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Court rules Bettini may ride despite not signing pledge

STUTTGART, Germany -- A local court cleared defending
champion Paolo Bettini to compete in Sunday's world championship
road race despite the Italian cyclist's refusal to sign an
anti-doping pledge.

In a defeat for the host city, the court rejected arguments
Friday that such a refusal was enough to keep him out of the event.

"We regret the decision but we accept it," Stuttgart Mayor
Wolfgang Schuster said.

Stuttgart claimed it had a binding deal with cycling's governing
body, the UCI, to bar any rider who has not signed the anti-doping
charter. The UCI denied that.

"The judge recognized our rules and it is something that I have
been saying all along," UCI President Pat McQuaid told The
Associated Press.

He said the host city was totally out of line to seek a court
ban and undermine the success of the weeklong championships.

"The people of Stuttgart deserve better. They deserve better
treatment," he said.

Despite the court ruling, Schuster stuck to his line that
McQuaid was soft on doping.

"Whether Paolo Bettini starts or not is not a legal one but
it's about the credibility of cycling. The UCI has to realize what
it signals when it guarantees Bettini's start," Schuster said.
"It is definitely not a sign of a new beginning."

Instead, McQuaid accused the German media, egged on by local
politicians, to cast a negative light on cycling. "The German
media are like vultures around cycling waiting for a story, waiting
for a positive test," he told the UCI congress.

Another Italian rider, Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca,
won't be competing in Sunday's race. Di Luca withdrew Thursday
after the Italian Olympic Committee recommended he be banned for
four months for doping.

"I appreciate the fact that Di Luca pulled himself out,"
McQuaid said. "It is a good thing."

Di Luca was not pleased.

"It's a scandal," Di Luca said. "I'm going home without ever
being banned, after months of sacrifice. [The decision] only served
to prevent me from racing the world championship. ... I will be
cleared 100 percent."

Late Wednesday, the UCI was forced to allow Alejandro Valverde
of Spain and Allan Davis of Australia to compete despite their
alleged links to the Operation Puerto blood doping investigation in
Spain.