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It’s been a rough week for British Cycling.
Earlier this week, technical director Shane Sutton resigned due to accusations of sexism and discrimination. Next, an inquiry was launched to see if the cycling federation was selling its lottery-funded equipment for profit.
And on Thursday, The Daily Mail reported that Simon Yates, one of the leading riders to come through the federation, had failed a drug test.
Yates, who rides for Orica-GreenEdge, tested positive at Paris-Nice. The banned substance Yates tested positive for was not identified in the Daily Mail’s report, however his team listed it as Terbutaline, a bronchial dilator, which Orica-GreenEdge claims he has taken with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).
Terbutaline is listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a “beta-2 agonist” — a drug that relaxes smooth muscle in the lung and dilates bronchial passages — and its use requires lung-function tests, as well as a TUE.
“The substance was given to Simon Yates in the form an asthma inhaler and accordingly, this was noted by the team doctor on the Doping Control Form, signed at the time of the test,” read an Orica-GreenEdge team statement. “The substance was given in an ongoing treatment of Simon Yates’ documented asthma problems. However, in this case the team doctor made an administrative error by failing to apply for the TUE required for the use of this treatment.
“The use of Terbutaline without a current TUE is the reason it has been flagged as an adverse analytical finding. This is solely based on a human error that the doctor in question has taken full responsibility for. There has been no wrongdoing on Simon Yates’ part. The team takes full responsibility for this mistake and wishes to underline their support for Simon during this process.”
In September 2013, the European Respiratory Journal published a report titled “Inhalation of terbutaline increases anaerobic performance and muscle strength in well-trained endurance athletes,” finding that “Supratherapeutic inhalation of terbutaline provides an ergogenic effect on muscle strength and anaerobic performance, but decrease endurance due to side effects.”
Alongside his twin brother Adam, the 23-year-old Yates has been rated as one of the brightest prospects in British cycling, and was a candidate to be named to the British team for the Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
Simon Yates has not raced since April 8, when he abandoned the Tour of the Basque Country, due to a crash. Adam Yates is on the start list for the Tour de Yorkshire, which begins Friday.
A statement issued Thursday night by a British Cycling spokesman to Daily Mail confirmed that the federation had been notified by the UCI of “a potential anti-doping rule violation against a British rider based on an analysis of a sample provided in competition,” adding, “as with any other doping violation charge at this level, those proceedings will be managed independently of British Cycling by the UCI. It would be inappropriate to comment further until the process has been completed.”
Yates won the world championship points race on the track in 2013. He turned pro with Orica in 2014, and last year finished in the top five overall at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco and Critérium du Dauphiné. In March, he finished seventh at Paris-Nice, where he failed a drug test.
The news comes just after a stellar spring classics campaign for Orica-GreenEdge, which won Paris-Roubaix, with Australian Mathew Hayman, and took a close second-place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Swiss rider Michael Albasini.
This was not the first positive test for the Australian Orica-GreenEdge team; in June 2014, Daryl Impey was notified by Cycling South Africa that he had returned an “adverse analytical finding” for the banned diuretic Probenicid at an in-competition drug test at the country’s national time trial championships. He was later cleared of doping charges after a Durban pharmacist took responsibility for contaminating empty gelatine capsules that Impey had bought.
In its statement, the Orica team said it is “concerned by the leak of this information” and has no further comments “until there has been a full evaluation made of the documentation, statements and evidence that the team and Simon Yates are now submitting to the UCI in order to clarify everything.”