Week in cycling: Actovegin not so bad? ... Jalabert breaks three ribs ... World cycling rankings

Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport
LONDON (AP) Two months after declaring that Actovegin was a banned substance, the IOC is reconsidering its position on the drug at the center of doping allegations against Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team.

The International Olympic Committee is uncertain whether Actovegin is performance-enhancing and has asked for further investigation to determine whether it should be prohibited, IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said Tuesday.

The IOC medical commission will make a final ruling in April, he said.

"It's still in a gray area,'' Schamasch told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "For the moment, if we want to go by a very strict definition, it may be banned. But we don't want to accuse anyone without having more information.''

The IOC announced categorically in December that Actovegin, an extract of calf's blood, was banned under the classification of blood-doping agents.

But the IOC, at an executive board meeting last week in Dakar, Senegal, signaled a softening of its stance.

Actovegin, manufactured by a Norwegian company, Nycomed, contains deproteinized extracts of calf's blood. It has been suspected of improving the circulation of oxygen in the blood in a manner similar to the banned drug EPO, or erythropoietin.

But Schamasch said Tuesday that Actovegin apparently does not transport oxygen.

"The explanation of the manufacturers is very vague,'' he said. "We have asked for more investigation to find out why athletes are taking a product which cannot transport oxygen, to find out if it has any other special effect.''

The IOC said a number of teams brought Actovegin with them to last year's Sydney Olympics, thus raising suspicions that the product could be used for unethical reasons.

The IOC is working with the world governing body of cycling, the UCI, to make a definitive ruling on Actovegin.

"According to the IOC medical code, we are entitled to ban a product either if it is performance enhancing and/or harmful to the health of the athletes,'' Schamasch said.

Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team have repeatedly denied using banned drugs.

U.S. Postal said its team doctor had been authorized by the French medical control board to bring Actovegin into the country for the race. The doctor said the drug was on hand for treating severe skin abrasions caused by crashes, and for use by a staff member with diabetes. None of the team's nine riders used Actovegin, the team said.

French police have asked the UCI for access to blood samples taken from Armstrong and other team members during the race. U.S. Postal Service has given its approval for the testing.

French investigators are also analyzing frozen urine samples taken from the riders.

How many French cyclists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

GENEVA (AP) French cycling star Laurent Jalabert was hospitalized Tuesday after falling from a ladder while changing a light bulb at his home.

Initial medical tests at Geneva's main hospital showed that Jalabert suffered at least three broken ribs in the accident. The Swiss Sport Information agency said he would need medical care for at least one month.

There was no immediate word on how long the cyclist would likely be sidelined from racing.

Jalabert, 32, has been one of the biggest stars in cycling for the past 10 years with an impressive record of more than 150 wins. He was ranked No. 1 in the world from 1995-1997 and in 1999. He is now eighth. In 1997, he won the time trial event at the World Cycling Championships.

At the end of last season he left Spain's ONCE team and signed up with the CSC/MemoryCard team, headed by Jalabert's former Danish rival Bjarne Riis, 36.

World cycling rankings

GENEVA (XINHUA) World rankings issued by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Monday:

1. Francesco Casagrande, Italy 2,467.00 points
2. Erik Zabel, Germany 2,266.00
3. Romans Vainsteins, Latvia 2,099.00
4. Lance Armstrong, United States 1,895.00
5. Roberto Heras Hernandez, Spain 1,767.00
6. Jan Ullrich, Germany 1,671.75
7. Davide Rebellin, Italy 1,612.00
8. Laurent Jalabert, France 1,493.75
9. Andrei Tchmil, Belgium 1,457.00
10. Paolo Bettini, Italy 1,377.00

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