MILAN (VN) — Team Tinkoff-Saxo is going head-to-head with cycling’s governing body, the UCI, over the provisional suspension of its rider, Roman Kreuziger. The UCI formally suspended the Czech from racing Saturday when it caught wind that the team was trying to race him in the Tour of Poland and Vuelta a España.
“This team is fully committed to the fight against doping in sport, to the use of the biological passport, and to the application of strict anti-doping rules,” The general manager, Stefano Feltrin said in an open letter Monday to UCI president Brian Cookson.
He added that Kreuziger’s case, “should be conducted in a manner that respects the facts and proper process, guarantees proper defense right and [does] not jeopardize the team’s ability to plan properly when hiring riders and select a team to participate in a race.”
The team issued a statement before the Tour de France saying that it would pull Kreuziger, who finished fifth last year, from its roster due to biological passport problems. After attempts to explain his situation, the UCI’s expert panel said that it would go ahead with a formal case against Kreuziger.
The passport came into force in 2008. It tracks blood and urine values over time and looks for abnormalities that would indicate doping. The panel allows the athlete to explain their case, but if unsatisfactory, an anti-doping ban could follow.
Already since its introduction, the passport has stopped Franco Pellizotti, Igor Astarloa, Denis Menchov, and others. A recent case against Sky’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke put the brakes on his racing while the files were studied. In July, nearly 10 months after he stopped racing, he received a two-year ban.
Tinkoff, however, said that it wants to race its rider while the case develops and that it does not agree with the expert panel’s opinion. It showed as much when it tried to race him in this week’s Tour of Poland, saying that without a signal from the UCI, it felt it could do so.
“More than a month after that [June] statement both Roman and the team expected to be able to have him racing in Tour of Poland. After all, we have a contract with the rider and we pay him a salary to race.”
After the UCI decided to stop Kreuziger from racing, the team fired off a press release criticizing its move and saying it was “without solid evidence.”
“Tinkoff-Saxo cannot avoid criticizing the timing of this decision — as the rider and team was notified less than 24 hours before the start of [the] WorldTour race,” read the release Saturday.
“The team notes that this materially impairs its participation and that Kreuziger receives his provisional suspension without solid evidence of any wrong doing but only based on the opinion of medical experts of the UCI Anti-Doping Commission.”
The team explained in June that the UCI’s experts followed Kreuziger’s values from the 2011 season and in 2012, through the Giro d’Italia in May. He raced with Astana through 2012 and joined Tinkoff in 2013.
On June 28, 2013, Kreuziger received a letter about his passport and sent an explanation to the UCI on October 3, 2013. On May 30, 2014, the UCI started formal proceedings against the rider.
Feltrin wrote today, “What seems inexplicable to us is how UCI can decide that from a certain moment in time but also retroactively the interpretation of the rule.”
Kreuziger admitted to working with banned doctor/trainer Michele Ferrari in the past, but said that he did not dope. He also tried to explain his biological passport abnormalities.
He allowed three different experts to review his values and said they believed there were not problems. He explained that he told the team that he did not cheat and that he would fight the case.
In June, Kreuziger said, “I intend to defend myself in the appropriate quarters, even by the more expedite legal proceeding, in order to establish in the fastest possible way the truth in this matter.”
Kreuziger continues to train. He wrote on Twitter Monday morning, “Had great ride,#short #intense …Love my job…”
The case will likely drag on into the winter and beyond. If the expert panel passes the case on to the Czech Federation and the federation issues a formal ban, then the case could be appealed. Pellizotti tried to fight his case, but his fight ultimately ended in a ban.