Tagged: doping

Gino Bartali: the only truly clean Grand Champion?

Bartali-pp01-01

 

this is from wikipedia, i found it as i was writing an article on Gino the Great for a magazine.

it kind of blew my mind, to think that he was possibly the first in-competition drug tester of all time! as well as being a participant, and a huge one at that.

here are the quotes:

Drugs search

Bartali always suspected that Coppi took drugs. On the hairpins of the Col di Bracco, during a stage of the 1946 Giro from Genoa to Montecani Terme, Coppi drank from a glass phial and threw into the verge. Bartali drove back after the race and found it. He said:

With the meticulous care of a detective collecting evidence for fingerprinting I picked it up, dropped it into a white envelope and put it carefully in my pocket. The next day I rushed round to my personal doctor and asked him to send the phial to a lab for analysis. Disappointment: no drug, no magic potion. It was nothing more than an ordinary tonic, made in France, that I could have bought without a prescription.
I realised that I should have to try to outsmart him and I devised my own investigation system. The first thing was to make sure I always stayed at the same hotel for a race, and to have the room next to his so I could mount a surveillance. I would watch him leave with his mates, then I would tiptoe into the room which ten seconds earlier had been his headquarters. I would rush to the waste bin and the bedside table, go through the bottles, flasks, phials, tubes, cartons, boxes, suppositories – I swept up everything. I had become so expert in interpreting all these pharmaceuticals that I could predict how Fausto would behave during the course of the stage. I would work out, according to the traces of the product I found, how and when he would attack me. 

both quotes are from Miroir des Sports, France, 1946.

Cop-Tre-Uomini-Oro

 

Cape Epic ban of dopers is a bold move that others should follow

this article first appeared on The Roar.

What do we do with these guys huh? They come along to a race, doped up, get busted, go away for two years or even less.

Then at the end of their suspension, they swan along again and slot right back in to the groove of things, taking part in the very event that they got caught doping in in the first place.

Numerous top-level pros and not-so top-level pros have done this before, and yet the organisers of these races often feel powerless (if they care at all) to prevent the ‘reformed’ doper from returning to the very event that their selfish actions tainted.

In other cases, event organisers know that an athlete has tested positive in the past and that their participation will serve to antagonise some of the other participants.

Yet again, they have no precedent to fall back on of these guys being denied entry, and lack the nuts to be the first to make a stand.

In other cases, the organisers themselves actually suspect that these ex-dopers are still doping, and still feel powerless to do anything, as they know that testing is hit and miss and that, despite a rider putting in truly incredible – not credible – performances, they probably won’t get caught.

And so they pass the buck, let the guy in, then cry bloody murder when he gets busted.

Michele Acquarone, formerly director of the Giro d’Italia, said as much about the performances of Danilo di Luca in the 2013 race.

Claiming at the time that Di Luca had an addiction problem, after he tested positive for EPO, Acquarone said “I’m angry because I think: ‘How can a rider or a person of his age be so stupid and not understand that the music has changed and not understand the damage he’s doing to himself and the whole movement.”

At that time, Giro d’Italia technical director Mauro Vegni refuted the suggestion that RSC Sport should have been suspicious of Di Luca’s performances after his successful but very late comeback to racing.

“It’s not up to us to evaluate a rider’s performances. I think it’s up to the team, not the organisers,” Vegni said.

“He’s got a licence from the international federation and so that’s OK for us. He undergoes all the controls, like all the riders. He got caught by one of them. I don’t see why we should evaluate his performances.”

But is that attitude really good enough? Remember, these are the same organisers who watched Maurio Santambrogio enter their race then get busted for EPO too.
Acquarone’s reaction?

“Of course I’m not happy, but I’m not even surprised,” Acquarone said. “We all knew.”

What an incredible statement: ‘we all knew.’ And yet, he still entered the race. As Vegni argued at the time, should the onus be 100 per cent on the teams, the cycling federation and the UCI to hunt down the dope cheats?

I’d say yes. But, do race organisers bear some responsibility in all this too? Again, yes. I’ve done enough races where guys come straight back from suspensions and smash the field apart just as they did when doping.

I’ve also known organisers to allow guys to ride without a word even though, privately, they suspect that these guys are doping.

It’s a tricky one, isn’t it?

One race has finally come through though with a policy that could and should mark the beginning or race organisers beginning to pick up the slack and to make statements where dopers are concerned.

Six days ago, the organiser of the Cape Epic MTB race announced that two riders had been banned for life from ever taking part in the event again.

One rider was already provisionally suspended by the South Africa Institute for a Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) and the other was suspended for three months for returning an “adverse analytical finding in an in-competition test” in May, 2013.

Neither are professionals. It is worth noting here that amateur riders still receive cash and other prizes, can get sponsored bikes and equipment on the back of good results and attain social stature too, all of which have a value.

“I don’t care whether a rider has been banned for three months or three years, if you cheat then we don’t have time for you – even if you are not earning a living from cycling, as is the case with these riders,” said Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak. “This is a new era in cycling, things are changing and I don’t want to entertain anybody who still feels the need to dope.”

Kevin Vermaak

Kevin Vermaak

Unfortunately, the ban will not be applied retroactively pre-December 2012 (when the organisers made the statement regarding the life-time bans) as they felt to do so would be ‘naïve’.

“We’ve chosen not to apply this retrospectively because we believe that would be naive. Cycling has a dark past. Many riders from this previous era have rediscovered the joy of cycling as mountain bikers and participate in the Absa Cape Epic as their expression of riding clean.

‘Previous offenders, who have served their suspension term, may ride future Absa Cape Epics. We want to be part of the new era of cleaner cycling, and therefore only future offenders will receive the lifetime bans.’

Hermida-and-Van-Houts-Cape-Epic-stage-1-2013

Personally I think that is a cop out, and the fact that guys like Floyd Landis could sign up and ride serves to make my point. Yet still, this is a move that other events should take note of.

This is an example of organisers taking matters into their own hands and setting out their stall. They out in massive efforts to get people to ride and they have every right to call the shots. As a result of a policy such as this, more people will be drawn to participate and its reputation will only benefit.

Worth stating clearly is that the Cape Epic decision is one of zero tolerance. So, no second strikes. One strike and done, you’re out.

Is that fair? Again, it’s a tough one, but more and more I am starting to think that, unless the UCI comes up with a better proposal, then the race organisers worldwide should sit down and make that decision themselves.

Contador sucks, no other way to say it

i have no time for this dude. he was great, then busted, then rubbish, then booming again.

i don’t care if he’s doped up or not now, i just don’t wanna see his face around.

he cried blue murder over the Clenbuterol, hung on and won shed loads when really he should have done the right thing and stepped away to clear his name. instead, dragging the sport through even deeper fathoms of mud whilst his ego got soothed was more appealing.

the one strike and you’re out policy is starting to really appeal to me…

oh yeah and well done Conty, for winning TA. no really. i mean it.

read it here on PEZ…

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 上午3.02.00

 

Cape Epic bans 2 riders for life for doping

yeowzers, these guys aren’t pros, and are doping.

that’s not what the ‘yeowzers’ is for. that’s for the fact that there’s an independent event that has doping tests that actually work, and that they have a zero tolerance policy.

Cape Epic, i salute you.

Hermida-and-Van-Houts-Cape-Epic-stage-1-2013
“I don’t care whether a rider has been banned for three months or three years, if you cheat then we don’t have time for you – even if you are not earning a living from cycling, as is the case with these riders,” said Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak. “This is a new era in cycling, things are changing and I don’t want to entertain anybody who still feels the need to dope.”

read the whole story here, on Sport24.

USA Cycling, Steve Johnson and the Empty Appeal

Steve Johnson of USAC

Steve Johnson of USAC

this article originally appeared on The Roar

America leads the way in many spheres, from obesity to arms stockpiles, jacked-up baseball players to serial killers, and it has just gone and set another benchmark that the (sporting) world should sit up and take notice of – or rather, its cycling federation has.

Or at least I thought it had. Then I dug deeper and found that, yet again, we have a situation of the wrong people trying to make the right noises whilst doing very little whatsoever.

Sound familiar? A little like the UCI? Well after all, this is a cycling federation we are talking about…

One of the great oversights in the struggles and tussles that have gone on within the sport of cycling in regards to doping over the previous few years has been that, in general, the people who care about the direction that the sport is headed in and want it to face up to its dark and depressing past have felt that their voices have been marginalized, ignored and, at times, forcibly silenced.

For years world cycling’s governing body and its presidents, and infamously its most high profile rider, either looked the other way when anyone voiced concerns or suspicions of banned drug usage or went out of their way to ridicule and bully the doubters and accusers to the point where they were left isolated from the sport they’d grown up with.

We all know the Betsy Andreu story, the wife of former pro Frankie Andreu whom Lance Armstrong called “a crazy bitch” (but not fat, you’ll remember) as he duked it out with her over her allegations that he used several banned substances.

Former World and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke retired at the age of 29, explaining in her heartfelt letter that she was leaving a sport that was infected by cheats, stating that “I have been robbed by drug cheats.”

Graeme Obree, former world hour record holder, was forced to leave the first and only top-level European pro team he signed a contract with within weeks of joining them after he refused to dope, and when he made that news public he too was shunned by those in charge (the only people, in fact, with the power to have started to implement change in the drug culture of pro cycling).

These are three of the most famous examples of the marginalised, but for every Graeme, Betsy or Nicole there are hundreds if not thousands of clean riding individuals who have been left out in the wastelands by the cycling authorities’ refusal to allow their voices to be heard. Disenchanted, many, like Nicole, have walked away from competitive cycling.

And so I awoke to read that USA Cycling has just set a precedent that every cycling authority in the world can follow, if it has the gumption and the wherewithal to do so. And if they do and if the information gleaned is acted upon properly then perhaps, just perhaps, those who have borne witness to the dark practices that have for so long infested this sport will be heard, leading to getting more of the cheats out and the ‘good guys’ back in.

The letter, in full, reads:

Recently, UCI President Brian Cookson announced the formation of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) to investigate historic doping in cycling and allegations that the UCI has been involved in previous wrongdoing. As we all know, doping is not limited to the sport of cycling, but cycling is among the most aggressive sports in developing new levels of drug testing, and the new leadership of the UCI recognizes that we, as a sport, can only prepare for a better future by learning from the past.

The CIRC is a vital part of the process to bring integrity to every level of cycling, but this important commission can only work if the cycling world wants it to. Therefore, I am appealing to any USA Cycling members to come forward with any information that can assist the CIRC in its inquiry. This is your opportunity to take responsibility for our sport and help it become a sport in which we can have the utmost trust and confidence.

Below are important links to help you learn more about the role of the CIRC as well as an email address to contact the commission with any information you may have that will aid their investigation. I strongly encourage your full cooperation for the betterment of cycling.

As always, please feel free to contact us directly with any questions you may have about this process.

Sincerely,

Steve Johnson
CEO & President, USA Cycling

Bill Peterson
Chair, USA Cycling Board of Directors

We, the cycling public, should push for this exact same appeal to be made in Australia, the UK, Italy, France, indeed anywhere where competitive cycling exists.

But… then I remembered the name Steve Johnson, and started to check him out online. Then it started coming back to me. Johnson has ties to Thom Weisel, longtime Armstrong supporter, and to Armstrong himself, and to other shady characters who litter the American cycling landscape such as Jim Ochowicz.

Thom Wiesel with some dude in yellow on a bike that used to be loved and adored by millions, I forget his name...

Thom Wiesel with some dude in yellow on a bike 

I found this from the SF Weekly from September 2005, which succinctly sums it all up:

Johnson, the widely quoted USA Cycling official, appears to suffer from a serious conflict of interest between his organization’s role as a doping cop and his personal, institutional, and financial ties to the diversified business world surrounding Lance Armstrong. Financier Weisel is Armstrong’s longtime patron, employer, investment manager, and friend. Weisel is also Johnson’s longtime patron and friend and the founder of a nonprofit entity that employs him.

And then there’s this little fact: Johnson essentially works for Armstrong. In addition to serving as chief operating officer of USA Cycling, Johnson is executive director of the USA Cycling Development Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit organization founded by Weisel, who serves as president of the board of directors, according to the foundation’s most recently available IRS returns, filed in 2003. According to the foundation’s current Web site, the board of directors now includes Lance Armstrong.

“This whole thing isn’t a big deal for Americans,” Reuters quoted Johnson as saying of Armstrong’s doping troubles last week.

Reviewing the excellent Wheelman by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell on Red Kite Prayer, Padraig sums up my feeling on all this perfectly.

It is my hope that Thom Weisel, Steve Johnson and Jim Ochowicz receive the scrutiny they deserve. When I think of the harm done to cycling by the doping of the last 20 years, guys like George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer seem like small potatoes compared to the disservice done the sport by Weisel, Johnson and Ochowicz, and yet there’s no discussion of banning them from the sport. Justice is rarely just, huh?”

And yet here is the same Johnson, sending out his appeal that aims to “bring integrity to every level of cycling”, yet reminds us, like a teacher scalding a spoilt child, that “this important commission can only work if the cycling world wants it to.”

‘If we want it to?’ It’s what we’ve wanted all along, Steve. I can think of one way that you personally could help us to claw back some of that ‘integrity’ in an instant, and it will involve you putting a few treasured momentos in a box.

Sometimes you just have to step back and applause the bare-faced cheek of these guys. Quite spectacular.

 

 

 

don’t buy O’Grady’s book

Confessed dopers Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie are rumoured to be planning a surprise party for Stuart O’Grady, welcoming him to the club.

It’s a very select club, one that refused entry to the likes of Jan Ulrich, Floyd Landis and Riccardo Ricco.

In Ulrich’s case it seems he crossed the line by taking recreational drugs (ecstasy) and having a drinking problem – so he wasn’t ‘just’ a doper, he was also not quite presentable.

Ricco? He made the mistake of getting busted too early in his career (and not just once), and by not being ‘contrite’ enough when he was busted.

Not that it matters if the contrition is real or not.

And Landis? Well, he was just a mess from the off, got too big for his boots, got on Armstrong’s wrong side (many now see that the wrong side is in fact his only side) and got busted at a time when is just wasn’t fashionable to do so.

The Great White American Hopes in Floyd’s days were not supposed to be dirty – he was, as Ricco was once described by Mark Cavendish with a naivety that strayed well into stupidity, one bad apple in an otherwise healthy basket of bright, shiny and very clean apples.

A crock? Yep, obviously, but the majority of the cycling public smelt that load back then and declared it to be smelling of roses.

How times have changed.

Such are the levels of envy among former pros who did in fact dope, but never got caught, at the post-confessional financial successes of riders like Hincapie and possibly now O’Grady (if enough people buy his book), that many are thinking of making a comeback.

g10484_u21348_Stuart_O_Grady

Of loading up on EPO, getting caught, then getting busted before they take a six-month career-ending ban to go off and write a book.

It’s interesting that O’Grady has titled his book Battle Scars. I can’t help think that the choice of title has been heavily influenced by the news of his doping.

Had he finished his career on the bike and not been exposed, how different it all could have been.

From hero to zero, so very quickly.

He says he’s just enjoying “being normal”, but I don’t know many ‘normal’ people that profited from doping (he says just once), got busted, wrote a book, made profits from that book and then headed out on a national book tour.

That’s not normal, not in my book (and no need to excuse that terrible pun).

In an interview with CyclingNews, O’Grady said, “We had pretty much wrapped up the book when my personal situation came out so obviously we had to rewrite it a bit and add a few chapters.

“It will be interesting to see how people take it on board. I just hope people can put into context and try to understand what it was like back then.”

So, the “extra chapters” – ie, the truth would about him doping and cheating – may never have been included had he not been busted.

Instead, his devoted fans would have read the ‘clean’ version, but now it is in there with ‘yes I did dope but please try to take it all in context’.

But wait – that was then, this is now. There is zero excuse for the fact that until the news of his positive came out he was quite prepared to bury it. That wasn’t ‘then’, it’s very much now.

So he was still willing to connive and perpetrate fraud by hoisting a blood, guts and glory but no mention of doping cos ‘I never did it’ tale onto a fawning public.

He also says he never had any idea that Armstrong was doping. Well, to counter that, anyone who has ever raced a bike kinda wondered, even if they were really into the Texan’s feats, if the big guy was maybe, just maybe, digging into Dr Ferrari’s bag of tricks to aid his superhuman performances.

Do we need any more wool foisted over our eyes? Do we need anymore ‘confessional’ books that make money for the confessors?

What ever happened to the ‘Son of Sam’ law that was enacted in the USA and Australia, to prevent criminals from profiting from their illegal activity?

Is it time that doping in professional sport be made a criminal activity on every country with an Olympic body?

I’m sick of these guys rolling out the books and the films and the Gran Fondos and the double toaster sets.

Vote with your wallets. Don’t buy this book.

Horner, Lewis & Lampre. It’s all wrong.

This isn’t a new story. It’s been kicking around now since the end of January.

Yet there’s been very little commentary written on the deal that will see last year’s surprise Vuelta a Espana winner of 2013, Chris Horner, twinkling his little magic toes all over the World Tour again this year.

I haven’t written more than a dozen words on Horner, ever, and I wasn’t going to write anything this time. You may be of the camp that thinks ‘Good on him’ – after all there aren’t many 41-year-olds who’ve won a Grand Tour for the first time in their life.

Well, there has never been another, in fact.

The magnitude of Horner’s feat did not go unnoticed, though the reaction to it was a little less in awe than I’m sure he would have wished.

The cycling forums went mad with all kinds of allegations and suspicions that were largely to be expected.

Horner’s win though came at a point in the history of this sport when older riders were suddenly finding themselves without contracts in greater numbers than ever before.

who's having the last laugh?

who’s having the last laugh?

If you were older and had any kind of suspicion of doping infringements lingering around you, like Luis Leon Sanchez, then boom, you were cut loose and cast into the wilderness.

Horner was rumoured to be going to Christina Watches for some time until the news that he was being welcomed on to Lampre-Merida, a move that some in the UCI would have been less than thrilled by.

See, there is something about Horner that just doesn’t smell right. I’m not saying anything new there, but it’s still worth looking over the reasons why for a moment.

First of all, a little known rider (outside of the USA) named Matt DiCanio went on record as far back as 2005 to say that another rider, Phil Zajicek, was offered help by Horner to purchase EPO and HGH when both rode for the American professional team Saturn.

DiCanio has also gone on record to say that Horner once said many years ago “It isn’t cheating if everyone is doing it.”

Secondly, Horner’s blood values from the 2013 Vuelta “fit with the patterns that anti-doping authorities look for as a sign of cheating.” Not my words, those of Michael Puchowicz in Outside Magazine.

The article states that Hornet’s hemoglobin concentration is simply too high to be natural. The other marker is the lowered reticulocyte count which is another sign of the use of EPO.

Puchowicz’s observations were seen by Shane Stokes of VeloNation, who passed them on to anti-doping authority Robin Parisotto, who works with the Athlete Passport Management Unit in Lausanne, France.

“It is not 100 percent clear that there is anything untoward happening,” Parisotto told Velonation, “[but] there’s certainly unusual patterns.”

He compares Horner’s bio passport to other profiles he has seen working as an anti-doping authority and concludes that “…most of those that come across to us are suspicious. Most are there for a reason. What I have seen with this particular profile is similar to those other profiles.”

Why didn’t the UCI investigate this? No idea.

Is any of this enough reason to suspend Horner? My gut says no, but if an anti-doping authority is stating that Horner’s values are suspicious why isn’t the UCI investigating?

One person who is probably asking himself these very questions and who has far more of a divested interest in all this than just about anyone else is another American rider – or should I say ex-rider – Craig Lewis.

Some of you may remember the now 29-year-old rider, who has just announced his retirement.

At 19, riding in the Tour de Georgia, Lewis was hit by a car and suffered two punctured lungs, internal bleeding and several fractures all over his body, almost passing away as a result.

Months of recovery followed before he returned to the pro ranks with Slipstream before moving on to HTC, where he won the team time trial at the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Days before the end of that race he broke a femur, forcing him out and eventually on to the Pro Continental Champion Systems team, which folded just last year.

Then he got a berth on the Lampre-Merida team. Well, he would have had a place there, had the management not decided to go and sign a 41-year-old American called Chris Horner.

The same guy who says he saw no doping on Bruyneel’s teams, the same guy who defended Armstrong until it became impossible even for his greatest apologists to do so, the same guy about whom all those rumours have been flying around.

“I thought we had already hit rock bottom, but it keeps going down,” Lewis said in an interview recently with Cyclingnews. “The sport just doesn’t market itself, and it needs some big changes – a lot has to happen for the sport to be appealing for companies to sponsor. It’s not sustainable the way it is.”

With riders like Horner still finding places to ply their trade, you’d have to agree with Lewis.

Craig Lewis

Craig Lewis

pro cycling & depression, indelibly linked

brilliant article here from Suze Clemitson in The Guardian, thoroughly investigating the links between the pressure the sport brings, doping and depression.

“Perhaps Obree put it best: “It’s not that sport makes people depressed. A lot of people who suffer from depression have a tendency to have obsessive behaviour – that’s why more of them exist in the top end of sport. The sport is actually a self-medicating process of survival.”

is it just the pros though? i don’t think so.

read the whole article here.

FVB

Frank Vandenbroucke

Dr. Conor McGrane on the UCI’s Independent Commission

by Dr. Conor McGrane

Brian Cookson seems to have delivered on his election promise to set up an independent commission to investigate the UCI’s actions during the doping crisis which included the Armstrong era. In Dick Marty, Peter Nicholson and Ulrich Haas he has appointed a heavy weight group of politicians, sports lawyers and even war crime investigators.

Interestingly the UCI is fully funding this commission, one of the reasons I believe the one proposed by Pat McQuaid fell was that he wanted WADA to part fund it.

There doesn’t seem to be any guarantee of amnesties or reduced bans for those who co-operate and I suspect we all have mixed feeling on this.

Over all though it looks a strong group with a wide ranging remit and a large amount of independence.  They aim to report within a year and we should all look forward to this although I suspect many involved with the sport will do so with trepidation.

In parallel to this, other processes are ongoing.

The MPCC (of whom I am very proud Cycling Ireland was the first national federation to join) continues to examine the practices of medics involved in the sport. Not only do they look at WADA restricted drugs but they also look at the workings of other drugs. Recently they asked member doctors to stop prescribing the painkiller tramadol in competition. This is something that Sky’s doctor has said they used to do but have now stopped in competition and indeed was something I personally prescribed but have now stopped as well.

v_roger-legeay-le-dopage-ca-suffit-1362253328

The honestly of Sky’s doctor on this issue was something I found refreshingly open and honest and something to be applauded.

It also opens Pandora’s Box on other drugs permitted under WADA but about which there are concerns.

Cortisone in its many forms remains a useful drug in treating inflammatory conditions but is also a drug which can be abused.

There is also a drug used to treat high blood pressure called telmisartan which has reputed fat burning properties. I have heard anecdotal evidence it is being used in pro cycling (and presumably other sports). It should have no place other than in treatment of high blood pressure and again is something which needs monitoring.

I suppose my point is again that outside of banned drugs there is a large grey area where drugs which have a useful role in treating illness are being used in healthy athletes with the aim of improving performance.

The fight against doping is not just about avoiding banned drugs but also about avoiding inappropriate and indeed unethical use of others.

If we want fair and open sport then we need doctors who are bound by ethics somewhat above and beyond that of simply avoiding the use of banned medications.

We have a long way to go but with the UCI making moves in the right direction, organisations like the MPCC bringing issues like the above out into the open and doctors in teams starting to speak out openly and honestly, I see genuine hope that we are starting to change the culture of pro cycling.

There is however no room at all for complacency…

doping: does nothing ever change?

 

By Cillian Kelly, of Irish Peloton and the Velocast podcast

________________________________________

 

“We learn from history that we never learn anything from history.”

Hegel

 

In October last year, the Italian cyclist Mauro Santambrogio opened up his smartphone, browsed to the twitter app, typed in two words and pressed ‘send’.

Four months earlier, Santambrogio had been informed by the UCI that he had tested positive for EPO during the Giro d’Italia. He had won a stage of the race and finished ninth overall, it was by some distance his best ever performance in a Grand Tour.

Santambrogio on the podium at the Giro

Santambrogio on the podium at the Giro

But his joy at such an achievement did not last long. Having previously been mentioned as part of the Mantova investigation, this time there was little doubt – he was a doper. He lost his job, was facing a two year suspension and his life would never quite be the same.

Then, that October evening, Santambrogio sent out his chilling tweet:

“Goodbye world”.

____________

In December last year, news broke that Michael Rogers had tested positive for clenbuterol at the Japan Cup. On the same day, another rider also tested positive for the same substance, the lesser known Jonathan Breyne.

Jonathan Breyne

Jonathan Breyne

Rogers, being a member of a World Tour team, was much more to the forefront of the headlines. Breyne on the other hand was an afterthought in the cycling news of the day. But privately, it was Breyne who was suffering greater consequences.

The day following the news of his positive test, Breyne attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills.

____________

Recently I came across an article where Belgian cycling physician Dr Roland Marlier made a number of proposals to the UCI Medical Commission regarding reforms on anti-doping procedures.

These reforms included:

  • To institute a system of licensing for doctors attached to cycling teams.
  • To give more thought to the method of publishing of doping control results, publishing ‘positives’ only after a counter-check has been made.
  • To allow the rider to be advised by a lawyer and a medical counsellor in cases of alleged doping.

The first point is something which has become more and more relevant in recent years as doctors like Michele Ferrari, Pedro Celaya and Eufemiano Fuentes have all received sanctions from the UCI. There are now UCI rules pertaining to who can and cannot be hired as a team doctor and the specific qualifications they must hold but these rules are currently not enforced.

With regards to the second point, according to the UCI’s own rules, in the case of a positive ‘A’ sample, they are only required to notify the rider, the national federation of the rider and the national anti-doping agency of the rider. In spite of this, it is the UCI’s tendency to release details of positive ‘A’ samples on their website.

The third point is one which has been addressed by the Australian anti-doping agency. They state on their website:

“This initiative provides an athlete, who has been notified of a possible anti-doping rule violation, with free access to independent and confidential counseling with qualified professionals…The aim of this initiative is to provide short-term counseling and strategies to help individuals deal with very stressful and potentially life-changing circumstances.”

Thus far, Australia is the only country in the world which provides this service to its athletes.

____________

Fortunately for Mauro Santambrogio and Jonathan Breyne, both men are still alive, unfortunately for the entire sport, none of the reforms suggested above have been adopted by the UCI as policy.

But what is the most unfortunate thing of all, is this – the article I read containing these reform proposals was written in a cycling magazine from 1973.