Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov has been provisionally suspended following a positive test for EPO. In a press release issued by the UCI, the Russian rider was caught in an out of competition test on 22 March.
Here’s a look at the what happens next and why his team just can’t seem to get any good news.
First remember he’s innocent for now as this is only a positive A-sample. When tested, athletes provide a urine sample and this is divided into two pots and then each is closed with a special seal on the pot. The A sample is tested and if all is well, the B sample is destroyed.
However if the A sample has a nasty surprise like we’ve got here then a chain of events begins. Technically the A sample isn’t “positive”, rather we have an “adverse analytical finding” to use the jargon. The UCI will check the athlete isn’t taking the banned substance as medication but in this instance with EPO no therapeutic use is allowed (EPO is a blood boosting hormone that increases the number of oxygen carrying red blood cells). So we go to UCI rule 206:
the UCI shall promptly notify the Rider of (a) the Adverse Analytical Finding; (b) the Rider’s right to the analysis of the B Sample under the conditions of these Anti-Doping Rules; (c) the scheduled date, time and place for the B Sample analysis; (d) the opportunity for the Rider and/or the Rider’s representative to attend the B Sample opening and analysis; and (e) the Rider’s right to request copies of the A and B Sample laboratory documentation package which includes information as required by the International Standard for Laboratories. When the UCI is satisfied that the Rider has been notified, a copy of the notification is sent to the Rider’s National Federation and National Anti-Doping Organization and to WADA.
To summarise, the rider is told and the countdown to test the B sample starts. The rider has a chance to put their hands up and confess but such noble behaviour is rare and dare I say it, irrational. See the “Beating the B test” paragraph below. If they are innocent then the B sample will clear them. This B sample must be tested within seven days of the UCI being informed of the adverse A sample, here’s UCI rule 213 on the timing:
The analysis of the B Sample shall take place in a period of 7 (seven) working days starting the first working day following notification by the laboratory of the A Sample Adverse Analytical Finding to the UCI. There shall be no right to an adjournment of the date. The B Sample analysis shall be valid, even if the notification under article 206 did not reach the Rider in time or the Rider was unable to attend or to be represented.
If the B sample comes back positive then strictly speaking we have the “positive test”. The UCI instructs the national federation to act. In this case Russian Cycling would be ordered to rule on the case. But today Galimzyanov is only provisionally suspended and could well be cleared. Note this happened to Chilean rider just a few weeks ago: Luis Mansilla had an A-sample show traces of EPO but the B-sample cleared him.
Beating the B test
Galimzyanov is innocent for now so the following section is more hypothetical and explanatory. It is stupid getting caught for EPO. It’s dumb in the first place to use it but it is also something where crooks in the sport have been using EPO for over 20 years know and there’s considerable amount of knowledge when it comes to its use and abuse.
Gone are the giant doses, it seems riders like “microdoses” these days. By taking tiny amounts they know they can manipulate blood levels without leaving large quantities of the banned substances sloshing around in their veins or urine. Better still apparently the testers can be thwarted… thanks to tap water.
“If I would have drank 1 liter of water after the injection, I would now be preparing myself for the Giro”
That’s BMC Racing’s Thomas Frei who was rousted for EPO and promptly sacked. He confessed and didn’t ask for the B-sample. During the press conference he said that he’d been told to drink water to avoid being caught. It’s that simple.
I’m also well informed that the B sample is generally the smaller of the two samples and when testing is done the larger the quantity of urine the better. So the strategy to be employed by any cheating rider here is simple: drink water and if caught try a mix of denial and prayer and you might scrape through.
Aged 25 Denis Galimzyanov is a sprinter who emerged last year with a win in the Three Days of De Panne after several early season placings. He went on to start the Tour de France and took more wins in the late season including Paris-Bruxelles and a stage of the Tour of Beijing. This year he has been up and down, winning in the Circuit de la Sarthe earlier this month but crashing out whilst in the overall lead. His hobbies include papier-mâché. I did a fuller profile of him last year, where you can see childhood pics and learn about his classical piano training.
We should get news of the B-sample within a week, if not sooner given the press release today probably doesn’t come straight after the positive test in the lab. If he’s cleared it’s reason to cheer although it’ll leave a mark on Galimzyanov’s name.
Either way it’s not great for Katusha. Since the team was launched results have not matched the budget. They’ve had an EPO positive already when Christian Pfannberger was rumbled before the Giro in 2009. Last year the team got more negative headlines than good ones after allegations that Sacha Kolobnev “sold” the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège to arch rivals Astana and their captain Vinoukourov. Similarly Kolobnev was ejected from the Tour de France following a doping story only to be cleared… but the good news barely got a mention. The lack of results saw Andre Tchmil moved aside and new management brought in.
Bizarrely the UCI recommended German Hans-Michael Holczer to take over. He left the sport after his Gerolsteiner team imploded: several riders had tested positive under his watch but he didn’t seem to want to know or to care. He thought it was mere coincidence that Levi Leipheimer was staying at the same hotel as infamous sports doctor Michele Ferrari. At one point the UCI tried to get him to “rest” Leipheimer for highly suspicious blood values but Holczer refused as he couldn’t jeopardise the hunt for a new sponsor. The team reached its nadir in the 2008 Tour de France when Bernhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher tested positive for CERA, a derivative version of EPO. Holczer left the sport, picking up his old career as a maths teacher.
Today’s headlines are the latest bad news story to hit the team. Styled as the “Russian Global Cycling Project”, Katusha is named after a patriotic song from Soviet times which has also given its name to a Russian rocket launcher. No matter how hard some work the team looks more like a North Korean missile.