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Amid rumours that he could be facing a lengthy – or possibly permanent – ban from the sport as a result of the pending Anti Doping Denmark investigation into professional cycling, Bjarne Riis has reportedly been suspended from the Tinkoff-Saxo team by its owner Oleg Tinkov.
Danish newspaper BT announced the news Monday, saying that recent poor performances by the team are the reason for the decision.
It points out that Riis was not present at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, a race which was one of Tinkov’s big targets for the season. The team’s designated leader there, Peter Sagan, finished just off the podium in fourth place.
Tinkov had already indicated his displeasure with what he said were unsatisfactory results, stating via Twitter that the team needed to achieve more.
Riis was the former owner of the team but handed over control to Tinkov in December 2013.
According to BT, the riders were not told why Riis was not present at Milan-San Remo. However the newspaper said that an email sent by Tinkov’s CEO Stefano Feltrin on Monday morning said that Riis was suspended.
Feltrin has declined comment, saying that he won’t speak about rumours and that either Riis or Tinkov himself need to speak on the subject rather than him. However BT said that neither were available for comment.
According to a report recently in L’Equipe, Tinkov had demanded that directeur sportif Steven de Jongh was demoted due to what he said was the team’s poor performances. Its sole wins this season have come from Alberto Contador, who took stage three and finished second overall to Chris Froome in the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol, and Sagan.
The latter took stage six in Tirreno-Adriatico.
While BT states that poor performances are the reason for Riis’s current predicament, it remains to be seen if Tinkov’s decision is actually based on the Anti Doping Denmark investigation.
CyclingTips contacted ADD last week but the organisation said that it was unable to comment on the pending report or on its likely publication date.
Riis has admitted using banned substances during his career, and has also been accused by past riders such as Tyler Hamilton of tolerating and facilitating the use of banned substances on the team.