body.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Sagan cleared by UCI over Tour de France disqualification

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PARIS (AP) The UCI ruled Tuesday that Peter Sagan did not intentionally elbow Mark Cavendish during a sprint finish at the Tour de France in a crash that led to the Slovak rider’s disqualification.

The governing body of cycling said in a statement that it has ended its legal dispute with the three-time world champion, a few hours before a scheduled hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sagan was sent home from the three-week race after clashing with his British rival during the fourth stage. The incident forced Cavendish to abandon with a broken shoulder.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team immediately appealed the race jury’s decision to allow its rider to finish the race but the request was denied by CAS.

“Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident,” the UCI said.

UCI president David Lappartient said lessons will be drawn from the case and wants a “support commissaire” to assist race jury members “with special video expertise” at the main events of the UCI World Tour from next season.

“The past is already forgotten. It’s all about improving our sport in the future,” Sagan said. “I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up.”

Sagan’s explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish’s path was that he was just trying to stay upright. The crash occurred about 50 meters from the end of the stage and Cavendish slammed into the barriers along the road, with two other riders plowing over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Cavendish said at the time his rival’s move didn’t appear malicious.

“It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish’s fall. This was Peter’s position from Day 1,” Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk said. “No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint.”

2018 Giro has eight uphill finishes on road to Rome

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MILAN — Next year’s Giro features two individual time trials, eight mountain finishes and eight stages for the sprinters in a balanced route that appears to suit four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who will race in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

Organizers unveiled the route of the 2018 Giro d’Italia in a televised ceremony in Milan on Wednesday.

The 101st edition of the race runs from May 4-17 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,546.2 kilometers (2203.6 miles) with 44,000 meters of vertical elevation.

Here are some aspects of the 2018 race:

CONTROVERSIAL START

A Grand Tour will start outside Europe for the first time, with the opening three stages of the Giro being held in Israel.

Organizers have been forced to navigate a tricky obstacle course, recognizing political sensitivities.

The route will not go through any land considered occupied by the international community – meaning it will circumvent the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.

However, a group of about 15 protesters held Palestinian flags and posters criticizing the Giro outside the building hosting Wednesday’s presentation.

The Giro will start with a 9.7km individual time trial in Jerusalem before two stages set to suit the sprinters – a 167km leg from Haifa to Tel Aviv and then 229km from Be’er Sheva to Eilat.

The race will then transfer to Italy, and the island of Sicily, on an early rest day on May 7.

CAPITAL END

Rome will host the final stage of the Giro for the first time since 2009.

The 11.8km circuit of the center of Rome will be repeated 10 times and take in many historical sites. However, it will not visit the Vatican before the finish line at the Fori Imperiali, under the Colosseum.

It is likely to be more of a procession, with the race decided in the mountains earlier in the week.

“After such a challenging route, we will try to alleviate the pain of the athletes with the beauties of our city,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said.

Rome scrapped bids to host the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games because of financial concerns. Raggi was instrumental in the decision the second time and a joke was made during the Giro presentation that she had only accepted to host the Giro finish because organizers would fill the many holes in the city’s roads.

“We are trying to give back to Rome a lot of visibility in sport,” Raggi said. “We want to continue bringing great sports events to Rome.”

UPHILL FINISHES

There are eight summit finishes in next year’s Giro, including those at the end of three successive stages in what will surely be a decisive final week.

This year’s edition had just four, one more than the 2017 Tour de France.

There are three uphill finishes in the first nine days of racing and the first comes on stage six, with a 14.1km climb up the slopes of Mount Etna.

The final mountain stage of next year’s race packs 4,500 meters of vertical elevation into just three climbs and ends with a 19.2km climb in Cervinia.

SCARPONI TRIBUTE

The 11th stage of the Giro will honor 2011 winner Michele Scarponi, who died in a collision with a van during a training ride in April.

The route from Assisi to Osimo will pass by his house.

Scarponi, who was one of the most liked riders on the circuit, had two young twin boys. He died aged 37.

“If I think about Michele I can’t help but smile,” two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali said. “I still miss him. It would have been lovely to have him fighting next to me on the Zoncolan.”

Scarponi was awarded the 2011 Giro trophy after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title because of doping.

“Michele was a friend, thinking about him always makes me smile,” Contador said. “Even if he was exhausted, he’d continue making jokes.”