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by Shane Stokes
March 3, 2015
Although Greg Van Avermaet is one of the BMC Racing Team’s biggest guns for the spring Classics, it remains to be seen how his preparation and thus form will be affected by his implication in the doping matter involving Dr. Chris Mertens.
On Saturday it was confirmed that the Belgian rider had been summoned to appear at an anti-doping hearing held by the Belgian cycling federation Koninklijke Belgische Wielrijdersbond (KBW) on Tuesday March 13.
This date clashes with two major races on the spring calendar, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Both of these are used by Classic riders as an important part of the build-up to Milan-Sanremo and other events.
Paris-Nice runs from March 8 to 15 while Tirreno-Adriatico will be held from March 11 to 17.
Milan-Sanremo will itself be held on March 22.
The 29 year old Belgian was told last Thursday that he had to appear before the Belgian Cycling Federation on March 13 to answer allegations that he was involved in banned practices with the controversial doctor Chris Mertens.
The latter has already been implicated in a three year investigation and is suspected of doping many Flemish elite athletes and riders.
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.
If proven Van Avermaet could face a lengthy ban. Also called before the federation on March 13 are the riders
Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens.
CyclingTips contacted the BMC Racing Team today to ascertain whether or not Van Avermaet planned to attend the meeting as requested and, if so, how this would impact on his schedule and his participation in Milan-Sanremo.
A team spokesperson said that no information was available at this point in time.
Providing Van Avermaet attends the hearing on March 13, that would clearly rule out his participation in Tirreno-Adriatico.
His only option would be to do the first five stages of Paris-Nice, but it remains to be seen if the race organiser ASO and the UCI would agree to him starting a race he already knew he would be unable to finish.
Van Avermaet finished ninth in the 2011 edition of Milan-Sanremo. He is a former runner-up in both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders, a double winner of the Tour de Wallonie, and last year won both the Grand Prix de Wallonie and the GP Impanis-Van Petegem.
Van Avermaet has accepted he worked with Dr. Mertens but insisted he never broke rules. “I’m innocent. I am clean and pure. I haven’t done anything that was not allowed, so I’m not worried,” he said on Saturday, according to the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
“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 modern cycling for sure.”