One year ago Ag2r’s Sylvain Georges stood on the podium in California, this morning he quit the Giro after an “Adverse Analytical Finding” for Heptaminol, a banned substance.
It’s curious to see the UCI announce the news after the A-sample only has been tested and, because it’s a “specified substance,” Georges could get any ban reduced.
But perhaps the most interesting thing is that under a new code the French team could be out of the Dauphiné and Tour of Switzerland, ruining its preparation for the Tour de France. And Lampre too?
Here’s the deal. The MPCC is the Mouvement Pour Un Cyclisme Credible, a group of teams that have signed up to a stringent set of principles above and beyond the WADA Code and the UCI rules. Amongst these terms is the principle of “auto suspension” or self-suspension. You can read the rule, I’ve edited it slightly for format:
In the event that a team member « MPCC » is facing several cases of positive or incapacity imposed on its competitors, the team agrees to temporarily suspend its activity (to implement any corrective action that it deems appropriate).
Principles of self suspension:
- All teams must be stopped
- No abandonment of the team during the World Tour events.
In the last 12 months: Two positive doping tests and / or blood tests abnormal (excluding penalties for no-show and / or information not AMA). AUTO SUSPENSION: Team 8 days from the knowledge of the second control. The car suspension begins on the 1st day of the race calendar next World Tour, with the exception of the 3 Grand Tours.
The English isn’t perfect but it means a team with two positive doping tests in the last 12 months has to stop racing completely for eight days starting on the day of the next World Tour race.
- Ag2r’s Steve Houanard was caught for EPO last autumn
- The next World Tour race is the Critérium du Dauphiné which begins on Sunday 2 June
- The Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday 8 June, less than eight days after 2 June
I’ve said before on here that anyone can sign up to the MPCC and its rules. But the test comes when a team is caught out and risks punishment. Will it stick with the self-regulatory principles or will it just quit the group?
If George’s B sample comes back positive – and UCI rules insist a B sample is tested quickly during a stage race – then it will be Ag2r’s second positive within a year meaning they have to suspend themselves for eight days and therefore no Dauphiné and no Tour de Suisse. Both of these races are crucial for the pre-Tour de France preparation offering high-level racing in the Alps and being forced to sit out would substantially undermine the team. Now Ag2r could try to plead, perhaps appeal the verdict in a stalling move but the rules above don’t mention this. Instead if the rider is positive, the team is suspended.
So we’ll see what the MPCC is made of. Note it remains a grouping of teams, it has no stick to beat Ag2r into line, it is only as strong as the teams that have signed up to it.
We’ve also got news today of Lampre’s Miguel Ubeto with a positive A-sample for the dangerous GW1516 drug. But is there a second test? Well in June last year the UCI announced it was starting a bio passport prosecution against Leonardo Bertagnolli, then a rider with the Italian team. Almost 11 months later and I’ve checked the UCI website but can’t tell if Bertagnolli has been banned. Note he’s retired but that doesn’t matter, if a rider is caught on the last day of their career they still get banned. But if Bertagnolli was banned then, because Lampre-Merida is an MPCC member, this is another case where the team has to be suspended.
- Update: Bertagnolli’s case is still ongoing according to a reliable Twitter correspondent
The ball has only started rolling on this story so we can’t extrapolate too far but it’s possible to imagine riders appealing the suspension as this amounts to some collective punishment, those who have done nothing wrong risk seeing the highlight of their season compromised.
MPCC vs UCI
We could even see a team ask the UCI for help, essentially saying “we’re a World Tour team, your rules oblige us to ride.” Indeed all World Tour teams have to ride all World Tour races but they can be fined for not taking part. Is the fine the price to pay to keep to the MPCC rules? Remember ASO’s Christian Prudhomme has loudly backed the MPCC.
George’s could be cleared by the B-sample but if he fails then the MPCC rules are clear, the team has to be suspended for eight days. With spectacularly poor timing for the French team it could be blocked from vital racing and Lampre risk the same fate too. We’ll find out just how credible the MPCC is.
Thanks to Theo Maucher for alerting me to this issue
— Theo Maucher (@TheoMaucher) May 15, 2013