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by Shane Stokes
April 23, 2014
Given a green light to return to racing today by the UCI, just over four months after it was announced that he had tested positive for Clenbuterol at the Japan Cup, Mick Rogers has said that he is relieved to get back to competition and that he believes he can be part of the Tinkoff-Saxo team for the Tour de France.
“I’m obviously very pleased at the news,” he told CyclingTips minutes after the UCI issued a statement on the matter. “It has been a long few months, but I am just looking forward to doing my job, doing what I love best…riding a bike.
“I have continued to train the whole time. I haven’t missed a day’s training in the hope that today’s message would arrive.”
Rogers competed in the Tour of Beijing last October and then went on to race the Japan Cup on October 20th, where he was first across the line. He was tested after that event and the analysis of his sample revealed traces of clenbuterol.
Current Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Alberto Contador tested positive for the same substance during the 2010 Tour de France and was stripped of that title plus other results, and also incurred a ban. However as the UCI acknowledged that there is a known problem with clenbuterol contamination in China, it and WADA accepted that the circumstances were different for Rogers.
“In accordance with the UCI Anti-Doping Rules and the World Anti-Doping Code, Mr Rogers took the opportunity to explain to the UCI how the prohibited substance had entered his system, and to provide supporting information,” it said in a statement.
“Upon careful analysis of Mr Rogers’ explanations and the accompanying technical reports the UCI found that that there was a significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China – where he had taken part in a race before travelling to Japan.”
It said that while it would disqualify him from the Japan Cup, that consultations with WADA had led to the decision that he would not be sanctioned any further. As a result he can return to competition when required.
Belgian rider Jonathan Breyne, who was also named as testing positive for clenbuterol in December, is also expected to be back in action soon. He told Het Nieuwsblad that the UCI had told him that he can return to competition, with his Tour of Taihu positive not leading to further repercussions. His case is also presumed to be one of contamination.
Breyne will of course lose his results from that race, while Rogers sees his victory in the Japan Cup disappear. Speaking today, the Australian said that was a regretful, but that he accepted that the current regulations were clear. He acknowledged that if riders have banned substances in their systems while doing a race, even if it is due to accidental circumstances, it is not possible to keep the result concerned.
“It is unfortunate. It certainly is,” he said. “But as I wrote in my statement, the rules are the rules and the UCI has to make sure they are respected.”
Given that the ban on clenbuterol remains in place, he acknowledged that he would be nervous if asked to compete in the Tour of Beijing again. “I’d certainly be very cautious,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen in relation to riders racing there. I read in the UCI’s statement that they will continue to monitor the situation.
“It is my understanding that it is a very ambiguous situation and it will be interesting to see in the future if there are any changes to the current way of dealing with such cases.”
“I still have time to be ready for the Tour de France”
Rogers tweeted recently about being in Sicily. While he didn’t specifically confirm today that he had been staying with the Tinkoff Saxo team, many of its Grand Tour riders have also been spending time there. They have been based at Mount Etna.
“At this time of year, it is one of the places at altitude where the weather is reasonably good,” explained Rogers. “I went there to take advantage of the climb and of the training. I’ve been working hard and I think I still have time to be ready for the Tour de France.
“As I said, I have trained hard, I haven’t missed a day. I think the general condition is there. The race condition isn’t, of course, and now it is all about coming together with the team and working in the best and most efficient way to move forward so I can be in top condition for the Tour.”
Rogers plans to meet with the team management in the coming days and to draw up a race programme to ensure that he is in the best possible condition for July.
He knows that he will have to be in very good shape, both to be part of the squad and also to back Alberto Contador in his bid to win the race again. The Spaniard appears to be back to his best this year, winning Tirreno Adriatico plus the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and also netting second in both the Volta ao Algarve and the Volta a Catalunya.
That string of results contrasts noticeably with the muted performances of last year. Rogers is hopeful that Contador will be a real contender for the yellow jersey and that he can be part of the squad which brings the Spaniard to Paris in the Maillot Jaune.
“It is very encouraging to see,” he stated. “Last year I got to know Alberto quite well and it is always encouraging to see someone back to their best.
“Everyone has good years, everyone has bad years, and it is certainly nice to see Alberto back to his best. I think if he can continue in the fashion and condition that he has shown this year, I believe he has a really good chance of winning the Tour.”