The Belgian Cycling anti-doping prosecutor has officially requested a two-year ban for Greg Van Avermaet following an investigation into his links with Dr. Chris Mertens and suspected anti-doping offences.
During a hearing, attended by Van Avermaet, Jaak Fransen of the Royale Ligue Vélocipédique Belge (RLVB) also formally requested that the BMC rider was disqualified from all the results of races for the 2012 season and fined 262.500 Euro. A final verdict in the case is expected on May 7.
Van Avermaet is one of several riders involved in the long-running case. In March cyclo-cross riders Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens also faced a hearing. Van Avermaet was riding Tirreno-Adriatico at the time and his hearing was put back until today, after the Belgian had competed in the cobbled Classics. He finished third in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Van Avermaet has admitted that he worked with Dr. Mertens but insisted he has not done anything wrong. Dr. Mertens is suspected of carrying out banned ozone treatment for several rider and cyclo-cross rider Pieter Van Herck, who was banned for two years. However according to reports in the Belgian media, the Royale Ligue vélocipédique Belge accusations against Van Avermaet focus on the use of two other medicines: the corticoid Diprophos, which is only banned in competition but can be used with a medical certificate, and Vaminolact, a fortifying baby food that helps improve recovery. This is banned if injected. Van Avermaet's defence claimed he was given a prescription for the substance but never took it to a pharmacy.
A report by Sporza suggests that the case against Van Avermaet is based on an email exchange between Dr. Mertens and Van Avermaet. It appears Van Avermaet was treated with Diprophos, under medical supervision, for a heel problem that still causes him problems. His lawyer insisted that he used the corticoid for treatment, not to boost his performance in races.
The news of the Van Avermaet case first emerged on the morning of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 28. The BMC team opened an internal investigation but claimed that no information has been obtained that indicates rules have been violated and so left Van Avermaet on active status. They confirmed their decision today in a brief statement.
According to Sporza, Van Avermaet insisted he will ride Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
"I can only hope that the Commission will show some common sense," Van Avermaet said according to Sporza after the hearing.