Holczer: Leipheimer had suspicious blood values during the 2005 Tour de France
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Holczer: Leipheimer had suspicious blood values during the 2005 Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 10:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
Former Gerolsteiner manager considered suspending lead GC rider

Levi LeipheimerFormer Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer has revealed that he went close to suspending his team’s top rider Levi Leipheimer during the 2005 Tour de France, due to suspicions of doping.

The German has just released a book, entitled Garantiert Positiv, about his experiences in the pro peloton, and said that the American went extremely close to a UCI suspension during the race.

According to Holczer, he was told on the rest day in Grenoble that analysis of Leipheimer’s blood values had returned an off-score reading of 132.8, just 0.2 away from the threshold that would have seen him been automatically stopped by the UCI.

The off score is a calculation based on hematocrit and reticulocyte values and has a normal range of 70 to 100. Levels above 127 are deemed to be very suspect, and those above 133 are regarded as almost certain proof that someone has doped.

While the values were just shy of this cut-off point, Holczer wrote that the UCI recommended to him that he take Leipheimer out of the Tour. However he said that he was too worried about legal action, and also scared that the Gerolsteiner brand might have pulled its backing had it got wind of a potential doping case. The sponsor had told the team that if there was anything more than one doping case, it would immediately withdraw its backing; Danilo Hondo had tested positive earlier that year at the Vuelta a Murcia, and so another scandal would have meant the end of the team.

"There was a moral commitment and a legal threat,” he said, according to the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. “I decided to be silent.”

The website Spox.com quoted him as saying, “for me it was clear: Leipheimer had manipulated [his blood].”

The American went on to place sixth overall in the race, and later won the Deutschland Tour.

During his time as a team manager, Holczer was outspoken about doping in cycling and insisted on several occasions that he had confidence in his riders. He famously – and naively – claimed several years ago that he knew they were clean and that he simply didn’t need to run internal tests like those performed by other teams at the time; this later came back to haunt him when both Bernhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher tested positive for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France.

He has tried to return to cycling but has been unable to do so thus far. He is set to return to his old job as a school teacher next month.

The revelation will put further pressure on Leipheimer, who was accused by Floyd Landis of having engaged in illegal doping practices during the 2005 Tour de France. According to Landis, both he and Leipheimer were given blood transfusions by Alan Lim during the race.

These and other claims by Landis are currently the subject of a federal investigation led by Jeff Novitzky. Holczer’s statement will increase the pressure on the RadioShack rider, who has always denied blood doping.

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