JP to boost cycling in Africa

2005-02-17 21:36

Cape Town - The former South African Olympic cyclist, JP van Zyl, has been appointed head of cycling development in Africa by the international controlling body (UCI).

Van Zyl's first aim is to try to make Bellville his headquarters, but Abuja in Nigeria is also in the running.

Van Zyl said from UCI's headquarters in Switzerland: "There are excellent sporting facilities in Bellville. It would be the ideal base to develop cycling on the African continent."

Something that can make Van Zyl's life difficult is the handling of South Africa's first positive test for EPO.

Van Zyl said 16-year-old Michael van Staden's testing positive for this banned substance was a huge embarrassment.

"I think our problems start with coaches. It will be my responsibility to convince them there is no place for banned substances in our sport," Van Zyl said.

Van Staden received a suspended sentence, while everyone thought he would be banned for two years. He took part in an event in Port Elizabeth recently and was also in action in Durbanville last weekend.

Van Zyl said he could not speculate about the merits of the case, but he thought a young cyclist like Van Staden had learnt a lesson.

Manner in which case was handled

Van Zyl said: "The two-year suspended sentence means that he faces a lifelong suspension should he test positive again."

However, the manner in which Cycling South Africa handled the case could have repercussions while the UCI still has to decide between Abuja and Bellville as the continent's development centre.

"I would dearly love to live in the Cape. I know the area well. We can involve Africa's top cyclists in all Cape Town's major cycling events," Van Zyl said.

He said it would be an advantage to compete against strong competition on a regular basis. It would not be possible in Nigeria and that would make his task more difficult to develop top cyclists.

One of South Africa's top cycling personalities, Chris Willemse, in the meanwhile convinced the sport doctor Lourens Erasmus, Van Staden and his father, Muller, to undergo polygraph tests.

Willemse confirmed that all three passed the test.

Barry Austin, Van Staden's team manager last year when the teenager tested positive for EPO, refused to undergo the polygraph test.

Muller van Staden said that Dr Erasmus injected his son with a vitamin supplement about five weeks before taking part in an event. Austin also gave him an injection shortly before he took part in a race.

Willemse said he thought the matter should be taken further. It could be in the interest of South Africa's cycling fraternity.

The CEO of Cycling South Africa, Sylvia Dale, declined to comment, saying the case is not closed yet.