Cycling took another major blow when it was announced that the 2009 Tour of Stuttgart would be cancelled due to recent doping scandals which have tarnished the sport's image in the German city.
Doping scandals have continually overshadowed cycling in the last few years
The organizers of the six-day event -- due to be held in the southern German city from Jan. 15 to 20 next year -- claim recent failed doping tests involving German rider Stefan Schumacher and his Team Gerolsteiner colleague Bernhard Kohl, have added to the pressure on the sport to clean up and increased lack of faith in cycling by supporters and investors alike.
"We have held intense discussions over the last few days and decided at the conclusion not to organize the 26th edition of the competition given the current situation in cycling," organizer Andreas Kroll told German agency SID Tuesday, Oct. 14. "Professional cycling has an enormous image problem at the moment which we can't currently change."
On Monday, it was announced that Kohl, the best climber at this year's Tour de France and third overall, tested positive for the latest generation of the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), named CERA.
Kohl is the fourth rider from the Tour de France after Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli, to test positive for the drug along with Germany's Schumacher.
Schumacher is currently the subject of an investigation into allegations of fraud after failing a dope test, Stuttgart prosecutors confirmed last week.
The 27-year-old's house was recently searched with items taken away to be evaluated as possible evidence, a spokeswoman for the Stuttgart prosecutor's office told reporters last Thursday.
Schumacher caught in retest
Schumacher faces a two-year ban if found guilty
At the same time, the French anti-doping agency AFLD, which was responsible for the anti-doping program at the 2008 Tour, said in a statement that Schumacher tested positive twice for the newest version of the EPO blood-booster, CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator), at the Tour de France in July.
Schumacher, who made no statement during the search of his home, will have the opportunity to give his side of the story in the investigation into whether he fraudulently deceived his Gerolsteiner team.
Prosecutors have also looked at documents belonging to Gerolsteiner team principal Hans-Michael Holczer.
Schumacher won both individual time trials at the Tour and was the overall leader of the race for two days. He faces a two-year ban if found guilty of doping.
The German cycling federation BDR and the country's national anti-doping agency NADA have also launched investigations, with the BDR giving Schumacher a five-day deadline to explain himself.
Schumacher has already been suspended by his Gerolsteiner team but the rider's lawyer Michael Lehner criticized the doping procedures surrounding the retests at the French laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry.
"It is completely unclear, according to the documents available, under what circumstances and which blood samples returned apparently positive results for CERA in the laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Schumacher's Gerolsteiner teammate Sebastian Lang told the radsport-news Internet site that the cyclist had been asked if his team should "be worried."
"Stefan reassured us that everything was in order," he said.
New revelations lead to review of samples
Cyclists may have used illegal blood transfusions
Such are the continuing revelations of doping from this year's tour that samples from the July race will be retested for illegal own blood transfusions which could reveal further drug cheats at the famed event.
The head of the AFLD, Pierre Bordry, told German state network ZDF that a new test to detect this illegal method is currently being developed.
He said that samples from around 30 riders, who had abnormal blood levels at the start of the July race, will be retested.
"We have already received strong hints of own blood doping cases. We won't be able to say until a later date who that involves," Bordry told ZDF. "Soon we will be able to detect own blood transfusions and we will then conduct the retests."
The statement came after retests for CERA caught out Schumacher and the Italians Ricci and Piepoli. Ricci already tested positive for CERA during the Tour and is banned from competition.
The newly developed CERA test was also conducted among the riders with abnormal levels. The test has also prompted the International Olympic Committee to order retests of the samples gathered at cycling and all other sports at the Beijing Games.
"The IOC intends to retest the samples collected this summer during the Olympic Games in Beijing. Substances that will be tested for across all sports include EPO CERA," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau told reporters last week.
It was not known immediately whether the IOC retests included own blood transfusions.