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by Shane Stokes
June 11, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
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Responding to the LottoNL-Jumbo team’s criticism of it over its regulation relating to an enforced rest for riders with low cortisol levels, as well as the squad’s decision to resign, the MPCC anti-doping body has defended its position and asked why the team didn’t keep closer tabs on its riders.
“More than 1,300 cortisol level tests have been performed on riders of MPCC team members since 2009,” said the MPCC in a statement. “Only seven samples revealed unusually low cortisol levels in that period.
“The Board is surprised to observe that the cortisol level of a rider on inhaled corticosteroids treatment has not been better monitored by LottoNL-Jumbo medical staff in the days prior to 2015 Giro, especially in the light of a first case of unusually low cortisol level faced by the team at the start of 2013 Vuelta.”
That earlier case was that of Theo Bos, who was unable to start that Spanish Grand Tour in August of that year.
The more recent issue that cropped up with the team was that of the New Zealand rider George Bennett, who ended up missing out on the Giro d’Italia after the same tests were done.
These examinations are carried out by the UCI prior to each Grand Tour. MPCC members must follow a regulation stating that any rider with low cortisol levels are rested.
Bennett said on May 28 that his low levels had been traced back to an anti-allergy, anti-asthma medication he is allowed take.
In its response, the MPCC made clear what the regulation entails. “This stipulates that ‘in case of unusually low cortisol levels, competition will resume after an additional 8-day rest minimum and back-to-normal cortisol levels.’
“This article has been existing since the establishment of the movement in 2007. Any team which wants to be part of MPCC fully acknowledges the full internal regulation, which is yearly approved by the General Assembly in the presence of movement’s members.”
It said that this regulation was unanimously approved at its general assembly on October 21 of last year; it also noted that outside of that meeting, team physicians asked for the number of tests during the season to be increased.
“These same physicians also asked international expert opinions to support the recommendation of French experts Yves Le Bouc, Martine Duclos and Michel Guinot (doctors appointed by the French Cycling Association) in order to reach a shared position on corticosteroids use,” the MPCC continued.
“In the beginning of April 2015, U.S. endocrinologist expert Jonathan Ownby reinforced the position adopted by MPCC members. Other opinions are expected soon by the MPCC. Like any other team member, LottoNL-Jumbo recommended the opinion of an international expert of their choice, who never replied to MPCC’s requests.”
In its earlier statement, the LottoNL-Jumbo team called on a new agreement whereby a low test would be followed by other follow-up tests, so that riders are not excluded on the basis of one sample alone.
The MPCC said that its latest get-together has ruled out any such change, at least in the short term.
“According to MPCC Board members meeting in Lyon on 8th of June 2015, there is no reason to grant LottoNL-Jumbo’s request, to avoid proceeding to cortisol level tests on the coming races,” it said. “No change in the internal regulation can be adopted before the next General Assembly planned in October 2015.
“In conclusion, the MPCC Board reminds that the health of the riders and full respect of the rules abided voluntarily by the members remain the fundamental principles of the movement.”