Martin Vinnicombe, the Australian coach who was reported earlier today as having been banned from coaching in China, says press reports were the first he'd heard of it.
"I don't know anything about it," Vinnicombe told Cyclingnews this afternoon. "I don't know why nobody from the Chinese Olympic Committee has contacted me about this."
Vinnicombe denied any involvement with cyclist Zeng Liqing's positive test for EPO and said, "How the hell would I find [EPO] out there? I wouldn't even know where to find it here. There's so many holes in this, it's bullshit."
At the time of Liqing's March 25 test Vinnicombe said he was in Australia, or had just returned to China after medical tests at Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital. He had returned to Australia for two weeks after developing high blood pressure and kidney problems and CAT scans showed some suspicious lumps. He and his doctors eventually concluded he was suffering from an overdose of monosodium glutamate.
"I then went back [to China] to start another business but returned to Australia after three weeks for health reasons," said Vinnicombe.
Vinnicombe said his contract as a coach for Liqing's team had ended on October 31, 2004 in any case. Why then, did he feel he was being singled out? "I assume because I am supposed to assume responsibility for my riders," he said.
Vinnicombe thinks the length of time between the test and the official announcement of sanctions against him is suspicious. "I think they have had plenty of time to think about this," he said.
With no official notification, Vinnicombe is frustrated and angry that he can't even contest the Chinese ban. "I wish I had a piece of paper in my hand [notifying me]," he said. "But how the hell do you battle a Communist government?
"What could I do about this? Tip $100,000 into it? I don't have $100,000. There's nothing I can do about it," he said.
Vinnicombe isn't the only one who first heard about his ban by reading about it in the news. Cycling Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee (two of the organizations responsible for enforcing any international sanction) have not been notified. Chinese authorities would be expected to notify the UCI, who would in turn notify Cycling Australia, but to date this has not happened.
Cyclist Zeng Liqing was banned for two years and fined 4,000 yuan (about US$493) after testing positive for rEPO, the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) announced yesterday. The COC also banned Martin Vinnicombe from coaching in China for four years and fined him 5,000-yuan (US$617 dollars).