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Sport cycling: The tour in sight

06:50  03 june  2020
06:50  03 june  2020 Source:   sueddeutsche.de

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The doping researchers have old samples from the France tour 2017 examined again. Only now can a certain substance be detected. In focus: the best drivers.

Aim of the Tour

There are many aspects that made the Tour de France 2017 memorable. The Grand Départ in Düsseldorf was the - not particularly successful - attempt to make cycling in Germany more popular again. The German sprinter Marcel Kittel completed his last strong year and achieved five stage wins. And in the overall ranking there was the tightest race of the Sky / Ineos era and Christopher Froome only distanced the competition in the final time trial.

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Now the scenario draws up that the 104th edition of the Tour of France could be combined with another unsightly fact: the first positive proof of doping on a tour for a long time. Because, as the weekend reported by the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, the organization CADF, which is responsible for the anti-doping fight in cycling, is once again devoting the doping samples from 2016 and 2017. And the focus is on the 2017 France Tour.

"Thanks to new information, we have identified relevant samples and carried out the first analyzes," a CADF spokesman told the paper. There was no answer to a SZ request for details and scope of the retest program.

It is about a substance that can only be detected now

The latest research is obviously in the context of the so-called Operation Phlebotomy of German and Austrian authorities. In February 2019, a suspected blood doping network involving an Erfurt sports doctor was exposed. In addition to various winter sports enthusiasts, eight cycling professionals from five countries have already been exposed as customers, including the former German sprinter Danilo Hondo. The ARD reported in December that two other Germans were suspected of belonging to the ring; one of them is still active. At the same time, at the end of last year, the World Cycling Association (UCI) announced that based on information and documents from the bloodletting affair, it had asked its formally independent anti-doping unit CADF to analyze samples from 2016 and 2017. And that's what the CADF started with in the past few weeks.

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When reviewing the samples again, the focus should not be on blood doping by customers of the Erfurt sports doctor, but on a substance that was not yet detectable at the time and was used in the peloton. In the meantime, the doping control laboratories could detect this preparation.

The tour itself gladly awarded itself the label of being clean

Now this process should accompany the restart after the corona-related break. The doping issue has been immanent in cycling for decades, and last but not least the year 2017 also showed how much it is to this day, despite all the opposite assertions. Shortly before the tour of France, the Portuguese André Cardoso, who was intended to help the favorite Alberto Contador, caught the eye with the classic Epo. And in the autumn, the four-time tour winner Froome was caught with a high dose of salbutamol - even if this ultimately led to a much-criticized acquittal because of his asthma suffering and new, elastic tolerance limits.

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The tour itself, however, liked to label itself up to the end as having been clean. In fact, there has only been one specific and somewhat strange case during the tour over the past seven years: a cocaine discovery by the Italian Luca Paolini (2015).

While Operation Phlebotomy has so far exposed professionals from the second or third row, the latest round of post-tests should also worry any manipulators from the best. Because the key question is which and how many samples the CADF now looks at again. Respectively: Which one you can look at again at all because they are still there. At a major event like the tour with almost 200 starters, a few hundred samples are taken within the three weeks. Basically, according to the general CADF strategy, only the samples of the best drivers are kept - as well as the samples that are noticeable in a "risk assessment". The cycling organizations do not say how many samples from 2017 are still available.

There is still a sensitive issue in sports policy involved in these developments. The CADF, whose partly persistent work has recently displeased some people in the scene, has to give up its mandate. Instead, the anti-doping management of 2021 is taken over by the ITA agency, which is responsible for many sports and whose establishment was decisively promoted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, there are great doubts about their independence - if only because their five-member board has two IOC members and the president of the Association of All Summer Sports Associations.

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