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February appears set to be a busy month for the UCI in terms of ongoing assessments of situations linked to doping, with the outcome of not one but two major reports set to be announced in the coming weeks.
Speaking to CyclingTips on Wednesday, UCI spokesman Louis Chenaille said that the first of those two enquiries was due to conclude in the near future.
“The Astana report is expected in early February,” he said. “Things are ongoing. Thus far the Lausanne University is in line with the expected timetable, in terms of interviews, collected data and so on. They seem to be working well and on schedule.”
The Astana WorldTour team was placed under scrutiny last autumn when the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy both tested positive for EPO in August. The situation was exacerbated for the team when one if its stagiaries, Kazakhstan’s national champion Ilya Davidenok, was found to have traces of anabolic androgenic steroids in his system.
He had started the year as a member of the Astana Continental team and two more riders from that squad, Artur Fedosseyev and Victor Okishev, also tested positive for the same substance.
Chenaille told CyclingTips that the latter three riders had each turned down the option of having their B samples tested. This essentially means that they have accepted the initial finding and won’t dispute the positive tests.
The Iglinskiy brothers – who also declined B samples – could be banned for two years. It remains to be seen how long the other three will be sanctioned for, but they too may face lengthy bans.
The five positive cases connected to the two Astana teams led to the UCI asking its Licence Commission to undertake a review of the WorldTour team’s licence.
That commission finally confirmed a probational licence for Astana in December, but said that the licence was subject to several conditions.
Once of those was that the team would be independently audited by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) to determine “to what extent the team and or/its management is responsible of the recent events.”
It said that the audit would also seek to “assess the team’s internal structures, culture and management systems to understand whether these are adequate to ensure that the highest ethical standards are upheld.”
The audit will be paid for by the team.
Chenaille’s update today is confirmation that the report will indeed be issued in early Feburary, as had been anticipated.
The fate of the Continental team is still to be determined. When the WorldTour squad was pushing to receive a licence, its general manager Alexandre Vinokourov revealed that the Continental team had been suspended indefinitely.
According to Chenaille, there is no firm news yet on that. “As regards the Continental team, that is still under review,” he said.
“There is a discussion ongoing with the team and their national federation, but there is no decision as yet.”
Both Astana teams are members of the MPCC anti-doping movement. It has already made clear that if the Continental team were to return that it would face a five-week suspension from competition.
Cycling Independent Reform Commission report also looming:
Chenaille also gave an update on the latest situation with the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, the body founded early last year in order to look into the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service doping scandal, the use of banned substances in the sport plus the actions of the UCI during that era.
Amongst the issues it is studying is whether past UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid plus its employees played a part in helping Armstrong and others to evade detection.
The CIRC has been gathering information since its establishment and with three heavyweight names on board, is expected to carry out a thorough scrutiny of the era in question.
Chenaille confirmed that the outcome of that review is also approaching fast. “CIRC’s communication is due in late February, that will be the final decision,” he said.
That commission has been very tight-lipped about its process, and so it is difficult to gauge what the final outcome will be.
Armstrong said this week that he had spoken twice to it. However it remains to be seen how much he said and, also, how truthful and valuable the commission felt his contribution was.
He is angling for a reduction in his lifetime ban because of that contribution.
Anti-doping tribunal and Dr. Zorzoli review:
Two further developments linked to the UCI are also pending. The first of those is its new anti-doping tribunal or, rather, its first case.
The tribunal was established in September of last year at a UCI management committee meeting held at the world championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
“In order to further improve UCI’s anti-doping processes, the 14 member Management Committee proposed the establishment of an Anti-doping Tribunal to deal with cases involving international athletes, instead of these disciplinary proceedings being delegated to National Federations,” stated the UCI at that time.
“The tribunal would be made up of judges specialised in anti-doping, fully independent of the UCI, with the aim to provide all top level athletes with the same consistent process and a clear, short timetable. This should ensure consistency and uniform quality in the decisions, significantly reduce the number of cases that go to CAS on appeal and lift the operational burden from the National Federations.”
One benefit is that the tribunal would cut down on the number of perceived decisions made in favour of a country’s athlete by its federation which later have to be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
For example, Alberto Contador was initially cleared without any sanction by the Spanish cycling federation in relation to the positive test for Clenbuterol he had in 2010.
The UCI and WADA later took this to CAS and won, but the need to appeal cost a lot of money and also led to the Spanish rider being able to continue racing for many months and win a Giro d’Italia title he would later be stripped of.
Chenaille said that he hadn’t heard of an official update as to when the tribunal would hear its first case, but said that it was primed for action.
“What we can say is that it is ready to go,” he explained. “Once a case is submitted by the UCI, it would be fully active.”
Asked if the Mauro Santambrogio doping case announced in December might fall under the new conditions, Chenaille said that he wasn’t certain of the situation in relation to that rider. He said there was definitely a point before which hearings would have to be dealt with in the old way.
“From what I understand, you can’t bring a case to the tribunal that has already been opened. The tribunal will take new cases for sure, but not a case already being reviewed,” he explained.
However there is a possibility that the timing of Santambrogio’s positive might still allow his case to be examined by the new body. The doping control in question was carried out on October 22 and the news of his positive result for testosterone was announced in December.
The determination of whether or not his case would fall under the new arrangement would depend on exactly when the tribunal became operational.
Chenaille also gave an update of sorts in relation to the Dr Mario Zorzoli situation. The longtime UCI scientific advisor was named last week in a case ruling by the American Arbitration Association pertaining to the Belgian doctor Geert Leinders, who was handed a lifetime ban in connection to doping activities.
That ruling raised serious questions about Zorzoli.
It stated that former Danish pro rider Michael Rasmussen claimed that after the UCI raised issues with incriminating blood readings concerning him in the 2005 Tour de France, that Leinders met Zorzoli to discuss the issue.
The rider said that meeting led to a guarantee of protection for him.
“After his meeting with Zorzoli, Dr Leinders told Rasmussen that ‘Rabobank was a team that had “butter on its head”…meaning that all the doping related problems the team had would slide off. And he called me now the most protected rider in the race.”
Rasmussen also alleged that in either 2004 or 2005, he was told by Leinders that Zoroli had recommended that Leinders give Rabobank riders the banned substance DHEA because ‘all the other teams are doing it as well.’
Reacting to the claims, the UCI said that it would conduct a full review of the claims surrounding the doctor, and that he would be sidelined from all anti-doping work until that was done.
Asked Wednesday where that process stood, Chenaille gave further details. He said that the situation was being dealt with in-house by the UCI rather than by its tribunal as it is not a case of a licenced rider who is under a national federation.
“The only thing we can say right now is that we are looking into the file we received last Friday,” he said.
“It is hard to say how long it will take. It is impossible to give a firm date at this point in time.”