Denis Galimzyanov suspended pending EPO test

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.

What next?
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.

40 thoughts on “Denis Galimzyanov suspended pending EPO test”

      • There are also other powerful songs of soviet Russia epoch: Smuglianka, Kalinka, Ociy cernye, The battle is going again

        Great CD of Red Army Choir:

        That Gali is from Sverdlovsk says me nothing.

        I am from xUSSR Republic (you can make ip whois and found from which one), but USSR broke up when I had 3 years old.

        My mother language is Russian and I grow up on Russian and orthodoxy culture, but unfortunately now I catch myself on thought, that have a little bit of Russophobia.

  1. Does EPO even help you sprint? No. It might help get you to the sprint or maybe leave you with a few more matches at the end, but I can’t see it helping your sprint. So then this positive is really dumb.

    • As you could see last year Katusha riders had problems with “general physical preparation”, was hard just to stick in peloton on the final phases of the race.

  2. It is interesting to note that the president of the Russian federation is also head of katusha. Igor Makarov. So perhaps they will take a lenient view.

    • The Russian Cycling Federation address is: 117209, Моscow, Sevastopolsky Prospekt, 28, Bldg. 1

      The address of Itera’s corporate headquarters is: 117209, Моscow, Sevastopolsky Prospekt, 28, Bldg. 1

    • Yes, and Igor is also a member of the UCI Management Committee and Chairman of Board of Directors of ITERA International Group of Companies. I agree that they will likely come from a sympathetic point of view.

      The fact that the UCI itself recommended Holczer to be GM for Katusha speaks volumes (what else is new?); and this came about AFTER Holczer ran the corrupt Gerolsteiner team and refused the UCI’s request to “rest” Leipheimer because of “highly suspicious blood values.”

      This team’s management is rotten to the core.

  3. “Results don’t match the budget” – true if you’re talking about race wines, etc. But it seems the purpose of this team might be more about something else, based on the interesting “business” relationships and programs you’ve outlined here in the past. It’s hard for me to want to see Oscar Freire do well while on this team…to me there’s just something creepy and sinister about the whole thing.

    • “Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.” A picture’s worth a thousand words, and these monkeys define Hans-Michael Holczer perfectly. Again, I say, rotten to the core.

      The UCI is so ignorant to think that we fans won’t notice when they recommend a corrupt, careless arse such as Holczer to run Katusha after the Gerolsteiner fiasco. Obviously the UCI cow-tows to Katusha’s unscrupulous management, or at least Holczer.

  4. Say the B sample comes back clear, he still had EPO in his A sample. Does that not mean he is using it and has just got lucky? How else would it be there? Surely it’s presence means he’s cheating.

    • It could contamination by the lab. The B sample can be checked in front of an expert nominated by the athlete and the athlete themselves. This way the defendant can be sure due process was followed in front of their eyes.

    • And remember, the B-sample is a smaller amount of urine, so the A-sample is more likely to come up positive. I think that both samples should be tested identically by truly independent labs. I also think that both samples should contain the same amount of urine.

  5. In the UK, after a positive A test, the athlete(at their own expense) can have the B sample tested at any drugs test lab in the world. Im pretty certain this is a carbon copy of the WADA procedure, to be honest this very rarely happens.

    The amount of the 2 samples is irellevent, there is one sample which is then split down for the A and B pot, the A pot sample needs to be bigger as it is then split down further in the lab so it can be tested for different substances. Should a B pot test be needed it will only be tested for that particular substance, so only a smaller amount is required.

    Hope that helps. Great blog as always 🙂

  6. Influences and values of the Old Soviet Union (USSR) persist today throughout some countries in Eastern Europe. Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine are just three examples of such. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many of these nations suffer horrific poverty, corrupt governance, dead economies and so on.

    Unsportsmanlike practices were widely practiced in Communist nations of the past. The East Germans and Soviet athletes were unknowingly injected with PEDs and given pills that were said to be vitamin pills (they were steroids and other PEDs). Many athletes were given this regimen starting at age 13. No surprise that the long-term effects of such drug abuse took a heavy toll on athletes — many suffered horrible organ failures and many died young.

    While in college back in the 80s, I wrote a paper discussing the sport practices of Soviet athletes, which included their coaches, doctors and associated staff. It is widely known that there was rampant use of steroids and other banned substances by these athletes [not to pinpoint EG and the Soviets as the only nation cheating in sport]. Cheating was also prevalent in China, and some of these government-run programs gave athletes no choices — they were forced into programs and given PEDs without their knowledge. Systematic, broad-scale abuse of athletes was practiced without regard for health and long-term effects. Their only goal was to win as many gold medals as possible and establish “world dominance.”

    I suspect that the older generations of men running teams like Katusha have continued with their indoctrinated philosophies and (lack of) values and ethics. Having been involved in sport during the peak years of winning while doped in the Soviet Union, I suspect that these unethical practices are still seen as a way to win, risking their athlete’s reputations, lives and careers.

    I do not make a blanket statement about all management, but there still are many involved in our sport who should be kicked to the curb.

    • Sadly, there are plenty of non-Soviets with the same attitude as well. Few seem to really be interested in actually BEING clean (whether it’s doping or other cheating/corruption) vs the many who would like the APPEARANCE of a clean sport. I still remember the “I’m shocked…” attitude of ol’ JM LeBlanc as the Festina scandal exploded around him back in 1998. While WADA’s doing a good job on the doping front, progress on the corruption side of things seems to be zero. It’s probably no worse than FIFA but with a lower world-wide profile, these crooks may be able to get away with more since perhaps there’s less overall scrutiny?

  7. Inner Ring:
    You have posted a lot on what appear to be clear indications of corruption at the UCI. Why are you the only one, really highlighting this? Where are the other media? No offense, but the UCI seems potentially more corrupt than FIFA and the IOC at this point. What is so frustrating, is where are the Cycling federations of the Western, democratic countries in all of this? At some point, if Britain, France, Australia, the US, Canada, Italy, Spain (errrr….never mind on that one) Germany all openly left the UCI, would this not force the IOC to consider whether a new, less corrupt organization (with the majority of the World’s best cyclists licensed under this new organization) be a way to break free of Lord McQuaid and his cronies.

    And finally – you have highlighted so often what looks like clear indications that payoffs are being made for the UCI to make and/or support decisions that put egg on the face of the UCI, that you must default to Occam’s Razor is the only position one can accept. You have not officially stated it overtly, but is the UCI now nothing more than a racket used to enrich those lucky enough to be in the club?

    • Occam’s Razor still involves speculation. I just know the UCI can act to stop itself being exposed to risks of looking bad as well as protecting itself from abuse.

      If you’re concerned about this, email your national federation. Look up the President and drop them an email to ask where they stand. For example are they aware of how the UCI doesn’t seem to have adequate mechanisms in place to handle even such obvious conflicts of interest.

  8. Is Katusha still doing that whole “if you get caught doping you pay five times your annual salary to the team” thing? I remember there was some pushback from riders when Katusha wanted to implement it, but I never heard the outcome.

    • I think this has been dropped. Rightly so since it is illegal and disproportionate and riders rarely dope in isolation, if they feel the need to use these things they are not being supported by team management willing to provide the best of (clean) sports science.

  9. Why has this even been made public? Would it not be fair to report this after AND when his “B” sample comes back positive? The UCI not following its own rules once again?

    In the mean time he is mocked, ridiculed and guilty in the court of public opinion.

    I say report the news. Wait for the all the facts, then let the hammer fall.

  10. Would there be any way to tell if this is ‘classic’ EPO doping (ie, using EPO as a performance enhancement in it’s own right) or the new style where microdoses of EPO are used to mask blood doping, as highlighted by Michael Ashenden recently?

  11. Here’s a link that provides clear information about the relationships of blood doping, EPO microdosing, and the trends that appear when analyzed by experts, per Michael Ashenden:

    Galimzyanov’s admission doesn’t distinguish his particular reason; however as a masking agent is the most likely because there’s no test – as of yet – established to discover blood-doping of one’s own blood. From the patterns of microdosing, this can be inferred and likely would have, hence the admission.

    Since the components of samples are separated into components of red blood cells and plasma, it’s likely that hydration will not mask synthetic forms of EPO nor the plasticizers in contact with blood doping bags. It may dilute concentrations but it still puts one on the radar of the experts; so the test of March 22 was likely a targeted test.

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