USADA passes Zorzoli details to UCI and CIRC, UCI suspends his anti-doping role pending investigation
Commenting after the American Arbitration Association (AAA) released its report explaining why it had handed a lifetime ban to former Rabobank and Team Sky doctor Geert Leinders, the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) has confirmed to CyclingTips that the details of the investigation – including serious claims about the UCI’s scientific advisor Dr Mario Zorzoli – have been passed on elsewhere for further consideration.
“We have provided UCI and their CIRC the relevant information from this case, and we expect that they will take appropriate action to do what is necessary to protect clean athletes,” a USADA spokesperson told CyclingTips on Thursday.
The CIRC, or Cycling Independent Reform Commission, was set up last year to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service doping affair plus allegations that the UCI had protected the Texan and other riders.
The AAA investigation into Leinders dealt with his time as chief doctor and board member at the Rabobank team and saw that body conclude that he had committed repeated anti-doping violations.
It ruled 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 also said that the hearing featured detailed evidence, including eyewitness testimony, corroborating documentation plus an expert analysis of abnormal blood values of cyclists. Former Rabobank riders Levi Leipheimer and Michael Rasmussen were amongst those to testify.
The allegations about Zorzoli are embarrassing for the UCI and potentially very damaging. According to the AAA final ruling, Rasmussen claimed that after the UCI raised issues with incriminating blood readings concerning the rider, 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.’
USADA’s statement to CyclingTips appears to make clear that it considers the claims to be serious.
The UCI has itself acted on the matter, issuing a statement on Thursday evening which welcomed the AAA decision in relation to Leinders while also confirming that the Zorzoli issue was being studied.
“The UCI is aware that the reasoned decision includes allegations made against UCI Doctor and Scientific Advisor Dr. Mario Zorzoli,” it stated.
“The UCI is now waiting to receive the full file to look closely into these allegations, and whilst this investigation is taking place, Dr Zorzoli will not be involved in any matters relating to anti-doping.
“No further comment will be made at this stage.”