SA cycling's EPO scandal squashed

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Cycling_generic10 Independent Newspapers

Cape Town – Anti-doping authorities have called for calm amid rumours that a number of top South African cyclists may soon be exposed.

The Cape Argus cannot repeat the rumours as they are defamatory, but they are widespread on social media and e-mail lists. They include allegations that a top cyclist has told the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) who supplies the oxygen-boosting drug EPO, and to whom the drug has been supplied – in exchange for “amnesty” from prosecution.

The rumours were prompted by Saids chief executive officer Khalid Galant’s announcement late last month that retroactive tests would be carried out for EPO (Erythropoietin) on all blood samples of more than 50 top cyclists who competed in major races last year, to establish whether EPO doping took place and whether there was an EPO doping infrastructure in South Africa.

Athletes testing positive would be charged and could face bans.

Galant said cyclists who tested “clean” in major cycle races last year had an opportunity to exercise their right in terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code and come forward before prosecution.

He has dispelled rumours about cyclists “being investigated” or testing positive.

“First, no cyclist has yet been identified for a positive dope test coming out of the retroactive testing. The samples are being analysed and the lab is working with sample numbers and not athlete names. Once a positive test is confirmed, only then do we match it with a name.

“A lot of rumours have been circulating… I think someone was intentionally spreading these rumours in a malicious manner to cause a distraction from cyclists’ preparations for the national marathon champs that were held in Barberton last week.”

Galant said there was no “amnesty” on offer. “The (Wada) code allows athletes to… confess to a doping activity before they are charged. If that step is followed a plea bargaining process can be instituted.” No riders had come forward. The results would be known by the end of next month.

In the January 24 announcement, Galant said the crackdown followed South Africa’s first EPO positive result, involving David George, a top cyclist who tested positive in an out-of-competition test in August. – Cape Argus

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