Thursday, June 08, 2006

As he was pedaling uphill toward the Portes Pass in the Alps during the Tour de France on July 12, 2003, Jesús Manzano, then a 25-year-old rider with the Kelme team from Spain, fell off his bicycle.

Though that happens all the time in the sport, Manzano did not crash in the usual way. He had been poisoned with illegal drugs and had received transfusions of suspect blood, he later alleged in just one of the bicycle doping cases that have been on recent court dockets in Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Germany.

Even though so many countries are dealing with such cases, and even as the European Union is seeking closer member ties in many fields, the use of illicit drugs in sports is still treated as just a national concern. Rarely, if ever, is it confronted across borders. And when it is, the cases fall to the International Cycling Union, which governs the sport.

"There is no EU policy on doping; it is left to national competence," explained Frédéric Vincent, spokesman for the European Union's education and training commissioner, who oversees sports.