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by Shane Stokes
January 23, 2015
Geert Leinders, former head doctor of the Rabobank team and also a past consultant doctor to Team Sky, has been handed a lifetime ban after being found guilty of repeated doping practices while with the Dutch team.
The US Anti Doping Agency (USADA), Anti-Doping Denmark (ADD) and Anti-Doping Authority Netherlands (Doping autoriteit) jointly announced today that a three member panel of the American Arbitration Association North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (AAA) had ruled that the doctor had broken multiple rules relating to drug use.
The AAA concluded that he had “possessed, trafficked, and administered banned performance enhancing substances and methods without any legitimate medical need, including EPO, blood transfusion paraphernalia, testosterone, insulin, DHEA, LH and corticosteroids to athletes under his care, and was complicit in other anti-doping rule violations.”
It said that the hearing featured detailed evidence, including eyewitness testimony, corroborating documentation plus an expert analysis of abnormal blood values of cyclists.
The investigation began when USADA discovered evidence against him during its investigation into cycling during 2012, an inquiry which was largely involved with unearthing the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service doping conspiracies.
Testimony from former Rabobank riders Levi Leipheimer and Michael Rasmussen was important in the case; their statements also explain the involvement of USADA and ADD in the process.
The AAA said that Leinders’ position led to the severe punishment against him. “As the chief team physician and a member of the board of directors for the Rabobank cycling team, Dr. Leinders occupied even higher positions of trust and responsibility [than others].”
Leinders worked with the team between 1996 and 2009, moving there after previous stints with Histor and Panasonic. He was both Rabobank’s chief team doctor and also a member of the squad’s board of directors.
USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart echoed AAA’s statement that Leinders had a position of great responsibilty and abused it.
“It shocks the conscious that a Board member and team doctor would abuse his trusted position by overseeing and participating in this type of dangerous and fraudulent activity,” he stated.
“This case also demonstrates the global commitment of independent anti-doping organizations to ensuring that those who break the rules in an attempt to win and to profit from their cheating are held accountable,” he stated.
“As we said from the beginning of our cycling investigation, ridding those in the system who attempt to justify doping as a means to an end is the only way to truly clean up cycling for current and future generations of athletes.”
ADD Director Lone Hansen said that Rasmussen’s contribution was vital. “Athlete eyewitness testimony can play an important and powerful role in the investigative process, and in this case, Michael Rasmussen’s cooperation and testimony was integral to the outcome.
“This case was an important opportunity for ADD to collaborate with our partners at USADA and Anti-Doping Authority Netherlands to pursue a level playing field in cycling, and we know that continued global collaboration is the only way to provide a level playing field for all athletes in all sports.”
Like others who have received lifetime bans such as Michele Ferrari, Leinders is now prohibited from training or advising athletes and participating at any event sanctioned by USA Cycling, the UCI any other WADA Code signatory.
Herman Ram, Director of Anti-Doping Authority Netherlands, said that the case was proof that intelligence gathering and investigations carried out in close cooperation between independent anti-doping organizations can lead to the prosecution and sanctioning of both athletes and also athlete support personnel.
“We appreciate the collaborative work done on this case, and we will continue our efforts to bring to light the full truth about the culture of doping,” he stated.
In addition to backing up past evidence about widespread doping on the Rabobank team, the Leinders case is embarrassing for Team Sky, which was set up with an of-stated zero tolerance approach to anyone who had past association with doping.
It initially said that it wouldn’t employ any doctors who had worked in cycling, but later backtracked on that.
Leinders worked with the team between 2010 and 2012, but was dropped after suggestions about his past doping practices with Rabobank became public.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in 2013 that he had asked Leinders about his past but that the Belgian had lied to him.
It remains to be seen if the team’s due diligence extended to asking former Rabobank riders Juan Antonio Flecha, Mat Hayman and Steven de Jongh about Leinders’ past role. They all came on board during 2010, the same year Leinders started working with the team.
In addition to Leinders several others also parted company with Sky when questions emerged about their pasts. These included the rider Michael Barry, plus team staff De Jongh and Bobby Julich.
Sean Yates, a former pro who had a positive A sample during his career and who worked in Armstrong’s Discovery Channel team also left, although both he and the team claimed his departure was not linked to the zero tolerance policy.
Yates said that he was retiring for health reasons, but has now returned as a directeur sportif with Tinkoff-Saxo.