Frank Schleck Faces Two Year Ban

Frank Schleck

A few points to clear up over the Frank Schleck case after the news today the B-sample is also positive. I’ve had questions by email and Twitter and it’s easier to respond here to avoid duplication and I have more than 140 characters available.

What next?
A hearing awaits in Luxembourg and given the two positive A and B samples he is almost certain to be found guilty of an “anti-doping violation”.

I thought Xipamide wasn’t banned?
All diuretics are banned. Here’s S5 from the WADA prohibited list from which the UCI relies on, I’ve abbreviated it:

S5. Diuretics and Other Masking Agents
Masking agents are prohibited. They include:

diuretics…and other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s)

So even if the product or molecule is not named on the list it is still banned if it has the same structure or effect.

What then?
A two year ban awaits. The substance in question is a “specified substance” under the WADA Code but this only means the athlete can reduce the ban in certain circumstances. Here’s WADA and UCI rule, with my emphasis:

Elimination or Reduction of the Period of Ineligibility for Specified Substances under Specific Circumstances
295. Where a Rider or Rider Support Personnel can establish how a Specified Substance entered his body or came into his possession and that such Specified Substance was not intended to enhance the Rider’s sport performance or mask the use of a performance-enhancing substance, the period of Ineligibility for a first violation found in article 293 shall be replaced with the following: at a minimum, a reprimand and no period of Ineligibility from future Events, and at a maximum, two (2) years of Ineligibility. To justify any elimination or reduction, the License-Holder must produce corroborating evidence in addition to his word which establishes to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing panel the absence of an intent to enhance sport performance or mask the use of a performance-enhancing substance. The License-Holder’s degree of fault shall be the criterion considered in assessing any reduction of the period of Ineligibility.

So whilst Schleck is saying the ingestion is accidental, it’s not enough to claim this, evidence must be provided. We could see the Luxembourg authorities be clement and offer a reduced ban to their “big fish” but they have little scope for that and if they tried this, the UCI and WADA would likely appeal.

It is similar to the Contador case where the Spaniard spent time and a lot of money but all along was incapable of offering any satisfying proof to support his contaminated steak hypothesis.

What then?
We could then see Schleck appeal any verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But I don’t see how or why. He has a positive A and B test against him and no proof of poisoning. In the absence of the proof he’s doomed and will be eligible to return to the sport in July 2014.

You could argue Contador just played for time, laying siege to the UCI with an army of lawyers which allowed him to bank a giant salary, keep racing and present the illusion of trying to fight the ban, even if it was totally futile. Schleck could try this technique but unlike Contador, he has yet to claim a firm source of the contamination.

Anything else?
There are two more consequences:

  • His results from the Tour from Stage 13 onwards will be disqualified but this won’t impact Radioshack’s standing in the team prize
  • If found guilty of an anti-doping violation he will be fired from his team

Longer term we will see what his brother does. The two have been inseparable for years but must now face a different future. There’s also a wider fall out, the sport keeps trying to escape the dark spectre of doping but the headlines generated from this case will only give potential sponsors more reasons to fund a tennis tournament.

52 thoughts on “Frank Schleck Faces Two Year Ban”

  1. I’ve forgotten who said it but somebody mentioned that Radioshack might be disqualified from the team prize as a result of one of their riders testing positive. Guessing from what you say that’s not the case though.

  2. Just a clarification,when you say:
    “His results from the Tour from Stage 13 onwards will be disqualified but this won’t impact Radioshack’s standing in the team prize”
    Do you mean that the times he did for those stages, that went towards the team time calculated on that day, still stand although the placing as an individual won’t count?

  3. do we know how much was in his system, was it tiny like contadors so he wouldn’t have known he’d taken it?? or a proper dose so he would have complanied of stommic problems?

      • Bear in mind, a high dosage for this diuretic is about 40mg. Once taken, it’ll be diluted through about 5l of blood. So even at peak concentration, you’re looking at about 8 mg/l. With a half-life of 6 to 8 hours, you’re looking at just 1 mg/l after 24 hours, and a miniscule circa 60 µg/l after 48 hours. Source for dosages & half-life: wikipedia, which of course might not be right ;), but if they’re at least ball-park, we’re definitely talking picogrammes / litre levels of concentrations.

        • Most biological assays give concentrations in some order of magnitude of weight/ml., not L. Concentrations in the microgram to nanogram or even picogram/ml range are not at all unusual or difficult to detect in sophisticated modern assays. Initial dose is not usually helpful in predicting concentration range in the blood stream or urine, as most drugs are processed by the body into a series of metabolites as they work their way into the blood & then the urine.

  4. So Vino says “Nothing personal against Frank, we only want Andy.” and I laughed to myself.
    Next I read the B sample is positive, not much of a surprise.

    Am I the only one thinking this is the best thing for Andy’s career?

  5. It should be a lifetime ban he’s facing, if the Luxembourg Cycling Federation hadn’t let him off the hook in 2008….

      • Absolutely correct – it’s the more the level of investigation that always annoyed me. I’d be 100% happy if it could be shown that there was nothing more to the payment(s). Unfortunately, whichever side of the fence you’re on, Puerto was not a well-handled affair.

    • We’ll probably never know, but all the evidence (wattage produced by riders, times on major climbs, etc) points to one of two things:

      1. The Peloton is significantly cleaner now than it was during the Armstrong/Patani heyday of EPO and blood transfusions, or

      2. Doping is still happening, but in a much more cautious way, and therefore the actual performance gains are much smaller than they were up to a few years ago.

      It’s likely to be a combination of both of these, in my gut-based opinion, but there are few facts to back that up.

  6. There is no real surprise here for me, I know athletes train specifically to peak, but the wide margins in performance concerning the Schlecks always had alarm bells rining. P*ss poor all season long and then perform like superstars for three weeks of the year.

    I would see this as a good thing for Andy, no more handholding, worrying about his brother etc but I also wouldn’t be surprised, if Frank was to jack it all in, that Andy might too. He’s never really come accross as ‘that’ interested in the sport, never gets emotional about it, only really bothered with the Tour and his paycheck. He’s in his brothers pocket so much that inevitably it really could mean that if Frank doesn’t race, Andy won’t either.

  7. I really hope he finds evidence of poisoning, because as almost everyone on his team has said “why would he take diuretic now?” My feeling towards the RadioShack team management make me wonder about them being the culprits because it gets them out of an expensive contract. Unfortunately for Frank, it will be next to impossible to prove poisoning, which is kind of the dark side to our sport.

    • Probably, but for the poison defence, Frank is assumed guilty until proven innocent. I don’t see how he could prove poisoning ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ unless he had his water bottles under camera surveillance at all times.

    • I think WADA and CAS rules are much closer to the civil law tradition, in opposition to common law. I’m not aware of any civil law countries that embrace reasonable doubt. Instead, we’re talking here about objective liability: if there is a “damage” (in this case, the positive test), the violation is presumed, and the burden of proof is inverted. So it’s not up to the governing bodies to prove the athlete is guilty (which, in many cases – specially if you had reasonable doubt – would be impossible), but rather the athlete proving he is innocent.

      In any case, for every true contamination, there are 100 false allegations of contamination. Choose 100.000 random individuals in the street and see how many of them test positive for clembuterol. So you take Frank or Contador and, upon verifying the guy’s blood has stuff used for enhancing performance tremendously or hiding stuff that does that, you’d have two possibilities: (i) he is very, very unlucky, lightning in the head unlucky; or (ii) he did it on purpose. Funny how clembuterol never shows up in my blood randomly, it’d be nice to beat some guys that always kick my ass.

    • According to the anti-doping rules, which all the cycling federations and UCI are signed up to (as well as many other sports federations), atheletes have strict liability for the substances in their body. That is to say, it is entirely their responsibility as to what goes in to their body. It may be that sometimes prohibited/controlled things go into their body for reasons very much beyond their control, or for genuine medical reasons – this does not absolve them (they’re nearly still certain guilty of a doping offence, because of the strict liability condition) but mitigates their punishment (perhaps almost to nothing). Additionally, they may be required to participate in the where-abouts programme, if at a certain level.

      Nothing in criminal law (where, at least in anglo-saxon common-law judicial systems guilt must be proven “beyond reasonable doubt”) requires an athlete to submit to these things. They have the choice of not competing in competitions organised by sports federations signed up to the WADA code. They could go form a “World Doped Cyclists Federation” if they wished, with their own World Championships. However, if they want to compete in UCI competitions, then they signed their name to abiding by the UCI anti-doping code (which is compliant with the WADA Code) when they filled in their race licence application.

      • Oh, as for what standard applies in the judging of these things – it’ll be in the WADA Code somewhere. Basically, iirc, it comes to down to a panel of independent arbitors being satisfied that the evidence supports doping.

  8. Is it possible that he knew he had no chance in the TDF so stocked up for the TDSuisse, and the aftertrails of that is what’s being picked up now?

    As for reasonable doubt, I think Cyclists have lost that right sadly

  9. Did CAS not suggest Contador that if he had claimed that the contamination came from a nutritional supplement instead of staying on the steak hypothesis that then a lighter ban would have been possible ? So perhaps the strategy of poisoning which is a criminal act is perhaps not so bad ? In case of an criminal act not only sports justice will have to treat the case. And this draws also the direction that the substance did not enter his body by his intention. So what do you think about this ?

    • From what I read on the Contador verdict CAS said the amount was so low that it most likely came from contaminated food or supplement, but there was no absolute proof that it did, so he was still found guilty. As for the poisoning: if you want to make it into a criminal case you need a suspect first, and enough evidence against the suspect to at least get the thing started.

        • He was tested before the stage and after the stage that day. I heard the positive test is from his second anti doping test. But taking the time the substance stays in the body, it could only entered his body on the stage, or not ? But I am not in the position to conform exactly all those things.

  10. Your final sentence summed it up pretty well Inner Ring. Will pro cycling EVER get out of the mess all these short-sighted cheaters have created? As to the constant cries of “due process” and “reasonable doubt” – this is NOT criminal law, merely enforcement (however draconian and seemingly unfair) of rules EVERYONE in the sport agreed to play by. Nobody is going to jail if they are caught cheating, they simply don’t get to play for a specified period. The cheaters seem to have zero problem agreeing not to cheat when they sign up for licenses, but when caught cheating suddenly start acting like they’re victims of the labs or enforcement bodies. Perfect example is BigTex now claiming USADA has no power to sanction him after using their sanctioning and testing abilities (which he willfully subjected himself to) in another legal matter where it was to his benefit – now that it’s certainly NOT to his benefit he wants to forget about all of that. This is what the WADA folks are up against, people who will cheat and lie, then use every available tactic to escape sanction when they’re finally caught. Sadly the UCI is not much help in the efforts, they’d rather (as they pretty much always have) sweep the problems under the rug and forget about them. Will they wake up before the sport returns to being sponsored as in the days before Fiorenzo brought Nivea to cycling – only by the bike industry?

    • Everybody knows that professional sports is backed with medicine. The rules are not made to ban the cheaters, they are made to exert pressure on embarrassing people. In cycling there are huge financial interests, and UCI, riders and teams often not pull in the same direction. I have my doubts that UCI uses the fight against anti doping as well to keep pressure against uncomfortable people. (last year a rider from Riis, this year a rider from Bruyneel) In other professional sports they do not assist with less medicine, but they just not make it public. There is no sport where people is more divided as in cycling ! Therefore we can see more behind the scenes .

  11. I think this issue with Frank is leading towards a diminishment of our sport. I personally don’t care about Frank and think he is someone who hasn’t lived up to his potential and preferred to live in his brother’s shadow, but that has nothing to with this. When our sport started doping control as means of leveling the playing field it was a great and needed change. Riders were killing themselves to win and those who stayed clean couldn’t compete against those who doped. However we have reached a point where our governing bodies are killing our sport by how they treat doping.

    Cycling lives or dies by its sponsorships. As such it has been touted that keeping our sport clean is crucial to keeping sponsors. This is complete hogwash and every bit of evidence points against this being true. All we need to do is look at other sports where doping exists, but is not the spotlight. American football, football, baseball and tennis have all had doping cases and yet major sponsor like Nike don’t pull out, in many cases they maintain contracts with accused athletes. On occasion a sponsor will announce a pull out, but once the press dies down, they will be right back there, so long as the athlete is strong enough or photogenic enough to prominently display their brand.

    This isn’t the case in cycling where our governing body goes out of its way to make splashy announcements about a new case of doping. A rational governing body would have gotten word from the lab and quietly went to Frank and his team and told them their findings. If Frank decided to dispute them, they would have kept their mouth shut and waited for the B results. If the B results were positive, they would have looked at the results in a rational light. Would a rider take a diuretic of sufficient quantity to be effective (20mg…less than 5mg would have no effect and less than 20 wouldn’t move enough fluid to be more effective than natural diuretics) during a race stage? We know that this was introduced into his system during the race because it does not hang around longer than 48 hours (8-24 in most common dosages). An effective governing body would have asked the lab to test any past samples to see if they could establish a timeline and would have asked for an estimate of the amount taken based on the residual traces. During this time only they, the lab and the rider would know what is going on. If they had evidence such as Frank pissing on the road side constantly, this would also be taken into consideration.

    If there was no rational reason for someone to take a diuretic, but a minute sample was found they, being a rational body interested in protecting the interests of their teams and sponsors, would announce that an anomaly was found in Frank’s sample and watch him closely. If they found that Frank was some irrational idiot who took a diuretic that will make you clear up to a liter of water every 30 minutes during a race to clear drugs out of his system, then they should ban him and make it clear why.

    Instead we have a governing body that cares little for the image it projects and it is so obsessed with being “clean” that it has forgotten the real reason we started doping control, rider safety. Which is kind of ironic, when you hear the number one complaint from riders is how little their governing body cares about their safety. This leads to my initial supposition with this being a sign that our sport is being diminished. Every person, whom I have talked to about the TdF knows about Frank’s doping and LA’s case, but few know who is leading the race. For Frank, he stands little to no chance of “proving” he was poisoned and his best chance lies in the lab that tested his results, but once they make their find, their job is done. They don’t look for protein markers that might indicated the diuretic was extracted from a centrifuge. The UCI doesn’t appoint a medical examiner to analyze the estimated dosage amounts and see if it is consistent with values of someone who would be using this for flushing evidence from their system. Nope, they make a press announcement the moment they have anything and tell the rider, “sorry, you will need to prove to me you didn’t do this”. I’m sorry, but to me that seems a irresponsible attitude, especially if this contamination were by some miracle traced back to support bike water bottle, fan or his own team.

    • Yeah, it’s funny how people accept the average weight of offensive linemen in the NFL of over 300 pounds as normal. Protein shakes, creatine, yeah right…

    • “Cycling lives or dies by its sponsorships.”

      I think you mean “professional cycling”.

      Cycling lives or dies by the enthusiasm for participation that it generates among the young, and even old duffers like me.

      As a participant, I want my heroes to be racing clean, otherwise there’s no pleasure in supporting them.

      I also want to be able to recommend cycling to my children and grandchildren, but there’s no way I would do that if I thought I was indirectly encouraging them to do something further down the line that would endanger their long-term health in return for a short-term gain in performance.

    • I don’t think we should too focussed on the prescribed use of a diuretic. Frank is probably not ‘irrational idiot’ for using a diuretic – in terms of sports medicine, they have a very useful purpose. Just go and google for something like, ‘how do I mask steroid use’ and you’ll probably discover a whole world amateur (i.e not qualified professionals) pharmacology.

      Mask your steroid use with an appropriate doseage of your chosen masking agent – hey presto, nothing shows up in your test. Too little masking, you return a non-neg for your steroids. Too little masking and you return a non-neg for a diuretic agent. Gosh.

      Do we need to speculate why Frank *might* want to increase his power output?

  12. A little late to this party, but I have started thinking today…This case is very reminiscent of Ezequiel Mosquera’s case from the 2010 Vuelta. My question is about the timeframe of that ban–Ezequiel was banned 2 years, starting from the date of sentencing. In Contador’s case, he was also banned 2 years, starting from the date of his positive test. Is it just a question of CAS making the ruling vs the Spanish cycling authorities, or is there a different reason (perhaps more materialistic) that Contador’s ban was effectively shorter?

  13. Yes, no and maybe? Different compounds for different uses, but certainly (as you question), you’d have thought that the outcomes should be similar? I think the main influence was in their respective strategies to address the issue. Mosquera was instantly suspended by his current team; Contador wasn’t. The REFC ruled against Mosquera; but not against Contador. I don’t think Mosquera appealed, but Contador obviously spent much time and money on his appeals. Whilst the appeal was pending (which was delayed mumerous times) he was able to continue to race. I guess if Mosquera had felt so inclined (and had a team to support him), he could have done the same – maybe if he hadn’t been 36, that might have been an option?

    I guess it’s really the judicial process and appeal system that’s really for debate with your question. I don’t think the current process/system has too many supporters though…

  14. This is such a confusing issue, but a few things are clear:

    Historically, Cycling is the sport of doping. Cyclists were/are innovators in doping. They did it all first, and they did it all harder. This means, logically, that any anti-doping reaction must be just as revolutionary and powerful.

    Yes, it’s true that other sportsmen dope. However, you’ll be hard pushed to find teams winning the Champions League because they’re all fresh from blood transfusions. Cycling is an individual, endurance sport so the rewards of using PEDs are greater than in other sports. So logically more people are going to do it, and the amounts will increase. It’s like in track running, you can go from a jobbing no-name to a world beater pretty much overnight through an intense PED programme. That’s not going to happen in soccer.

    Events like Floyd Landis are skewing the competative element so much that action must be taken. It was so weird watching that stage back, and knowing that they were probably all doped that day, it was just that Landis doped the best. If you really think about it, it’s a completely ridiculous farce. It’s contest of chemistry and pharmacy. If you want to watch people doing spectacular things but where the results are meaningless, go watch WWF.

    It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn that half of Serie A is on EPO and half of the NFL is on college-roids. But their time for judgement will come. For now, the fight is with Cycling. I don’t care what any other sports are doing. I’m still certain that Maradonna, Platini, Zidane, Baggio, Gazza and Messi were all greats of their sport regardless of any PEDs they took. I really can’t say the same about Pantani, Armstrong, Landis, Ullrich, Schleck and Contador. I don’t like that.

    Sport is all about rules. You can disagree all you want but if it wasn’t for rules everything would just be a load of villagers beating each other up in their tunics for the amusement of bored rich people. The whole essence of modern sport (i.e invented by unbelievably odd victorian types) is everyone, all over the world, playing to exactly the same rules, so you can go anywhere and have an equal competition and find out who is the best. Pretty much all sports came from this ideal, although I suppose you could argue that Cycling actually came about from a different dichotomy.

    It was an event to promote a newspaper. So is Cycling really, in a true historical sense, actually a sport? It’s a commercial promotion that has been competition-ized, rather than a competition that later becomes commercialised. Perhaps that’s a clue to why Cycling appears to sit outside the normal sporting boundaries of rules and an even playing field. When Cycling started, it was to attract interest and sell copy. When Soccer started, it went out out of it’s way for years to avoid any kind of professionalism. I know it’s a tired cliche, but the ‘gentleman amateur’ ethos from the public schools that founded many sports – Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, Boxing, Basketball, Tennis, American Football, even Baseball – is not part of the history of Cycling. It’s ruthless Professionalism from day one.

    Of course, in recent years our American cousins have more or less turned a blind eye to doping (unless you lie about it). The demand for TV money and commercial tie-ins are such that the competative bar always has to be raised, pharmaceutically. The bans are laughable, and the lack of condemnation worrying. But that’s their business and the NFL freakshow is a pretty lucrative one. Entertaining, but a brutal freakshow. Is that what Cycling aspires to be?

    Perhaps it’s just that innate uptight Britishness I clearly have. Competition has to be fair and even. You could have 100,000 screaming fans packed into the Alberquerque Mega-Plex, and I’m dead inside because it’s just Wrestlemania 37 and the results are all fixed. It’s the Superbowl and half the Offensive Line are just coming off 2 game Steriod bans. It means nothing. When I watch the next person rip apart the Alps, I want it to mean something.

  15. C’mon guy’s it’s always been in every sport if your not cheating your not trying. Everything the peloton does is to ehance their performance. They are going to push the envelope every chance they get. It happens all over race car drivers trying to get away with additives in the gas, ballers with steriods, all over. I mean I watched Radio shack hand out colas to all their riders on the last hill at the tour, that is to enhance their performance. It’s not going away, it’s just going to change, what they can get away with.

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