Thomas Frei gets new beginning with Christina Watches-Onfone team
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Thomas Frei gets new beginning with Christina Watches-Onfone team

by Shane Stokes at 7:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Swiss rider speaks about return, team manager says he deserves second chance

Thomas FreiThomas Frei is set to return to the sport with Michael Rasmussen’s Christina Watches-Onfone team, with a contract for the remainder of 2012 being announced today in Denmark.

The former BMC Racing Team competitor tested positive for EPO after a random test in March 2010 and recently completed a two year suspension. He confirmed today that he will compete for at least the next few months with the squad.

“I am happy to come back racing. I am looking forward to it,” the Swiss rider told VeloNation. “The contract is until the end of the year, then I see what I will do next.”

Frei contacted the team when he was looking for a contract and things were finalized over time. According to the team manager Claus Hembo, the husband of chief sponsor Christina Hembo, the 27 year old rider deserves a second chance.

“Our policy is well known. Without being over-religious, we have some Christian basic values that we think our society, at least in Denmark, can build on,” he told VeloNation today. “It means that if you make a mistake, you should count on some people being willing to forgive you.

“It means that if you are sorry about what you did, and if you publically say no to doping, we are willing to give you that second chance.”

Hembo underlined that he wasn’t talking about repeat offenders. “It doesn’t mean if you do one crime after another, like Ricco or someone like that, but if it is one young guy making one mistake, we think it is correct to say ‘welcome back.’”

Frei sought to boost his credibility by working with the Mapei Sport institute, which was run by Aldo Sassi until his death, and is seen by some as a good anti-doping environment. As he said in a recent interview with this site, he will continue to work with the institute and post his anti-doping results online.

He said that he is satisfied with his condition, and wants to get back racing as soon as possible.

“In general I think I worked really well in these two years with this project with Mapei Sport,” he said, speaking about his form. “For sure, I can say the last month was a bit stressful as I didn’t know exactly what would happen with a team, but in general I think I am okay. I need races now.

“In terms of what my schedule will be, at the moment, everything is not clear. Normally I should do the Tour of Norway next week, but it’s not possible because I need a bit of time to get things finalized with the UCI, in terms of being on the list of the team and other things.”

Frei said that he was likely to do a local race in Denmark on Sunday, wearing neutral clothing as his team registration is unlikely to be in place by then.

His return has not been welcomed by everyone due to his past but, as Hembo points out, current regulations specify the length of a ban. “If it’s two years, then riders have a right to come back once that is completed and have a second chance. In cycling a two year ban is often effectively a lifetime ban but, unless that is laid out in the rules beforehand, it’s not fair.”

Frei didn’t pinpoint specific objectives. “For sure, for every rider it is the same goal - to have success with the team and for myself. The first step is done, that I can come back racing. Now I will look at the schedule and I hope I have some nice races this year.”


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