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by Neal Rogers
February 10, 2016
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced Tuesday that its Disciplinary Commission had determined that conditions for a suspension of Team Katusha had not been met.
Citing article 7.12.1 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, which states that a second case of an adverse analytical finding within 12 months calls for a suspension of between 14-15 days, the UCI announced that the team would not be suspended from competition because Luca Paolini’s 2015 positive test for cocaine was “not related to an intention to influence sporting performance but was rather taken on a ‘recreational’ basis.”
On July 10, 2015, Paolini was notified of the presence of cocaine relating to a sample taken during an in-competition test at the Tour de France. A disciplinary procedure before the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal is ongoing; Paolini has admitted his cocaine use and addiction to sleeping pills.
On February 5, Eduard Vorganov was notified of the presence of Meldonium in a sample collected during an out-of-competition control on January 14. Vorganov is provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair.
“The text of the article [7.12.1] refers to the fact that the decision must take into account ‘all the circumstances of the case,'” the statement reads. “With regard to the [Paolini case, it has been] established that the rider’s taking of cocaine was not related to an intention to influence sporting performance but was rather taken on a recreational’ basis.
“In this context, applying a suspension under article 7.12.1 when one of the two cases of Adverse Analytical Finding relates to [the use of] a social drug cannot be reconciled with the aim of the article. Even if, strictly speaking, such a case falls within the application of the anti-doping rules for the rider concerned, the imposition of negative consequences for the whole team would be inappropriate and disproportionate.
“It is understood that the intention of the article is to impose negative consequences on teams that lack control of doping for sporting purposes by their athletes, or if even worse scenarios exist, and/or if teams are not doing enough to fight such doping. The President of the Commission has expressed that he could share the view that it would be disproportionate to suspend a team on the basis that one of its members [uses] a social drug, the consumption of which is not related to sporting performance.”
Essentially, the UCI Disciplinary Commission deemed that Paolini’s cocaine use, while banned in-competiton as a stimulant, was being used recreationally, and that a team suspension would be disproportionate as his cocaine use was not intended to enhance performance.
A 45-day suspension would have meant the team of classics specialist Alexander Kristoff would miss Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and Milano-Sanremo, while Spanish stage-racer Joaquim Rodriguez would miss Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya.
Kristoff won stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday.
This marks the second time in a year that Katusha had dodged a suspension. Last year, following Paolini’s positive test, the team was notified that Giampaolo Caruso had a positive A sample for EPO, from the retesting of an out-of-competition sample taken on March 27, 2012.
The UCI’s Head of Communications Sébastien Gillot then said that the second positive wouldn’t fall under the new regulation based on “the non-retroactivity of law principle,” as the Anti-Doping Rule calling for a team’s suspension did not exist in 2012.
Vorganov’s is the eighth doping case for Katusha since its inception in 2009. Others include Christian Pfannberger, Antonio Colom, Alexandr Kolobnev, Denis Menchov, Denis Galimzyanov, Caruso, and Paolini.
Katusha team owner Igor Makarov is president of both the Russian federation and the Russian Global Cycling Project, which is known to have a board of officials close to President Vladimir Putin. Makarov became one of the wealthiest men in the world after founding gas giant Itera in the early 1990s. The multi-billion dollar empire controls a substantial portion of Russia’s natural gas reserves. In 2008 he bought Oleg Tinkov’s second-division squad and turned it into Katusha, Russia’s only WorldTour team.
Makarov also holds a seat on the UCI’s powerful Management Committee, and was instrumental in unseating former UCI president Pat McQuaid. That relationship soured when the UCI’s License Commission ruled that Katusha should have its 2013 WorldTour License revoked on ethical grounds. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the decision, but Makarov quickly became vocal in his support for Brian Cookson, even going so far as to compiling a dossier of testimonies and allegations of corruption at the UCI under McQuaid.