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Three days after Greg Van Avermaet and his BMC Racing Team confirmed that the Belgian rider had been called before the disciplinary commission of the Belgian cycling federation in relation to alleged banned practices, compatriot Kevin de Weert has categorically refuted suggestions that he too is under investigation.
The 32 year old, who finished 17th overall in the 2010 Tour de France, clarified the situation after Belgian media reports earlier suggested he was part of the investigation.
“I was a patient at doctor Merten’s practice for a short period of time in 2012, which is close to my home,” de Weert stated. “At the moment I received notice of the investigation, I immediately looked for a different physician.
“At the end of 2013, I received a court letter with the request to voluntarily provide them with DNA-material because they wanted to close the case. In the beginning of 2014, I voluntarily gave them samples of my DNA, and I do not have to justify myself at the court or my sports federation, because I never received any summons for hearing.”
His LottoNL-Jumbo team echoed this.
“The Belgian climber Kevin de Weert has never been placed under suspicion in the case revolving around doctor Chris Mertens from Rotselaar. De Weert has voluntarily cooperated in the DNA investigation at the beginning of January 2014, in which no match was found.
“The team sees no reason for Kevin not to race, therefore he will start in Tirreno Adriatico.”
Van Avermaet has insisted he did nothing wrong.
“I’m innocent. I am clean and pure,” he told Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. “I haven’t done anything that was not allowed, so I’m not worried.
“Yes, I have been long with doctor Mertens, but I have not used any infusions. It is absurd that I always have to justify myself, but that is part of the modern cycling for sure. I’m glad my team let me start. I am convinced that everything will be okay.”
According to the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper, Van Avermaet is not suspected of using EPO or anabolic steroids, but rather of using the banned practice of ozone doping. The offence is thought to date back to 2011.
He has been summoned to appear before the Belgian federation on March 13. The cyclo-cross riders Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens have also been called.
The latter announced his retirement on Tuesday. The 36 year old former world champion said that at 36, his body had given him signs that he should stop.