¿ Nairoman, Es Un Ciclista ?

Nairoman, Nairoman, he’s not a cyclist” goes the lyrics to the song from Colombian TV commentators as they play up the idea that Nairo Quintana is no mere bike rider, he’s a superhero. As for him, well it turns out he just wants to be a cyclist and for the music to play on.

In a defiant press conference where many expected he’d announce his retirement, Quintana launched a surprise attack, saying he’ll fight and he still wants to compete in the biggest races and by implication he wants a contract with a European team, not for him the demotion to a local Colombian squad like Miguel “Superman” Lopez.

Arguably Quintana could have won the 2015 Tour de France were it not for a big time loss on the opening stage in the crosswinds. Yet more times than not he seemed to sense which wind was blowing and could handle himself in the crosswinds like a mini-Flandrien. But if he could master the echelons, a media storm is another matter.

From March 2019 the UCI banned the use of tramadol, an opioid pain killer, in competition. Cycling had a problem where some riders were using this drug in races, with concerns it was making some riders clumsy and crash-prone, plus it is addictive and so powerful that if you need it you probably shouldn’t be racing a bike. When the the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) tested stored samples for tramadol it found over 4% of cyclists were using tramadol. The UCI asked WADA to ban its use but in the absence of WADA moving the UCI went ahead by itself. Cycling’s governing body wrote its own rules to ban tramadol, setting its own penalties and running its own testing regime.

Fast-forward to 2022
Two samples taken from Quintana during the Tour de France showed tramadol announced the UCI in August. The samples were a week apart, and given the drug has a half life of about seven hours in the body, it implies repeat use. Consequently Quintana’s results from the Tour de France, including his sixth place overall, were disqualified.

Technically Quintana wasn’t done for a doping offence. It’s nuance but tramadol wasn’t and still isn’t on the WADA banned list (although it will be next year). Remember cycling’s governing body had created an extra rule and with it a corresponding penalty, namely disqualification of results. But that was it, there was no ban and when the news broke of the two positives Quintana was planning on riding the Vuelta a España, and eligible to do so. Only he decided to pull out saying he wanted to prepare his defence, and unsaid, presumably the relationship with the Arkéa-Samsic team had broken down.

In a twist of fate Quintana and Arkéa-Samsic had agreed a new three year contract and the team announced the deal, but it hadn’t been signed by both sides. Only the tramadol case appeared at this exact moment and the pens went down. Had Quintana signed perhaps he could still be in the sport as the French team might not be able to break the contract if it was only over a UCI health rule breach; although they might have tried to cite damage to their image. Anyway without speculating too much things could have turned out differently if just the timing had been different.

Out of contract, Quintana and his entourage were suggesting last year that he was close to a deal but things ended up with some teams openly denying any links. Things went quiet until last week it was reported the Corratec team, a newly promoted ProTeam, was interested. But team manager Serge Parsani said they didn’t have the budget, plus they’d signed up to the MPCC group of teams. The MPCC has led on the issue of banning tramadol for years before the UCI took up the cause but the MPCC’s own rules – I’ve read them so you don’t have to – do not to block a team signing Quintana. Yes these same rules say member teams can’t hire ex-dopers but again, but remember technically this isn’t a formal doping case. But good luck to a new team saying it’s not technically against the rules to sign a rider found to have used a substance the MPCC has long tried to ban. Make a Venn diagram of teams that are not in the MPCC and those that have room to recruit an extra rider and it’s bound to be small.

Quintana’s problem though is more than finding a vacancy. There’s a saying in politics that “if you’re explaining, you’re losing“. It’s much easier to have an internet meme with a picture of Quintana and block capitals declaring “two positive tests for a banned drug”. Trying telling the public that Quintana wasn’t actually done for doping and that he’s taken the regulatory punishment and is eligible to race, well it’s nuance that few teams looking to hire him want to explain. Plus it all happened in the Tour de France, so add “disqualified from Tour de France” to the same meme and it’s disastrous.

Still, there is some explaining to do. Quintana denied tramadol use but that’s hard when two tests separated by several days are involved, one sample could be contaminated but the odds on two? Still his defence team appealed and tried to blame the testing protocols saying it could have created a false positive, but didn’t come up with much to say how or why, and lost. There are no easy answers but as he took questions from the Colombian media in today’s press conference he set out his ambitions and options but the one big unanswered question is the how and why of the tramadol tests. These questions can also go to the Arkéa-Samsic team too.

Eligible to race under the rules, Quintana’s problem is now one of reputation and it’s here we can see how much the sport has changed. Not long ago a rider with an actual doping conviction and a poor reputation at that could still expect a contract. If this was happening a decade ago Quintana could have probably got a ride at, say, Lampre (their rider Michele Scarponi stayed on the books despite getting a ban for working with Michele Ferrari), Astana (even the UCI tried to cancel their licence) or Katusha (they signed Danilo Di Luca after his CERA sabbatical); or look at Vacansoleil hiring both Riccardo Ricco and Ezequiel Mosquera despite all their excess baggage. In many cases tainted riders came cheap and the teams were incentivised to hunt points. Today several teams crave points but they’ll do it without Quintana. Plus age is probably another factor though, he’s about to turn 33.

Nairo Quintana’s cycling career isn’t over yet, he’s vowed to fight on. Technically the tramadol tests aren’t doping cases but good luck explaining the nuance and alas it’s not something he’s attempted either. Perhaps in the past he’d have got a contract from teams who wouldn’t ask many questions but these days teams are acutely aware of reputational risks. Whatever Quintana could bring in terms of results and a following is outweighed by the still unexplained tramadol tests.

80 thoughts on “¿ Nairoman, Es Un Ciclista ?”

  1. Reputational damage, or rather that hiring an athlete who’s for whatever reason (including legitimate ones) in the line of fire not being a good idea.

    • His repeated public statements claiming he had a new team lined up can’t be helping.

      Any time he goes cap in hand to another team he now has to explain either why he got fired *twice* and/or why he thinks lying is okay. Not exactly conducive to making a good initial impression

      • Twice? I think zero times, actually. One if you count not getting a new contract at Arkea once his previous had expired. Note he wasn’t fired by Arkea after the 2020 police raid.

        • It was at least once. He had signed on for 2023-25 with Arkea-Samsic, only for them to drop him when the tram-o-meter started flashing red and making a siren sound.

          Whether there was a second time is up for grabs. If there wasn’t, then he was lying about having a deal for 2023. Either option will require explaining.

          • Uhmmm inrng above writes nobody had actually signed. And as far as “announcing deals” is concerned, well, I consider it pure nonsense (from Ferretti and all the way down to Pineau), even more so in a rider’s case, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “lying” – as a deal is *not* a signed contract. And, no, nobody will ask you much explanations in cycling, if you’re even in talk for a contract, all parties are already aware of everything.

      • I’m too lazy to look up the exact quotes, but it is my recollection that Nairoman never said he had a negotiated and/or signed deal with a team, he merely assured – repeatedly, that is certainly true – that he will race at WT level in 2023.
        I remember wondering whethet this was just extreme optimism on his part or whether indeed his manager was already deep in the talks with a team, If the former, I wished him luck (because I’m not too much into punishing sinners beyond what the rules say) and if the latter, I kind of expected that the team in quesion would probably release the news at a time when there would be other, hotter topics.

        The three-year deal with Arkea Samsic ran out, so at least technically he wasn’t fired (and I’m not sure Tramadol use alone would have been enough to “bring the sport into disrepoute” or to tarnish the team’s public image or whatever).

        PS In my mind there are too equally topmost mysteries:
        (1) if Quintana had used Tramadol on several occasions before the Tour, was it “too lucky” probabilitywise that he wasn’t tested on any of those race days?
        (2) Why did Quintana insist on going to the CAS when anyone could have and his manager and his lawyers should have told him that the appeal won’t have any chance at all?
        Since idle speculation is cheap, the srory I like to imagine is that someone he trusted, a soigneur or some such, wanted to help him at a dfficult time and gave him Tramadol without his permission. That would explain why he was so adamant about being innocent and why he couldn’t be talked out of appealing and into admitting his guilt, posing as a repentant cyclist and then shutting up until a deal for 2023 is a done thing…

        • They’re always adamant that they’re innocent.
          Bizarre excuses – ‘it was someone else who drugged them’ – are always concocted. (Would you drug someone else? Someone you’re trying to supposedly help?)
          They often go to CAS on what are obviously lost causes.

          They’ve seen how many people have got away with it in the past (even something as ludicrous as Impey’s excuse), and so they try it.

          • I wasn’t talking about “them” who in addition to being adamant that they re innocent concoct bizarre excuses and go to CAS. I was talking about Quintana.
            Those who go to CAS on obviously lost cases do so because they have nothing to lose anymore. Nairoman could conceivably be riding in 2023 if only he’d just admitted his guilt and said he’s deeply deeply sorry and perhaps sacking someone in his entourage.
            Or he could have paid someone to take the blame (as in “I wanted to help Nairo so that he could finish the Tour despite the pain his crash injury caused him”, That would have been a bizarre excuse, if you like, but Nairoman didn’t resort to it.
            The mystery to me is why he chose the path that – in this particular case – could only cause more damage. I have difficulty accepting the answer that athletes are often stupid or that their hubris makes them blind and sometimes their managers are just as stupid.

          • From the sounds of things, ie reading the CAS verdict (https://www.tas-cas.org/fileadmin/user_upload/CAS_Media_Release_9113_decision.pdf), Quintana’s CAS appeal comes across as the legal version of a solo attack into a headwind with 180km to go. He tried to explore two things: first the UCI didn’t have jurisdiction to test for tramadol (it was in their rulebook, they did); second that the tests were not accurate (the appeal was satisfied with the testing procedure and that Quintana samples contained Tramadol).

            If he really wanted to clear his name, why not ask for stored urine or blood samples to be tested, to give hair samples, all of which could show he was negative, and campaign publicly for this?

          • Thursday, My point was that in Quintana’s case, as with the others, I think he just hoped to get away with it.
            He could have gone with an admission and acceptance of guilt, but would that have got him a ride in 2023? I think that might have made it even less likely. Yes, he’d only have been admitting to taking a ‘non-doping’ drug, but that’s very possibly not how most of the public would have seen it. And how would team bosses view that? I think they might think that this was even worse publicity-wise.
            The method he chose has sometimes worked, whereas an admission of guilt? Well, I can’t think of anyone who has gone for this option, so who knows.
            Blaming someone else might have worked, but maybe he didn’t want to fork out the money for that, or maybe he’s morally better than that. It would be a hell of a step to take. And only the naïve would have believed him anyway (albeit that might include authorities if they prefer not to have doping stories in the sport).
            I’d never rule out desperation, arrogance and/or stupidity either.

          • Well, by this sort of inductive approach, to be fair you should also consider that cycling’s history includes a decent number of people framed for doping because someone actually got the substance in the athletes’ bodies (hard to prove, but there’s a decent consensus about Merckx’s Giro positive, or more recently Garzelli’s less famous one which all the same had a huge impact on the sport, as it ultimately lead to Mapei’s exit and the consequent Lefevere’s saga). Plus, an ever greater quantity (easier to achieve, indeed – if you’re the testing institution, I mean) of false positives, which since last December should officially include Pantani’s (not a positive test, technically, but equivalent).
            Of course, the above doesn’t mean that said athletes weren’t doping (please!). Just that they didn’t test positive *in those occasions* because they doped, or also that they weren’t necessarily using the substance they were caught for.

            That said, I totally agree with you about people often going to CAS as a desperate move. Yet, you shouldn’t forget that some athletes (very very few) were actually right. Quintana’s case fully belongs to the “desperate” category.

          • @inrng
            I’m on the bandwagon of “ehi Nairo, CAS? Uff, what a desperate move, come on!”, but it’s curious that you suggest the above (“why not ask for stored urine or blood samples to be tested, to give hair samples, all of which could show he was negative, and campaign publicly for this?”) while right now Toon Aerts’ case is still on (by the way, compare it with Errani’s case in tennis, and CAS’ attitude with the latter).

          • @J Evans
            Re: your latter comment. I remember several athletes having chosen an admission of guilt, and a range of resulting situations. Manzano is still the historical prototype of honest confesser (and martyr, as a consequence). Only apparently similar, you have David Millar confession, and back racing as a truly saint repetant sinner. Same for Ivan Basso although his confession was dubious to say the least. On the contrary, Kohl confessed about himself, yet protected his team, but still no further career was available for him. Jaksche OTOH had a full confession, a serious one, but the result was pretty much the same. Sinkewitz instead had a second chance after a full disclosure of his doping past, only to be caught with HGH some seven years later.

            In more recent years, Galimzyanov confessed fast and fully, but that was the end of his career, while Vanspeybrouck’s confession (or sort of…) helped him to continue on nearly a further decade of racing, after finally retiring at WT level last year at Intermarché.

            I think you’re simplifying too much, with a pinch of maximalism between the lines 😉

    • Actually, how >does< that work? From the MPCC website I see 9 WT teams are signed up: AG2R, Alpecin, Arkea, Bora, Cofidis, EF, FDJ, ICW, and DSM for those who can't be bothered to look it up (notably missing are the Big 4 JV, UAE, SQS, Ineos) and all but 3 Pro teams (Bolton, EOLO, Tudor). But there are riders on non-MPCC teams signed up (Arensmann from Ineos, Kanter from Movistar…) and some MPCC teams only have one or at most a few riders (Alpecin, EF, ICW …) while others are pretty much the whole team (the French teams, DSM). Are there different rules for teams and riders?

  2. I feel for Nairo. His un-doings were somewhat his own…IE, he should have raced the Vuelta unless specifically told otherwise.

    How did Movistar do so well transforming Valverde’s image? Can’t the same thing be done here? Or is this just a case of “time healing all wounds” vs. Nairoman’s time running short.

    • It’s interesting for Valverde, his ban was some time ago, at the time when getting a two year ban was the standard tariff and many of those convicted returned (see the reference to Di Luca above). I’ve reservations about Movistar still today singing his praises and making a chunk of their message about him rather than the future but that’s another story.

      • Valverde’s story works perfect for Movistar (the Unzué structure). The always effective prodigal son storyline. They grow him up, he leaves as a young rising star for the evil rivals, then he needs to come back and less than a year later the whole stuff which was being done there surfaces (we still don’t know who the cycling-insider whistleblower was and probably won’t ever, obviously) – but they of course forgive and support him all the way through. Nice.

    • It’s also a different world than it was 10 years ago. Valverde (and Contador) returned in 2012 to supportive teams.

      Since then, we’ve seen a few teams support their riders – but the big names ‘returning’ have all been for infractions of magnitude, not of kind. Froome & Yates were for Salbutemol, a drug you could take under certain thresholds (Froome) or with the right paperwork (Yates). Froome won his appeal, while Yates took his short punishment and admitted at least to faulty paperwork.

      Quintana’s been dinged for a drug you shouldn’t have in your system at all during a race, one that a sizable portion of the peloton has been advocating for its removal, and has more or less exhausted his appeals while only really citing his innocence (and little else).

      • Froome didn’t actually win any appeal as far as I know, and the whole story is still a huge shame for the sport. He also never publicly produced any *decent* explication for the figures. What came closest was I think some story about a level of dehydration which wasn’t consistent – not even by far – with his performance minutes before. I’m not even sure if it was something he said or it was his fans or loving journos.
        And, of course, Salbutamol used in those quantities is also quite more serious than Tramadol, whose use, by the way, was reportedly regular business at Team Sky.
        That said, IMHO Tramadol should obviously be forbidden also by the WADA, so even currently I wouldn’t advocate anyway for any sort of special treatment for Quintana – when you’re a pro cyclist, in this day and age you should know pretty well *how* antidoping *works*.
        What’s pretty sad is that everybody around perfectly got the message, so it’s game over irrespective of what the rules say.

        • Ah, and just to be clear – on a very personal level, I also believe that Froome was caught mainly because of a change in the political balance of the sport, and that it was intended as a little scolding (which he didn’t accept anyway, so institutions had to stop to prevent the whole thing from escalating and turning into money wrestling ) – *not at all* because any TV-movie storyline like “the good guys were finally able to get the villain with his hand in the cookie jar, until the usual courthouse punctilio left him loose in the streets again”.

        • Is this a technical distinction based on what an “appeal” is? Froome had an adverse finding, submitted more information, and WADA said “we accept this isn’t an adverse finding” so the UCI withdrew it. That’s effectively appealing against the original finding even if a formal “appeal” didn’t take place.

          • Not that technical. Unless the court decides otherwise for very specific reasons, in a real appeal the contents go public.

            Plus, we could debate about WADA and how it works, which countries it represents, but the above is more than enough to raise eyebrows up to the very highest mountain passes.

          • CAS decisions aren’t real appeals by that metric, then, as the case records are confidential unless the parties agree, and the parties can agree to keep the award itself confidential too:

            “R43 Confidentiality
            Proceedings under these Procedural Rules are confidential. The parties, the arbitrators
            and CAS undertake not to disclose to any third party any facts or other information
            relating to the dispute or the proceedings without the permission of CAS. Awards shall
            not be made public unless all parties agree or the Division President so decides.”

            “R59 Award…
            The original award, a summary and/or a press release setting forth the results of the
            proceedings shall be made public by CAS, unless both parties agree that they should
            remain confidential. In any event, the other elements of the case record shall remain

            But this is by the by in Froome’s case

          • Looks slightly contradictory (“shall not be made public unless…” or “shall be made public unless both parties agree”?), but given the titles of the two articles, I’d say that the first article refers to any party different from CAS undisclosing the award, while the second article mandates as a general rule that, indeed, the CAS itself *shall make public* the award itself *and* a shorter version of the results of the proceedings unless *both* parties decide otherwise. Which is what more often happened, isn’t it? UCI (especially) or WADA might have a hard time defending to the press that they agree about CAS results not going public.
            Or not… the media didn’t raise that much the pressure on WADA about their absurd and unprecedented attitude.

          • @gabriele – the contradiction results from yanking out two rules from different sections and depriving them of all their context.

            Article R43 is part of the Division B. The Ordinary Arbitration Procedure

            Article R59 is part of the Division C. The Appeal Arbitration Procedure

            They are mutually exclusive.

          • @DaveRides
            Thanks… and kudos for checking! I knew something wasn’t right in Nick’s point because of, well, what I’ve seen happening in the last CAS-plagued couple of decades. But your observation makes it clear – so, in the case of *an appeal* the award and the results of the proceedgins shall by default be made public unless *all parties agree* to make them confidential.

            Quite a difference, indeed, with Froome’s case, in which neither UCI or WADA looked even to have understood “which of them” and “how actually” did take the decision! Hot potato passing anyone… Mutual blaming and denying having acted on a decision which everybody considered so regrettable that it should be chalked up to someone else (my opinion is that it was WADA, and playing quite dirty, too, but it’s all so slimy that I won’t bet on that).

          • @gabriele
            > But your observation makes it clear – so, in the case of *an appeal* the award and the results of the proceedgins shall by default be made public unless *all parties agree* to make them confidential.

            I can understand the sort of cases where that might happen – cases where the CAS award would clearly show that the athlete was definitely guilty (athlete has an interest in keeping their cheating confidential) but they got away with it due to a procedural error (embarrassed governing body has an interest in keeping their incompetence confidential).

            My understanding is that the Froome case never had a decision made, therefore there isn’t anything which can be appealed and he just needs to hope the remaining four and a half years of the ten year limit elapse without any attempt to revisit the case.

            My understanding is that preventing a repeat of the “no, *you* prosecute Froome” standoff was one of the reasons for abolishing the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation and cycling joining up to the International Testing Agency.

  3. Considering pro-cycling’s history, this does seem overly hard on Quintana, but these are new times, when even the land of “ageing rocket climbers”, Portugal, is busting riders and teams.
    As for Quintana’s use of Tramadol, of all things, it does seem strange as he must have known the new regulations, but still used it? Odd.

    • Odd yes. Was he knowingly using it? If so was there a reason and did he think nobody was tested often? Or was someone on his entourage giving it to him? We’ll probably never know but it’s one of those “IQ test” things where taking it = high risk of getting caught, rather than a doping case of trying to fly under the radar or exploit grey areas. Whatever the reason there’s been no attempt at explanation.

      • If a member of his entourage was giving it to him without his knowledge is there any reason he wouldn’t come out and say that? I would have thought his position would look better as a result. Simon Yates’ defence was that the team made an error and didn’t submit a TUE and his reputation doesn’t seem to be tarnished as a result. I guess it helps that the team backed him up on this whereas Arkea wouldn’t.

    • What’s even more peculiar is that when in 2020 there was an already quite odd police raid directed to Quintana’s room and his entourage’s, no Tramadol was reported. I think that no exhaustive list was officially published, but what was closer to doping was a possible “method” which Le Parisien identified as 100 ml of saline and injection equipment. If I remember correctly, apparently most of the rest was naturopathy or that sort of things. I guess that that sort of police leak which typically follows a failed raid would have included Tramadol, if it was found, even if it was legal, just to justify the action (“100 ml of saline”…). And being Tramadol totally legal then, there would have been no need for the athlete to hide it.

      But… whatever. IMHO Quintana burnt his whole future chances some time ago when he entered a conflict with the top level of his national federation. Given the modus operandi used against Manzana Postobon, from then on you could literally expect anything.

    • I have wondered if he was taking a different thing. I so called natural remedy or such and it contained tramadol. Like Shane warne (a famous cricket player) who took a weight loss drug his mother gave him that contained a prohibited compound.

      • It might depend from country to country but normally tramadol is regulated, a prescription only medicine given in limited quantities, it certainly is in France where Quintana was racing at the time. You wouldn’t find it in herbal tea.

        • Unfortunately, regulated prescription drugs are found in “herbal tea” & similar “natural remedies” regularly, even in countries like France. It’s illegal, of course, but as such “herbal” products aren’t as strictly regulated as prescription drugs, there is also less testing, especially as long as nobody dies or gets banned for doping…

          • Athletes are responsible for what they put in their mouth.

            If they are taking supplements of any kind (including ones with “natural” on the label) they should be using the batch testing services to ensure that nothing prohibited – or detrimental – is in there as well.

          • Cancellara on Contador (February 09, 2012):
            “Now they are saying that it wasn’t even the food, it was a supplement. It is hard to believe that Alberto would take a supplement without having it tested. You get offered them everywhere but you say ‘ok’ and send them to the lab. For a cyclist, this is your insurance.”

  4. I’m still having trouble figuring this whole thing out. Tramadol is one of those things that’s clearly labeled “don’t take while operating heavy machinery.” It’s not something you’d want in your system on a descent at 90kmph. So, I’d guess it must have been taken after racing, for pain relief and possibly as a sleep aid. A quick Google search found this; “Tramadol is detectable in urine for 1-4 days after last use, in hair for 4-6 months, in saliva for up to 48 hours, and in blood for about 12-24 hours.” So, theoretically, a laboratory test of a hair sample could have proven definitively that Quintana didn’t take Tramadol. Any decent lawyer would know this and would have suggested it as a line of defense. That it wasn’t done kind of says everything. The most logical explanation I can think of is pretty simple (again, from Google); “…tramadol is not subject to any “special control” by the Ministry of Health because it is an over-the-counter opioid analgesic in Colombia.” Nairo may simply have not known it was prohibited, was racing through an injury, and took it “innocently.” If so, stating that upfront might have meant he would be in a training camp somewhere right now. In any case, where does he go now? The best case scenario would seem to be a team that could get an invite to the Vuelta (Burgos-BH, Caja-Rural or maybe Euskaltel–Euskadi). The Vuelta route would suit him, and he’d certainly be an upgrade on any of the GC riders in those squads.

    • By far and away the most likely scenario is the most common one (and also applies to Froome’s salbutamol): Quintana knew exactly what he was doing, he’d done it often before, and he thought he’d continue to get away with it.
      Froome got away with it because money and power. Quintana, no longer being at the top of the sport, was not worth supporting.

      • “It’s not something you’d want in your system on a descent at 90kmph.” Which is why Nairo had it for uphill finishes but it was normally a finishing bottle cocktail of Tramadol and caffeine plus other “goodies”. Maybe someone messed up Nairo’s finishing bottle? (the peloton must have surely found a replacement for Tramadol)

      • Froome may have used money and power to get away with the salbutamol case but that was because of how the rules were written. My recollection is that the rules say if that level of salbutamol in your system is above the limit it is acceptable if you can demonstrate with physiological trials that it is possible without taking more than the allowed amount. Froome’s defence said that it wasn’t possible to replicate the final week of a grand tour so the rules weren’t fit for purpose. It seems that the rules are a bit more cut and dry for Tremadol so I’m not sure if Froome and his team would have been able to “get away with it” as you suggest.

        • But the fact that the pharmokinetic study should necessary replicate the exact conditions of the exact moment of the event isn’t in the rules (and makes little sense). Besides, *any* onus is on the athlete which is considered at fault *unless he proves otherwise*. From WADA 2020 code:

          “The presence in urine of salbutamol in excess of 1000 ng/mL
          or formoterol in excess of 40 ng/mL is not consistent with
          therapeutic use of the substance and will be considered as an
          Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) unless the Athlete proves,
          through a controlled pharmacokinetic study, that the
          abnormal result was the consequence of a therapeutic dose
          (by inhalation) up to the maximum dose indicated above”.

          Froome’s defense was frankly as laughable as Nairo’s, and I doubt any serious court would have taken it into account. In fact, nobody apparently did… it happened all alone… UCI and WADA blaming each other for the decision was a mud wrestling show for the ages.

          But I’d agree with somebody above that it’s quite enough about Froome, although I’m also being inevitably brought to the subject by the uneasy sensation it generates when sepaking of this sort of subject, the man still being around with a feel-good halo around him while we (rightly) speak of “reputational damage” about Quintana.

        • Fact is that everyone else who did what Froome did got banned. The rest is legalese. And if you’ve got the money you can afford the top lawyers.

          And we never go to see any evidence.

        • @ d. nixon
          That said, I agree with you that Quintana’s case is harder to come away with easily. Not that Froome’s was much easier (ask Petacchi or Ulissi), but easier than Quintana’s, yes. I recalled Garzelli’s story here, and it was a bit like that – in that case more or less nobody really believed that it was actually “doping”, it was quite clearly an action against the team (by the way, it also happened in other sports in following years with the same substance or a similar). But, the rules as they are, nothing could be done for him.

          • The point I was trying to make was that they are different substances with different implications and that comparing the two cases is a little redundant. Ulissi/Petacchi/Froome comparisons are obviously a lot more valid.

  5. By the way, isn’t it curious that thanks to Aderlass we know that several cyclists were blood-doping well into the second half of the 2010s (up to 2018-2019), and yet none of them ever had any antidoping problem? We’ll now see what Ilex can disclose.
    I don’t totally dislike cycling’s “new” approach to antidoping, more tennis-like I’d say, but I don’t feel totally at ease with it, either; what’s sure is that firmly believing that we’re in an age of hard scrutiny by sport institutions against doping practice is a bit disingenuous – or naif.

    • Quintana’s plight just seems pretty obvious, in a sense he’s just unlucky to have had this issue at this time and at his age meaning there’s unlikely to be a team willing to back him. In another sense he might only have himself to blame but if the doping controls tell me he hasn’t doped I’m willing to accept it. It’s no surprise given the current moment he’s not finding a team. A shame for him and a sorry end to his career. His reaction to the decision doesn’t seem to have been faultless and can’t help but raise further suspicions but until there’s evidence is it what it is. Goodbye Quintana and thank you for the memories, it’s a shame he never nabbed a TDF.

      In terms of everything else discussed, it makes me a little uneasy when the comments get too emphatic on doping – I’m willing to believe many cycling fanatics on here are experts in cycling but surely most of us are not pharmacists?

      I’m not saying we can’t and shouldn’t learn or try to learn but there comes a point where we need to be a bit less emphatic with our opinions…?

      I’d emphasise that I’m not arguing cycling is perfect nor that the messaging is spot on but I feel given cycling’s specific history I can understand why we are where we are and am willing to give those in the know/doping control a little benefit of the doubt on how they’re managing things…

      Nuance in public opinion and expertise is hard to come so I can’t think of a better way to enjoy cycling than to trust the controls we currently have and respect those fighting for improvements. When someone fails a test but in later hearings is cleared, even if on a technicality, I’m even willing to accept and if something is not doping one year which later is declared doping, I again will accept. Maybe I’m a sheep but being no kind of expert in medicine I don’t know how else to act without fall into the trap of my own overall ignorance – the climate and race speeds and so many other factors give the indication that things are better than they were and I’ll let those with the understanding keep fighting the good fight.

      Although maybe I’m always too understanding.

      There seems like many historic decisions taken in relation to doping however silly they appear now are understandable in a sense which you look at how hard to govern this sport is.

      • Personally, I know a lot more about pharmacology than I do about cycling.
        I’m cynical about every person who is caught doping and then concocts some fantastical excuse because ‘I cheated’ is so much more plausible a reason than ‘It was in a supplement/someone else gave it to me without me knowing/I have magic kidneys/it was my mum’s medicine/it was the beef/the pharmacist gave me contaminated capsules…’ and so on.

      • “I feel given cycling’s specific history I can understand why we are where we are and am willing to give those in the know/doping control a little benefit of the doubt on how they’re managing things”.

        I appreciate the peace & love approach, but this is probably one of the most contradictory sentences I’ve ever read.

        That is, given *cycling’s specific history*, which shows how sport institutions have been actively favouring or covering doping for decades, while at the same time using antidoping as a weapon to directly or indirectly sink political enemies (be them teams, athletes, or even other actors as were organisers during the UCI-ASO war) you are now quite inclined, or prone, to grant some benefit of the doubt to those working in doping control? Stockholm syndrome?

        If you want to stick to recent news (last couple of months), thanks to institutions which don’t belong to the sport, namely parliamentary investigation commitees, whose work went on despite the respective cycling national federations’ attitude…
        1) former doctor Freeman lost his last appeal and maybe he will finally face DSQ from the sport (he’s already been banned as a medical doctor!), as we now happen to know (part of) what Freeman was doing as a team doctor at Sky and for UK national formations, in public structures and with public resources, by the way.
        2) in Italy, it was officially stated by the final report of the “antimafia parliamentary committee” that the blood test which had Pantani stopped in Madonna di Campiglio was most probably manipulated with the complicity of those who carried out the test, while “gross anomalies” can be detected in the subsequent police investigation and court proceedings.

        Official public knowledge about Freeman needed some 10 years to surface (UK cycling federation hasn’t acted, yet), in Pantani’s case we had to wait 25 years or so. Italians are slower.

        You could start with UCI president Verbrugge openly using antidoping tests as a means of coercion (or further back, of course, say with Merckx’s Giro test and on and on), the whole Armstrong story (including Mayo’s false positives), CAS observations about McQuaid’s UCI management of the Contador case (despite, of course, not acquitting Contador), then more recently TUEs, Manzana Postobon shutting etc.
        Gourmets may remember when to raise pressure on Riccò his then wife (a CX athlete) was hit by a false positive – an anecdote which shows that it’s hardly a good versus evil world.

        One could long wonder about the curious situation of a UCI President coming from a federation which worked hand in hand with a specific team, which on turn hired the UCI President’s son, and with such premises by pure chance that team became hugely successful while at the same time being involved in a number of embarassing situations (I guess that the now legendary Henao scientific papers will be published along with the “very-soon-to-be-published science” about salbutamol which convinced everybody in Froome’s case), the worst ones coming, of course, from contexts external to the sport.

        But that’s the dirty past!, said cycling after Festina once never never never tested positive Lance raised. But that’s the dirty past! said cycling after the whole Armstrong saga went public. But that’s the dirty past! says cycling today.
        Of course a day will come when the dirty past will *actually* be the dirty past, and *that day*, which might as well be today, historical knowledge would push us towards a cynical fallacy of sort.
        In that sense, I must say that I just suspend both belief and disbelief. No hurry – sooner or later decades go passing and sometime, only sometime, things become a little clearer.
        And I greatly enjoy cycling all inclusive. Personally, I don’t need to look at it through any rose-tinted glasses.
        At the same time, taking everything which happens in or around cycling at pure face value is a personal choice as many others, but “given cycling’s specific history” you don’t need any pharmacist degree to label it as naif. And I’m speaking of the “doping & antidoping” side, not of the sport performances, which, IMHO, are only partially not to say *marginally* related to doping.

    • Blood doping can’t be detected using the pee samples used most for regular doping testing AFAIK.

      It would show up in “blood passport” testing, I suppose, especially if used shortly before taking samples, but blood testing is much less common AFAIK (unless that has changed recently?).

      • A couple of years after the biopassport was introduced, Dr. Zorzoli published an article to defend its success which, among other things, showed how blood testing was being performed quite often on cycling athletes, precisely in order to make the BP work. It was around 2010 I think.

        I frankly can’t say what happened in the following decade, although some big name working as a scientist for the programme went away slamming the door and Vroomen was also very vocal about the programme’s issues (as Bordry, head of French antidoping, had already been before).

        And Zorzoli… well, he later became more famous for reasons quite different from his academic work.

      • The UCI’s Tramadol tests are done using a blood test,
        “The UCI – with the support of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated to define and lead the strategy on anti-doping testing and investigations in our sport – took samples mainly at the finish line of races. Tests were carried out using the Dried Blood Spots (DBS) reference method. Developed by the Swiss company DBS Systems, sampling kits were used to conduct this minimally invasive test, which involves collecting a small amount of blood from the rider’s fingertip.”

  6. It’s pleasing to see riders who are caught doping or associating with dopers being dropped by their teams and not picked up by others (finally).
    I wonder if it would happen were it a top European rider on a team of their nationality, or would nationalism and money be the deciding factors, as we’ve seen previously.

  7. I wonder if Quintana’s case will make teams think harder about taking on an entourage when signing a star rider. I suppose the notion of specialist support riders is understandable, maybe even a trusted rider/friend who speaks the same language, a trainer and even masseur too, but when it gets to the position of requiring his own rather than the team doctor, it starts to look worrying. Maybe Arkéa-Samsic and Emmanuel Hubert were too lenient in acquiescing to his demands when signing him.

    • Hadn’t one of Arkéa’s sponsors (Samsic) already indicated a zero tolerance approach to doping and, that in the event of a doping positive, they would quit immediately. Quantana’s positives were not – technically – doping, but must have been close enough for Hubert not to take chances with the sponsor.

      And if Hubert and the sponsors had found Quintana’s explanation credible, would they have been more accepting of the error?

  8. Perhaps Nairo’s problem is he is a little older now and a long way from his peak and he asked for to much also considering this issue plus the raid a couple of years ago. If he had been willing to consider a cheap one year deal from the get go he might have been okay.

  9. I’m with oldDave on this one. I am not willing to think that every extraordinary performance is due to doping. That negates the power of desire.
    And that denies that the famous “suitcase of courage” even exists.
    To me that is maybe the biggest part of this sport.

    • Exactly this. I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think that cycling (or any sport, for that matter) is completely clean, but to always assume the absolute worst? That’s the kind of cynicism that drove me away from the sport in the wake of the USADA reasoned decision. To this day I cannot stand to hear Phil Liggett narrate anything because I instinctively associate his voice with the EPO era. It took years for me to return as a fan of the sport, and although I have a healthy dose of skepticism about certain things, I refuse to become cynical.

      • I’m certainly not in the ‘everyone’s doping’ camp – I’ve always been a ‘We don’t know what they’re doing (apart from in the 90s/early 00s when it was obvious to me that almost everyone was doping), but when someone is caught with drugs in their system, it’s very very likely that they put them there, and that they did so deliberately.

    • It’s probably the other way around.

      I don’t believe that, barring some specific cases, doping is a key factor in cycling, to start with because cycling isn’t only about results, and results on turn aren’t about pure performance, when cycling is at his best; on top of that, because it’s not even that clear which the impact of *the different forms and ways of doping* as such have on the performance!

      Which is why, as I wrote somewhere else in this debate, I would not necessarily be against what I suspect to be the current institutional attitude in the sport (tennis-like, I said, I guess you get what I mean), although I’m left with some doubt.

      What I consider naif is thinking that Quintana’s case shows anything like “the now serious fight of the sport against doping” or any sort of real “morality” among teams – not even a more practical reputation-related sort of.

      I think that we’ll never know what happened (or that it’s very improbable anyway). So, my take is that Quintana must accept the unfortunate accident and, well, retire, or race somewhere else. I’d even say that he’d better thought about retiring after the void police raid in 2020. I can imagine that it’s very hard when you feel you still have top world level in your legs, but politics is part of reality, and reality is made of accidents. Accidents happen, and they tend to become more and more serious if the underlying conditions do not change.

      More important even… you shall never never never defy the 1990 curse!

  10. The fact that Nairo needs Tramadol probably means a serious medical problem is causing a lot of pain that prevents him from performing on the same level as he used to without the help of heavy painkillers. It’s quite possible (also considering his age) that such an issue would get worse over time, which is another reason why the bigger teams might not want to take the risk of hiring him…

    • Isn’t the standard use of Tramadol to enable riders to go deeper into the red without feeling the physical effects that cause the brain to say stop? That’s the impression I got from its supposed use by Sky et al in training.
      If so, it would suggest Quintana needed it to ride with the best, but not necessarily that he had a serious underlying medical problem.

      • What honestly confuses me about this is how a rider using an opioid is even able to stay on their bike. I know that everybody responds to drugs differently, but from personal experience, I would never do it. I’ve had prescriptions for things like Vicodin and cyclobenzaprine after minor surgeries, and even at small doses they put me out of commission. I wouldn’t go near my bike if I had them in my system. Unless they’re being combined with a very strong stimulant, I don’t see how they could be useful in an in-race scenario. In Quintana’s case, there was no mention of anything other than Tramadol being detected, which is what make me think he used it after racing, not during. If there are any MDs or pharmacologists who’d like to explain this, I’m all ears…

  11. I’ve not kept up with cycling stories since the end of last season. Can someone explain why ‘Superman’ Lopez is at that Colombian team? Is he involved in something dopey or is it just his general attitude?!

    • He’s linked to Operacion Ilex, a Spanish police investigation and Astana fired him for links to Marcos Maynar, a sports doctor. Just this week Maynar said he was working with Lopez but only for nutritional advice and recommending the use of Actovegin… which if true still means Lopez was working with outsiders rather than team staff. With an active police investigation on going no team wants Lopez either.

  12. If you are looking for riders to sympathise with over a broken career, first try Chloe Hoskins, Olympic gold Anna Kiesenhofer and French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
    -Stuffed by Jérôme Pineau’s Team B&B Hotels when it was supposedly getting a big money sponsor to build up the men’s team and start a top-flight women’s team.
    Interview: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2023/jan/27/cyclist-chloe-hosking-my-career-is-facing-its-end-when-i-dont-feel-im-done

    And tout l’histoire Pineau/Quillot: https://www.ouest-france.fr/sport/cyclisme/b-b-hotels-ktm/exclusif-un-train-lance-a-pleine-vitesse-dans-le-mur-nos-revelations-sur-le-fiasco-b-b-hotels-c6f95a2a-99e6-11ed-93e9-6da8db7a68df

  13. If you are looking for riders to sympathise with over a broken career, first try Chloe Hoskins, Olympic gold Anna Kiesenhofer and French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
    -Stuffed by Jérôme Pineau’s Team B&B Hotels when it was supposedly getting a big money sponsor to build up the men’s team and start a top-flight women’s team. Look out for her in the Australian team, aiming for a top result to get a proper job offer. ( excellent interview in The Guardian)

  14. As ever on here when the subject strays into doping territory we’re seeing some commenters in their true lights. Charlatans, bigots and liars. My heroes aren’t dopers, they’re heroes! And those riders I really don’t like? They’re dopers too, no matter what the record says, and I know because history, so there! All with reams and reams of wordsalad to obscure, mask, cloud and confuse. Yet other commenters continue to be taken in by them, gullible swallowers of the bullshit. So it goes.

    • And those commenters whose opinions I really don’t like? They’re charlatans, bigots and liars!
      No matter the facts, and I know because of true lights (which I see, and sometimes talk to me by night, those true lights, yes, to me and to the rest of the Anon brotherhood…) – oh what was I saying? Oh, sure, reams and reams of obscure verbs and confuse nouns, yet so many continue to be taken in by THEM, THEM, you know who. Gullible! Gullible!

    • The person who used to comment here as RonDe forswore these pages after the 2018 season when people refused to blindly accept his hero Froome’s excuses. Now, he sporadically returns only to insult and castigate those commenters who he, even after so many years, still holds a grudge against.
      But that’s not you, is it, ‘Anonymous’?

      • It’s a bit confusing when one “anonymous” tries to tackle another.

        Closing the comments as people are riding their hobby horses into town and arguing over matters rather than discussing Quintana’s case. Sorry if this prevents others from bringing light or information to the topic but from experience once readers start taking shots at the each other things stay bad tempered and it just uses up bandwidth.

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