Katusha Ride On

Luca Paolini

The UCI has announced that the Katusha team won’t be suspended after all. Despite two notifications it has decided to apply a proportionate response, judging that Luca Paolini’s cocaine use was “social” and therefore it could be set aside for anti-doping.

It’s debatable how the UCI got here under its own rules but it could be the right move given the UCI’s rule on team suspensions isn’t part of WADA’s Code so this collective punishment could fall over if put under legal pressure. Not that the team’s worries are over, if they remain members of the MPCC then they could still be sitting out some World Tour races soon.

Back to the rule at the middle of this, once again here it is:

7.12.1 If two Riders and/or other Persons within a Team registered with the UCI are notified within a twelve-month period of an Adverse Analytical Finding for a Prohibited Method or a Prohibited Substance that is not a Specified Substance, or receive notice of an asserted anti-doping rule violation arising from an Adverse Passport Finding or Atypical Passport Finding after a review under Article 7.5 or other asserted anti-doping rule violation as per Articles 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9 or 2.10, the Team shall be suspended from participation in any International Event for a period determined by the President of the UCI Disciplinary Commission or a member of the Disciplinary Commission, taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

We know Luca Paolini and Eduard Vorganov’s A-sample constitute two “notifications”. The UCI’s response is:

“The text of the article [7.12.1] refers to the fact that the decision must take into account ‘all the circumstances of the case'”.

Does it? It’s down to reading comprehension but the rule appears to state two notifications means the team shall be – not can be – suspended, then the President or a member of the Disciplinary Commission must decide on the length of the ban, “taking into account all the circumstances of the case”. Or is this final turn of phrase, the “all the circumstances of the case” part, about to the suspension or the period of suspension? I’d read it to be the period, the UCI sees it the other way.

The next element of the UCI’s decision says:

“With regard to the [Paolini case, it has been] established that the rider’s taking of cocaine was not related to an intention to influence sporting performance but was rather taken on a “recreational” basis”

The UCI also labels cocaine a “social drug”. Only Paolini told La Gazzetta dello SportI was alone” suggesting no social use and he said the problem stemmed from an addiction to sleeping pills which began as part of a recovery plan to ensure rest after hard training. Team mate Alexander Kristoff compounds this saying “I knew that he was struggling to sleep at night and to wake up in the day”. One of Katusha’s team doctors concurs, telling La Gazzetta (my translation):

“Could Paolini hide the sleeping pills’ effect? Yes, with coffee. He would take his coffee machine with him to races and before coming down to breakfast he’d drink five to six cups, 180-200mg of caffeine. This helped fight the drowsiness that sleeping pills leave. But then he always had to up the doses, like a cat chasing his tail.”

This suggests the cocaine abuse was medical and related to addiction rather than partying at the Tour de France. It seems that he was using cocaine for its effect as a stimulant, a upper to counter the downer sleeping pills, in order to allow him to perform despite the addiction to tranquilisers. You might call this doping.

It’s possible Paolini has told the UCI something else as his case is ongoing at the UCI Tribunal. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d changed his mind given he denied using cocaine in a tweet soon after news of the positive test emerged only to confess later.

While we wonder if this really was “social” or performance-enhancing, WADA does not make any distinction. It bans cocaine without qualification nor threshold. Take it on a night out or with 10km to go and there’s no difference under their Code so the UCI is pioneering its own path here. Some say Meldonium, the substance in Vorganov’s A-sample, can be used “socially” or to help in cases of alcohol poisoning too so if someone else at Katusha gets busted then the team could try the proportional card again for Vorganov.

Meanwhile in Italy…
Luca Paolini remains provisionally suspended as the UCI are still hearing his case. So the UCI’s ruling today says Katusha can ride because his test wasn’t really doping but the irony is their thoughts on the case don’t apply to the man himself who cannot race because he’s positive for a banned substance.

It’s this distinction that’s the odd point and the irony but also the explainer. Another line in the press release is that “it would be disproportionate to suspend a team” on this basis. For me this is the most crucial aspect. Cocaine is banned by WADA but the international agency does not advocate collective bans to suspend whole teams when two athletes test positive. Instead the UCI’s created this rule on its own and so it is going out on a limb here with this policy, however much you might like it. Without WADA’s legal backing the UCI has to be careful and suspending every rider on a team as punishment for the rogue actions of two colleagues is contestable under the law, that a punishment has to be proportional is a fundamental and universal matter. A rider who did nothing wrong would have real grounds to sue and the cocaine element clouds the issue as the recreational argument can be deployed. Indeed if Katusha was suspended it’s possible they could have sued and won.

Conspiracy theories
To pre-empt the comments and jokes about bidons filled with polonium tea, yes Igor Makarov owns Katusha and is an extremely influential figure in the UCI. There’s no sign of him leaning on the Disciplinary Commission but there doesn’t have to be: a conflict of interest exists whether it’s explicit or implicit. Until institutional improvements are put in place to handle these then many will make 2+n=4 conclusions with all sorts of wild guesses for what n can mean.

The rule at the root of this says two notifications means suspension and the text suggests the circumstantial elements are only reserved for determining the length of the suspension. But the UCI sees it another way and notifications can be discounted if circumstances permit. In this case it says the substance involved was not viewed as performance-enhancing.

Was Paolini doping? WADA’s definition is the “Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample” so yes he was and if Katusha ride on, it’s without him as he’s provisionally suspended and out of contract. Was he trying to enhance his performance? No say the UCI who make reference to “recreational” use of a “social” drug but this contrasts to his interview with La Gazzetta, Alexander Kristoff’s words and the words of the Katusha team doctor who said he needed giant doses of stimulants like caffeine to stay awake.

This story has yet to end as Katusha are still members of the MPCC and under their rules if Vorganov’s B-sample comes back positive then, as long as they stay in the MPCC they’ll still have to sit out eight days starting from the date of the next World Tour race.

95 thoughts on “Katusha Ride On”

  1. What does the French version of the rule book say? I think that’s the preferred text, is it not? It may shed some light on what the ‘taking into account’ might mean.

    Other than that: possibly once again the best commentary I’ve read today on this whole mess.

    (Oh en the 2nd paragraph seems unfinished).

  2. I’d agree with the idea Paolini’s case shouldnt kick in the rule as its not doping, except the full wording you previously posted talks about due diligence and knowledge of the team. You’ve just cited a Katusha doc saying they knew Paolini was struggling with sleeping pills, so theyve been negligent as a team towards a riders health and use of medication.

    Shows the rule for the farce and fudge it is- looks tough but not backed by WADA so built on flimsy foundations, and open to more interpretation and flexibility than the wording suggests.

    • If Paolini needed cocaine to stay awake then surely he was using it to enhance his performance, in that without it he might not have got out of bed or could have ridden into a ditch etc?

      Either way I hope he’s on the mend and his case is heard soon.

      • ‘Sleeping pills’ covers a whole range of differing medication, with many differing physical and psychological affects.
        Ironically, they can also cause absolute insomnia.
        It would be best not to make presumptions about Paolini’s health but, as you say, wish the guy all the best and hope that he can regain his well-being.

      • I suppose if you were being super tenuous, you could make the argument that its not enhancing his performance per se, merely dragging it back up to the base level which he’s spiraled away from due to the sleeping pills.

        Either way, the team have certainly failed in its duty of care to the rider

  3. Wonder if Katusha will have Vorganov admit to his use right after the Tour of Qatar, then the team takes an 8-day rest (to satisfy MPCC) until the 20th. They won’t have to miss any WT races, only the Andalucia and its Portuguese counterpart.

      • Ah, in that case, they miss Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. That would hurt, but not destroy anyone’s season. They can race all the classic’s tune-up races until then and still be ok.

          • It is arguable that the UCI would have done Katusha a favour to issue a 15 day ban today, to begin after Qatar. The team would have missed less crucial racing and not have had the MPCC difficulty to consider

          • It is a moot point, but Inrng’s observation that UCI rules on collective punishment here is outside WADA and thus could have been legally contested by Katusha is called into question by the team’s nominal acceptance of self banning under MPCC in the same circumstances.

          • CM raises a good discussion.

            From my corporate background, where I was pretty good with politics, I think I would approach this differently than as a rider or fan. If I were in a position of responsibility with a long term view, I would bury this case. I want to find a case that I can put out there and fight over that does not have a powerful team owner in a position of responsibility in the UCI. This is not the right first case to prosecute under the new rules.

            Again, if I am right our conversation is no longer about Paolini or his actions. It is about how to make a rule that will last.

          • The smart way to have drawn a line under this case would have been to apply the rule and issue the lightest possible sanction. As it is the UCI once more reeks of making a rule and then bending it to suit.

      • How do World Tour teams square their obligation to participate in all World Tour events with self suspension under the MPCC? Wouldn’t they be in breach of contract to the UCI?

  4. It sounds to me like the mess Paolini was in, even if he was technically doping I doubt it was performance enhancing… Maybe someone who’s been addicted to sleeping pills can comment?

    • As said to Dave above, if Paolini needed cocaine to stay awake then surely he was using it to enhance his performance, in that without it he might not have got out of bed or could have ridden into a ditch etc? Performance-enhancing need not mean going from 10th to 1st.

      Perhaps the UCI meant to suggest he wasn’t trying to cheat the race but “recreational” and “social” make it sound like he was taking it for fun when other reports say he was in a mess and needed help.

      • I wonder if the UCI’s use of the word “recreational” also includes addiction, they don’t differentiate.

        In this case, it’s the same as a rider drinking a ton of coffee to stay alert, or using a finish bottle for a jolt. That’s just as performance enhancing.

      • I vaguely remember that ‘recreational’ drugs are only banned for Downhill MTBers as they may be performance enhancing to get in the ‘flow’. Perhaps that rule no longer exists but – from memory – despite the kerfuffle, Tommeke didn’t actually serve a KBWB/UCI suspension for his multiple cocaine positives.

  5. I keep thinking that this is not a doping issue. Paolini took a banned substance per WADA and is suspended. As I understand it, per his A sample and his own statements, he doped, he got caught.

    It seems to me that what we have here is an artful play by one group (the disciplinary commission) to avoid a legal battle. The way to make this artful play work is to claim the ability to skip punishment and avoid a contest in courts that (so the thinking would go) does nobody any good.

    What the commission needs to make this all work is two clear doping cases. Oh, wait, they have that here. Maybe what they need is some back channel assurance that they have a strong defense against a lawsuit and a very strong team owner.

    If I see this right, the issue then is not doping, it is the politics of policing. Whether the independent board is doing the right thing to side-step a legal battle, the first rider doped and he has admitted it. The second rider has met the requirement of the rules for doping in this one situation and the team is not suspended. That lack of suspension is not about social use. Is it not about someone who is *not* a rider trying to bend a rule.

    I’m thinking that it is easy to focus on the cocaine and not the nuanced arguments about politics. Easy is not right in this case. Our attention should either be on the commission or on racing, but Paolini is not the right target this time, is he?


    • +1 Bicisport just came out with an article “Luca Paolini firma la lunga confessione a Bicisport” which I have yet to read since I just got it yesterday. This UCI rule was written with far too much “wiggle room” for lawyer-speak like “I did not have sex with that woman.” Same s__t, different day.

        • And with clause c)’s huge amount of “wiggle room” it’ll never get to any actual court. CAS should be the ONLY court involved in sporting cases. If the federations rules are always trumped by some judicial body set up to try criminals and deal with civil disputes, why have the damn federation? It was the same with the NFL and the underinflated footballs – the cheaters lawyered up and beat the federation’s sanctions. This is SPORT – if you don’t want to play by the rules, there are other things you can do with your time – just get the f__k out and leave it to those who play by and respect the rules.

          • Except that this rule has already been implemented successfully, when Androni were banned last year. Clearly, the line for a team ban is somewhere between 2 EPO positives in a week (or EPO-simulant), which has triggered a ban; and one PED, one “social/recreational” positive over 6 months, which didn’t.

    • People calm down – UCI’s rules fall under Euro law and regardless what they say, if they violate Euro law (whether that be employment, civil, etc.) then the rule won’t stand up in court. Eg. Katusha could rightfully sue if they were suspended incorrectly.

      Suspension due to potentially addictive use of a drug (which is a healthcare reason – therefore falls under Euro’s employment law) might not stand up in court.

      Proof that this is a difficult issue is that Paolini’s case still isn’t settled, so how can Katusha be suspended based on that?

      Lawyer speak protects our rights and freedoms so whether you like it or not, you benefit from them every day.

  6. Katusha should tackle this head on. Come out and take the hit. Follow the MPCC guidelines. Miss P-N & T-A. State “while we have made great strides, obviously there is a lot of work to be done. The health of our riders and the integrity of the sport is paramount.” It would be good for them and the sport as a whole. Their whole mantra preseason was to dispel this negative reputation of theirs and become more globally affable. Enter the giant “K”. They have a real opportunity here to make a huge statement early in the season. Just knock it out.

  7. If the UCI has talked to Paolini, and he really is in a bad way – suffering with depression on top of addiction – could a fear of tipping him over the edge have played any part in the UCI’s ruling? Getting youself banned from racing is one thing; to have your desperate actions blunt your team’s for ambitions is a responsibility not best levied on the psychologically delicate. The UCI is their to care for riders as well as punish, no?

    Imagine the headlines if a rider killed himself over a blanket team suspension that some time down the line didn’t even hold up legally.

  8. This is why cycling is a mess, The regulatory agency, UCI, creates rules to look like they are doing something about doping, illegal substances, rules violations, etc., then they ignore their own rules.

    Suspend Katusha from competition.


    • It appears you haven’t read anything of the above.

      The UCI have to be very careful not to lose a case, we’ve already seen it come close with Kreuziger which could have blown the passport to pieces…no matter what we would all have liked.

  9. If, as you say, ‘Paolini’s c0caine use was “social” and therefore it could be set aside for anti-d0ping’, why was he banned for d0ping?

    I said at the time that he should never have been banned – as it’s not a performance-enhancing drug (for me, getting him out of bed isn’t enough: he’s a drug addict and needs help). But he was banned.

    Now, inevitably, it turns out that that ban doesn’t count for this ban.

    All of this was predicted by many – see the comments on your last blog: Which Races Will Katusha Miss?

    People keep saying that the UCI has to abide by the rules, whilst somehow failing to see that the UCI makes the rules – they are responsible for the rules being ineffective.

    The rules of d0ping are simple: the riders must be hung out to dry so that all concerned can claim that it was one bad apple, acting alone. Any suggestion that teams have any involvement must be denied. (Otherwise the precious sponsors might go away – people ostensibly being too stupid to recognise that it’s the constant cheating that keeps them away.) Punishing teams is essential.

    Cookson fails again.

    Deliberately or not?

    Was Cookson elected largely through the help of Markarov?

    (Incidentally, do people still think that the UCI is targeting Katusha?)

    There’s a lot of legalese in there – but we all know that this is a stitch-up; to the extent that many of us predicted it in the comments on your last blog: Which Races Will Katusha Miss?

    Nothing will be done about d0ping until someone actually wants to do something about it.

    (Even WADA seem unwilling to act effectively – tr4madol is still not banned: if you’re in so much pain that you need an opi0id analgesic, you should not be riding. This and the Paolini case are indicative of the massive drug use – legal or otherwise – in the peloton.)

    The people at the top don’t seem to want to do anything to stop d0ping. Neither do the teams and the riders. And neither, it seems, do a lot of journalists, bloggers and fans. Hence you can read a lot of the same old excuses in your last blog and its comments.

    • Paolini has been provisionally suspended until his case is resolved. He has not been given an anti-doping ban.

      It technically is not a doping infraction yet.

    • hey, this is a prime example of why our sport is cleaner than other sports, for example, the NFL.

      When Operation Puerto released a list of names that were likely loaded with EPO, they were all immediately pulled from the Tour de France. Luca Paolini tests positive for a non-performance enhancing substance and he’s immediately suspended, dropped from his team and removed from the Tour de France until his case is resolved.

      The NFL gets a report that many athletes (including Peyton Manning who admitted that his wife used HGH – yeah right) used a lot of serious PED’s and Peyton Manning just won the Super Bowl. Well, he was on the team that won and he handed the ball off a bunch of times, yelled Omaha, and then set-up the field goal kicker to kick the ball a bunch of times.

      This shows that Cookson and the UCI are actually doing something positive. Take a break people.

        • Like BC below, I have nothing further to add to what I’ve written here and on the last blog.
          (And watch the UCI make a mess of the moto case.)

        • Agreed on the moto case – if they make a mess of it I’ll be really disappointed.

          Regarding Paolini’s case – it seems like no one understands where I’m coming from, but I’ll just leave it at that. Mental health, addiction issues and employment law are a very grey area and definitely not the point of this blog – although Inrng did bring them up!

          • As I say above, I don’t think Paolini should ever have been banned.
            And I don’t care about the legalese.
            My point is the bigger picture: I knew – and I was far from alone – that the various parties would weasel out of this.
            If it wasn’t Paolini it would be some other excuse.
            It’s always something.
            Whether by design or incompetence the UCI is consistently failing to bring about actual change (with the exception of the independent doping authority).
            And from all sides, all you hear are excuses.
            Always letting the teams get away with it is how it’s been done for decades – nothing’s changed.

      • The UCI makes the rules. Cookson is head of the UCI.
        These are just the same old excuses, which get trotted out every time.
        The UCI lacks either the will or the ability to deal with doping.
        CIRC, Kreuziger, Astana, Katusha: each time, the UCI has failed.
        Cookson talks a good game – in spite of what actually happens, people seem to keep believing in him (well, British people do – the views in other countries are likely to be very different).
        The apologists will come up with any reason to try to deny that teams are complicit in doping.
        And the authorities don’t even ban the widespread use of opioids.

        • Mr Evans, have you read any of this debate? The legal angle?

          Do you know anything about the Disciplinary Commission and Cookson’s remit/ability in cases such as these?

          Do you understand the role of CAS?

          Do you understand what would’ve happened if the UCI banned them and then lost the case?

        • His title is President, not Dictator, not Emperor, not All Being of Bicycle Racing.

          There are systems and processes to be followed. It took a long time to create the mess; it is going to take a long time to clean it up. Sometimes you don’t see holes in rules until you go to enforce them.

          The fact that Cookson doesn’t pretend to be “the guy” and force his will, as compared to his predecessors, is a testament to his character (and, no, I am not British). He abides by the rules in place at the time, tries to develop new ones to help right the ship, and let’s his staff and panels do their jobs (according to the rules). This is what you want a President to do.

    • “I said at the time that he should never have been banned – as it’s not a performance-enhancing drug (for me, getting him out of bed isn’t enough: he’s a drug addict and needs help). But he was banned.”

      As DMC says it doesn’t currently count as a ban.


      In any case, Cocaine is banned in competition, but not “at all times”. He was at The Tour when he tested positive. Regardless of reason, he deserves a sanction. Maybe clemency for circumstance, but it still counts.

  10. I have said enough about this case already on the previous INRNG blog.

    The UCI in my view have lost any credibility they had in the war against doping over this case, and allowed the doubters all the evidence they need to support the view that nothing has changed. The rules are clear enough, and the team should have been suspended. Don’t listen to the apologists – there views in the main are uninformed to the extreme.

    One would have hoped that Cookson and the new faces at the UCI would have learned from the past. Clearly not. If they are prepared to openly fiddle their own rules over this case, what other indiscretions are being ignored in the background. Trust is the name of the game. After hoping for change, I now find myself having NO trust in either the UCI, its management or the teams involved in this continuing charade.

    Sponsors and fans keep clear is the message.

    • What? Cookson and UCI handled this case in the open, consulted with legal counsel on how to treat the Paolini infraction, and are following due process with regards Paolini’s case. Paolini has been removed from competition while his case is being tried.

      Cookson and UCI have improved testing so that they a) catch recreational drugs, b) they applied the rules immediately to previously non-prohibited substances and c) they have stricter anti-doping rules than ANY SPORT IN HISTORY.

      Oh, and Cookson caught someone two weeks ago who cheated in a new way (eg. the motor).

      What part of the above makes you doubt Cookson? What more do you want? Do you want the UCI to ban Peyton Manning from competition? Oh wait, that’s not Cookson’s fault… or is it?

      • What seems clear is that the UCI found an interpretation not originally intended to avoid applying the rule as written. One might have some sympathy if this was an isolated case of judicious compromise but that is not the case. Sooner or later Cookson and the UCI need to take a stand though each delay makes that harder and, in the meantime, any team trying to set an example must feel let down and discouraged. Some will sadly take the ruling as an indication of tolerance.

        On this side of the water (France) the press and opinion view the UIC and Cookson with universal scorn which, whether justified or not, is highly undesirable.

        Cookson (the UCI) caught Van Den Dreissche but how many were missed before?

  11. While the UCI’s 2 strikes rule isn’t directly compliant with WADA’s code, does it need to be? Could it not be seen as a condition of continued team licensing, as opposed to a direct additional/collective punishment for the doping offenses?

    We’ve seen the permanent ban of British riders who tested positive from participating on the GB Olympic team overturned as punishment beyond the code. However, this 2 strikes rule isn’t a double punishment of the individual riders who have been notified of adverse findings; it is directed at the team itself.

    Would/could WADA (and hence CAS) intervene if a team failed the normal ethical review of the licensing committee? If they can, it would seem that a lot of the UCI’s licensing requirements are built on unstable ground. Perhaps it isn’t the UCI that need to change, but WADA needs to take a broader picture and put something into their code.

    I suppose another factor, even if WADA accepts or adopts the UCI’s policy is, “who is the team”? What if it is a national team as opposed to a trade team? While the UCI’s rule seems to apply only to trade teams, this could be an out for a trade team whose rider has an adverse finding while they are representing their federation.

    • I would welcome INRNGs input here but I think the issue maybe around employment law, the rules of professional sport must not restrict statutory employment rights. What I don’t understand is how working is defined in law as far as athletes are concerned. Training is work, but strictly speaking does working mean racing or at least having the opportunity to race?

      • I’d argue racing matters. Riding and being paid is work but in order to fulfil your work you need to race in order to get ranking points, prize money etc. Miss out on racing and you can train as much as you like but your value decreases if you cannot score results no matter how much you train at home. So as you suggest denying racing to people for something they’ve had nothing to do is a harsh penalty, Colombian neo-pro Jhonathan Restrepo for example wasn’t on the team when Paolini was rousted and can’t be expected to stop a 33 year old Russian team mate he’s met once to stop taking banned substances.

    • If you’re a governing body that follow WADA’s rules directly then WADA tends to follow you into court, see how WADA backed the UCI when it prosecuted Alberto Contador’s case. It brings additional resources and financial backing to the case as well as moral support. Start on your own rules and however well-intentioned they’re your own rules so your on your own.

  12. His cocaine use was not social at all. It was an addiction which enabled him to get out of bed in the morning and do his job.

    Addiction is sad but here’s the point:

    Incorrect decision, UCI.

  13. Firstly I’m hoping that Paolini is getting the support he obviously needs, certainly it would seem that the whole team being suspended for what’s obviously spiralled into a cycle of abusive drug use to just get through life would be pretty grim?

  14. The problem is with the CAS, and the general apathy towards doping in all sports. Cycling, for all its faults has owned up and is trying to do something about it, but the rest of the sporting world is decades behind. Cookson made it abundantly clear what he wanted to do with Astana and this morning distanced himself from this decision, but his hands are completely tied. We saw the same with Kreuziger.

  15. I expected the lowest non-zero ban, i. e. 15 days … tactically shifted just after Quatar end, using the well known delay by demanding/no-more-demanding the B-sample test. After the wrong decision of UCI every team with two dopers in the future can say: :How about the case of your influential friend Makarov?”
    Bad precedens. Hope at least the MPCC rules let some “crime and punishment” principles work.

  16. this is one of the rare times when there has been clear team doctor knowledge related to a doping case – the doc and team probably didn’t know about the coke but knew about the sleeping pills and consequent massive caffeine abuse so its not unreasonable to hold them responsible for the escalation of the problem. unfortunate the when their rules made it easy to hold the team to account the uci has chosen not to.

    difficult to say too much without knowing quite why they’ve taken this path but i can’t see any good:
    1. weak willed/influenced by makarov
    2. not confident in enforceability of the rule – then why make the rule?
    3. completely missing the point of the cocaine use ie just plain idiots

    the uci are trying, unlike most other sports, but they just keep scoring own goals

    • Regarding your last sentence, it’s hard not to think the UCI is trying to LOOK LIKE they’re trying in the same old “scandal-management” style of the previous regime. I once had some optimism that Cookson and Co. could clean things up, but I’m leaning towards wanting the whole thing to be blown up and started over from scratch. Of course the worry there is some monster like VELON, which is all about money, profit and entertainment and zero about sporting values would be taking over. I’m starting to wonder if things would be better now if ASO had taken over the entire sport back when they ran TdF out-from-under the control of the UCI? They nabbed dope cheats and kicked them out of the race and disinvited a team noted for cheating – imagine that!

        • I was wondering when someone was going to mention ASO. Surely not being invited to the TdF etc. next year would be a far greater punishment than 15 days at this time of year, or even 45. Isn’t this, in fact, precisely why ASO has all the real power in the sport? And maybe this is the reason they want to have a bit more control on who turns up at their party?

          I think people are being a bit harsh on Cookson. He’s trying to turn the UCI around and making it a more modern organisation with separation of powers and independent bodies affecting what happens. Power should not be concentrated in one person’s hands, so it’s a bit pointless blaming him when he can’t do anything in this case. I’m sure he would have done if he could but he can’t.

          In my opinion this whole idea of banning teams is the wrong way to go as it’s legally too fraught with problems and that, presumably, is the reason it’s not on the WADA code. Only a voluntary code like the MPCC has any chance of working and that is only 8 days. Fines are a better weapon but they don’t always work either.

          We all know where the real power in road cycling lies. Let’s see what they do next year.

      • Are ASO not motivated by profit? Would anyone have faith that the company would treat French and non-French teams equally? Was giving Bretagne-Seche a TDF wild-card a decision made for sporting reasons?

        • The promoter created the sport as we know it today. Why shouldn’t they have a say about who is in their races? Over the years the race has changed from individuals to trade teams to national teams back to trade teams, which are partly based on nationality. The nature of the race has changed from long stages with breaks of days to loads of team time trials to fewer time trials and shorter stages with only a couple of breaks. All these decisions were made by ASO alone. And decisions like this (the Katusha one) is why they want that power back.

          Of course their decisions will be subjective and local teams will be favoured. It is a well-known fact that local teams are favoured by their local grand tour and it makes sense from a sponsorship point of view. Do Bretagne-Seche want to race the Vuelta and Caja Rural the TdF? No. They can even create a course to suit one rider over another so they can decide the winner partly by choosing a particular type of course, 2012 for Wiggins, 2015 for Quintana (but he blew it). And whether you are part of the WT or not is hardly objective either.

          I have to admit, when I first heard about ASO’s decision I thought it was a little petulant and perhaps put too much power in one organisation’s hands, but I’m warming to the idea, especially if it is used to get rid of teams that don’t treat their riders well or have too many doping cases.

          • …’Hello Skoda , Prudhomme here. Look I know you paid us all that money to sponsor the Tour, but just to let you know we are taking Kristoff out of the sprints and Rodriguez out of the mountain stages because we don’t think their team treats it’s riders well…’

      • Won’t have time today to fully enter into the debate, but the ASO wasn’t unaware or unconnected to what happened during the Armstrong era; and they excluded some dopers whom *the guy* didn’t appreciate so much, it’s not like they were simply excluding dopers. More or less the same went on with OP, and again and again: they like best some dopers, that’s all. Good luck with them managing the sport in order to clean it up.

    • Again, you are making far too many assumptions about Paolini without knowing anything of his situation, where he sourced his medication, how long his dependancy developed over, his dosage, how the cocaine fitted in to his lifestyle…etc etc.
      You are talking about an elite athlete that expends massive calories and effort many days of his life ; his body’s ability to expel the sleeping medication (sweat etc) would far outweigh an everyday punter but, nevertheless, could have been driving his body to danger.

      I don’t want to say anymore except that Luca Paolini deserves help and the UCI may have acted with humanity and sensitivity in this case.
      The UCI were criticised for applying the rules to the letter in the case of Richie Porte’s wheel change but, when they choose to act with some possible sensitivity with a rider’s health, they still get it in the neck from fans.

  17. Obviously this case falls outside of what the rule was intended for, I’d be surprised if it was criticised by many who weren’t didn’t already have a frothing anti-UCI agenda.

    However…. the team should have done better by Paolini, they should have done more to help him beat the sleeping pill addiction even if it meant missing races. His downward spiral could just as easily ended in a substance that falls into the performance enhancing category or something even more self destructive. For this reason, although I understand their reasons not to ban the team, I would rather they had gone ahead with the ban. If you let a rider go on addicted to sleeping pills then god knows what else is going on under your nose.

    • +1 on all your points. Things are always a bit grey and I’d agree with your take on this issue.

      I remember Gabriele writing about unfair targeting of teams for extra anti-doping measures, but I think these incidents certainly mark Katusha as fair target for scrutiny (both in an ISSUL audit way, and extra out of competition testing).

      I forget who’s idea it was but, if the funding was available, having a UCI official embedded in every team to constantly monitor anti-doping/team governance/rider care seems like a good idea to me. Wouldn’t catch everything, but would surely make team-wide ‘medical programs’ or shoddy practice hard to get away with.

    • In the WADA code there are 3 reasons why a drug/substance can be on the banned list:
      1. performance-enhancing
      2. bad for health
      3. against the spirit of the sport

      Two of these have to be considered true for it to be on the list. So cocaine is considered to be performance-enhancing (separate from its ability to keep Paolini awake) and bad for the health. I don’t know about 3 for cocaine but that is the reason beta-blockers are on the banned list for some sports but not all.

      The most surprising thing about this whole case if how come this very powerful sleeping pill isn’t on the banned list! That was the start of the problem after all. It appears to tick boxes 1 and 2, for me at least. Performance-enhancing in that it allows more recovery time after hard training, which is what it was used for, and is the most common reason for taking many banned substances, and 2 is obvious.

      I have some sympathy for Paolini and not so much for his team. It may be that his particular reason for using cocaine is the stumbling point but cocaine, in general, is on the list for two good reasons.

      The banning rule itself has too much of a get-out clause and that is a separate problem, but I’m not convinced that team bans are the way forward in any case. Fines for teams (I’m not sure if these exist yet, maybe INRNG can tell me) might be easier to implement legally and ASO not having your team in its races might be a far bigger incentive to change!!

      • My original reply above was only to Graham’s comment, not to Elliot or noel.

        Brailsford’s idea sounds interesting but in many teams the riders are scattered around and not together so much, plus there are different training programmes for Classics and TdF for Sky even so how many people would you need for each team? Maybe two or three so it’s rapidly going to get very expensive, which is probably the reason it’s not been implemented.

        • True, but even if there were only one official with the freedom to be wherever they felt most appropriate, without giving any notice to the team, it would still be a serious headache for an institutional doping program. It’s certainly not a magic bullet but maybe worth 17 salaries (I admit I have no idea how this compares to the cost of extra testing, bio-passport analysis or ISSUL audits, which may actually be more effective).

      • What gets me about the team ban is the timing of the ban rather than the length decides how harsh a punishment it is. And the timing is basically random.

        A ban starting at the tour down under or after the Vuelta? Not really a big deal. A ban that means missing a Roubaix + Flanders and maybe Ardennes classics too? Ouch. Missing the Giro or Vuelta? Ouch. Missing the Tour? Could be terminal.

  18. I can’t believe people are criticising Cookson in all of this (yet again). He expresses a will to do his best, which is limited (as you can see in all of the above debate) by law.

    It’s not about what we would all like to see happen, it’s about what is actually possible.

    What I think the UCI have done is the sensible thing here, and I also suspect they will step up testing on Katusha as they appear to have done with Astana.

  19. Had an interesting, if brief, Twitter conversation with you Inrng last night. I personally believe that the conflict of interest with Makarov here is too big to ignore. Correct me if I’m wrong, but without Makarov’s backing, Cookson would never have been elected. He is also one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) man in cycling. True, it’s difficult to know his role in all of this, but surely this has played a role in the Paolini case being seen as “recreational”.

    Without knowing Makarov’s role in the entire story, my other gripe with this decision, even though it’s not surprising, is that Paolini was addicted to sleeping pills. Therefore his other addiction, or “recreational” use of cocaine was clearly performance enhancing. Without it, he would have been extremely tired and would not have been able to do his job as a domestique properly. He is the one who admitted his sleeping pills addiction so the counter use of coke helped him carry out his job properly.

    • So, just to summarise, you don’t know if Makarov was involved and you don’t have access to Luca Paolini’s medical records but you still feel qualified to make a judgement?

      • English isn’t my first language so apologies if I’m not making sense.

        All I’m trying to say is that Makarov owns Katusha and sits on UCI’s Management Committee, therefore there is a big conflict of interest. And it can’t be ignored. Yes, I don’t know if Makarov was involved, but I don’t understand why I can’t express my opinion when I see a team that has not been suspended when two of its riders have tested positive and are provisionally banned, when these are the rules.

        Paolini is provisionally banned for his individual test and it counts as a positive test. But when it comes to the decision on the team, it is not? You can’t say that this is not strange?

        As for Paolini’s records, no I don’t have access to them. But according to himself and one of the Katusha doctors, he used cocaine to counter the effect of the sleeping pills. So it is performance enhancing. Maybe he has a problem and I also wish him the best in his recovery, but you can’t have Paolini banned individually and not as part of Katusha and not ask questions.

  20. I’m really in a hurry, but my culinary commentary in the previous post makes my point. This is all very similar to the Astana story. Create the pressure, then let it go.

    If the UCI is playing this strategy on purpose, it ain’t that bad.
    People may be tearing their hair out on these pages, but nothing big – or nothing at all – has gone out in the generalist media, in Italy and in Spain at least, which might have happened (because of the Paolini involvement and the consequences on Purito) and wouldn’t have been good at all for cycling.
    Personally, I find it appropriate to employ different and progressive tools to exercise pressure on a team / rider / group / cheating method, while at the same time generating the less possible harm for the sport.

    OTOH, if UCI is being bent by internal powers and this is no strategy but just the consequence of a political arm wrestle between different subjects, well, in that case it’s an unnecessary harm and it had better being avoided.

    A different question is whether this strategy, assuming it’s such, is being applied fairly to every team. That is, are the teams under pressure the only ones who’d deserve it? Not a rhetorical question as someone might think. Perhaps they are.

    Another whole different question, and this is a little bit more rhetorical, indeed, is how fair is the procedure which puts some substances on the WADA list while leaving some others in the “study area” well beyond opportunity (substances which respond to at least 2 but maybe even 3 of the required characteristics which have been detailed above) – or not even taking them into account.
    You can have the curious case of a rider who was acquitted because his positive was due to a contamination… of the capsules he was buying to be able to swallow a relevant quantity of… a legal substance ^__^ Fully legal, although it’s abusing that same substance that a young athlete died in Italy some time ago, a substance which improves performance and which is “against the spirit of the sport”, as long as I’m concerned (burnin’ quadricepses are the spirit of the sport itself, aren’t they?). But that’s just fine.

  21. On the previous blog, when the UCI was planning to ban Katusha, most were in favour of this.
    Now, when the UCI is not banning Katusha, most are in favour of this.

      • Not moderating; commenting. (And Lord knows I’ve read enough people critiquing other commenters, rather than their comments on here, without rebuke, if I can moderate your moderation.)

    • That may be true, but at least here the arguments are mostly intelligent and civil instead of the way-too-typical “You suck!” “No, YOU suck!” that goes on elsewhere. There’s a guy on another blog who I swear if I posted “UP” he’d instantly counter with “DOWN” and vice-versa. Even the most opinionated commenters here will take an opposing point not as a personal attack, but simply a difference of opinion. For that I’m grateful.

  22. Is the big loser the Katusha medical staff.

    Perhaps someone discussed it elsewhere…

    How in the world can they not have noticed the problem. Shouldn’t they be responsible for not doing something about this…. If the riders are so freely talking about this, it must have been obvious.

    Luckily, nothing happened…. if something did happen – I would imagine that medical staff and Katusha could be responsible for not providing proper care… at least in the US it would be a lawsuit worth filing.

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