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Friday, July 20, 2007
German prosecutors open criminal investigation against Sinkewitz

Associated Press

BERLIN -- German prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz, who tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone before the Tour de France.

Joerg Schindler, a spokesman for the state justice ministry, told The Associated Press on Friday the Bonn district attorney's office is following up on an anonymous complaint filed in June against the cyclist.

Sinkewitz, who tested positive in training on June 8, was accused of "fraud or damages against his contract partners" in the complaint.

In Germany, anyone can file a complaint, which prosecutors are obligated to investigate if found reasonable.

Sinkewitz competed in the Tour de France, which began in London on July 7, but dropped out after colliding with a spectator after stage 8 on Sunday.

The investigation against 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich also was started through a fraud complaint filed by a German professor with no direct ties to the case. Ullrich has retired, but prosecutors linked his DNA sample to a blood bag found in the Madrid clinic suspected of providing top riders with doping services.

Cycling's ongoing doping problems also led German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble to threaten to cancel the world road cycling championships. The event will be hosted by Stuttgart in September.

Shaueble joined numerous German politicians demanding the world cycling organizations enforce strict controls or face loss of the event.

On Thursday, Stuttgart's city council voted to remain host of the championships, rejecting a motion by Green party members to cancel.

However, Helmut Rau, the state sports minister, warned that cancellation was still a possibility if Germany's strict doping controls weren't adopted. That followed a threat by national politicians to rescind on federal money promised to Stuttgart for the championships.

Schaueble said he considers the Stuttgart event a test of whether cycling can be cleaned up, calling it the last chance for the sport.

"Whoever dopes or feeds doping is killing cycling," he said. "I have always been very interested in the Tour de France, but this year the joy was gone before it started -- professional cycling has lost too much trust."

Sinkewitz was suspended this week by T-Mobile following confirmation that his initial A sample was positive for testosterone. He asked for his backup B sample to be tested, and Germany's Cycling Federation expects the results will be known by July 29.

If the second sample is positive, Sinkewitz faces being fired by his team and could receive a two-year ban from the sport.

His positive test prompted German public TV stations ZDF and ARD on Wednesday to drop their coverage of the Tour "until further notice." Private Sat-1 television picked up the coverage a day later.

Sinkewitz's case, which came after efforts to clean up cycling with stiffer tests and punishments, may have repercussions among sponsors too, especially in Germany -- the Tour's second largest market.

Gerolsteiner, which sponsors a team, and Skoda, an official Tour de France sponsor, have said they will review their commitment to cycling after this year's tour is over.

Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency said it usually takes up to four weeks for a lab to examine a sample, noting the result of Sinkewitz's test became known Monday. The agency then informed the German cycling federation.