The 29 year old Belgian cyclo-crosser, Ben Berden, has tested positive for EPO, according to a report in Tuesday's Het Belang van Limburg and later confirmed by other sources. The test was carried out on the John Saey-Deschacht rider at a race in Essen last December. A counter-analysis has yet to be performed, however on Wednesday morning, one of his sponsors John Saey confirmed to Belga that, "Berden has admitted that he used EPO. He started to use the product at the beginning of December 2004. When his hematocrit fell to 38 he decided to take EPO of his own accord. After the 'cross in Essen he told his family. On Wednesday last week, he told me that he wanted to talk to me after the Belgian Championships about a problem."
Berden - who is the first cyclo-crosser to test positive for EPO - faces dismissal from his team and it could well mean the end of the John Saey-Deschacht team. "I already knew about the ominous news that Berden tested positive for the use of EPO," said co-sponsor Ronny Deschacht to Belga. "This is a disappointing affair. Berden probably let himself be trapped. He felt tired and always wanted to have good performances. That's probably why he sought refuge in this means."
Berden will give a press conference later on Wednesday where he is expected to confirm these reports. The tests were carried out by the Flemish government and not the Belgian cycling federation, which has not yet been officially informed as there has been no B sample result.
National coach Rudy de Bie told the RUG newspapers that, "I thought that cyclo-cross would be spared of this sort of scandal. I'm not just disappointed, but extremely disappointed and ask myself why? This is more than stupid. He could earn good money in the next few years. He probably wanted more out of himself than was there to close that last gap to the top."
Berden came third in the Belgian national cyclo-cross championships held last weekend.