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  • winkybiker

    Paolini should go back to the forest and his first career as a lumberjack.

  • Robert

    Just hope the guy gets some help…from the accounts of the situation that lead to him using, he certainly seemed to be in a bad place.

  • Homer Thompson

    Cocaine use, with a sleeping pill addiction, is less serious than EPO and a blood boosting substance?

    • Samaway

      That wasn’t their decision, just that they are not performance enhancers…

    • jules

      just because something is serious doesn’t mean it’s automatically best dealt with by issuing penalties

  • Luke Bartlett

    I agree with the decision. For example, in the AFL, players are given strikes for illicit drugs which are not ‘performance enhancing’. I hope Paolini can get the help he obviously needs during his suspension; reading Marco Pantani’s book, and we all know how that ended.

  • Nitro

    There’s UCI’s Disciplinary Commission, there’s the WADA code, there’s the UCI regulations, and then there’s the court of public opinion.

    When is someone in a high enough position in the sport going to realise, and take responsibility for, the fact that incidents like this and the way they’re handled are the (recurring) equivalent of the OJ Simpson case?

    In the court of public opinion, the original OJ case just made the (entire) system look dumb…

    There’s no parallels between the cases, but the point I’m trying to make is that there are the power plays and the organisational intricacies and regulations, but at the bottom line, this just isn’t a good look, and I’m not sure the “big boys” get the “big picture”…. They’re certainly not acting as if they do…

  • jules

    just a small point Shane, the WADA code has provisions that apply to both individual athletes and teams. I’m pretty sure team-based doping is an offence under the WADA code. however, I’d say the hurdle for finding a team guilty under the WADA code is higher than for the UCI regulation that makes teams vicariously liable for team members’ doping. team-based doping under the WADA code means doping overseen by a team (officials). so you’re correct that they apply differently.

    I think the UCI has applied the regulation appropriately here. the intent of the regulation is to give the UCI more teeth in holding teams accountable for doping ostensibly committed by individual riders, but for which a pattern of doping suggests the team has been either encouraging it or turning a blind eye.

    this circumstance seems different to me. the type of intervention needed by a team (Katusha) to manage Paolini’s insomnia and associated substance abuse is different to that required to manage performance-based doping, e.g. EPO. so the detection of two quite different categories of doping doesn’t amount to strong evidence of a systemic failure by Katusha to manage either type – i.e. 1 of each.

    furthermore, the issue of elite athlete insomnia and sleeping pill abuse is well established to be endemic in the pro peloton. while the abuse of EPO has (maybe?) been addressed to a degree where individual cases can and should be punished on an individual basis, that is not the case for sleeping pills. if you’re going to hold Katusha accountable for failing to manage that in its team – then by rights so should all the other teams be similarly held to account.

    the use of cocaine by Paolini is arguably a point of differentiation between his and other riders’ sleeping pill abuse, but really it’s part of the same problem. the substance should not be the focus.

    • Dave

      But the purpose, ostensibly, of the rule that says teams shall (not *may*) be suspended for 15-45 days is not to be a sanction, but a temporary benching for the purpose of the management to spend some time focusing on getting their house in order without the distraction of races.

      Don’t forget this is actually the third positive in a year (2x EPO, 1x white line fever) and that this is the second time the rule has been bent in their favour in the last year. The team suspension rule refers to doping notifications, not samples, and so they should be suspended for the Caruso and Vorganov EPO positives even if the Paolini test was ignored.

      It will be interesting to see what loophole they come up with the third time – because there will be a next time.

      We’re not hearing much from Jonathan Vaughters about this, I wonder why?

      • jules

        I just don’t believe Paolini’s cocaine habit is relevant to why this rule was introduced. You can argue it in procedural terms “it’s still a positive” etc. but I tend to look at regulations more from the perspective of their underlying purpose, not just the mechanical interpretation. I’m unsure a suspension here would serve much useful purpose.

        • Dave

          That sounds like a perfect example of the reason there is a provision allowing an application for the suspension to be lifted once the team has conducted an internal investigation or called in external auditors.

          Even if the Paolini positive is ignored, they should still be benched for a few weeks over the Caruso and Vorganov tests, both of which were EPO and show there is a long-term problem at Katusha.

          • jules

            I have more sympathy for your argument on the double EPO positives. I’m arguing specifically around how it is best to treat what amounts to a rider health/welfare issue that involves banned substances. The AFL does a decent job with its 3 strikes policy for illicit (not performance-enhancing) drug use – not perfect, but at least they recognise it as a health issue, not a cheating one.

            • Dave

              I’d respect that ‘cocaine is not real doping’ argument a lot more if it was merely banned under each sport’s recreational drug policy (i.e. banned because it’s socially unacceptable) and not included in the WADA list of banned stimulants.

              An AFL player testing positive for cocaine on match day like Paolini did would come under the WADA rules, not the AFL’s recreational drug policy. Does cycling even have a recreational drug policy?

              • jules

                the original CT article states “a rider can prove the substance was taken prior to starting the race and that the traces have remained in his system until then, he could potentially achieve a reduction in his suspension.”

                I suspect Paolini is going (coming?) down, as he has used coke in-competition. the fact that he wasn’t intending to use it as a performance-enhancer (in the conventional sense) doesn’t matter much under the WADA code. but there’s the clear distinction between Paolini being subject to the WADA code and Katusha being subject to the separate UCI regulation that we are discussing.


  • Larry @CycleItalia

    Pretty simple to me – Androni = small fry with limited legal means to challenge UCI. Katusha = big team with big influence and legal means.
    Same as it ever was – Katusha beat the UCI back in 2013 after being kicked out of the top-tier. I hope Paolini can get help with his addictions, but he ought to hang up the wheels – he’s almost 40 now.

  • George Darroch

    It’s about time he was allowed to race. He’s cleaner than the rest of his team and the UCI has no issue with that.

  • Mikael_L

    So if the coke was actually only in his bloodstream in the lead up to the tour, I wonder how that tainted blood got back in his system during the tour?

  • Ed Goss

    I might be alone in this but I’d say he was using it as a performance enhancer. We know he was using cocaine to counterbalance his sleeping pill addiction ( an addiction the team knew about). That means, to me, that if he hadn’t been using cocaine he would have been half asleep on the bike all day and his performance would have suffered. Using cocaine to overcome that IS performance enhancement. Did the team doctors not think through the consequences of the sleeping pill addiction? What we do about it is a different question – I think he needs treatment, and any sanctions should be at the team level – not at the rider level.


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