Belgian cyclist Ludovic Capelle has had his 18 month suspension for EPO use overturned by the Council of State. Capelle tested positive for the drug at a race in Gullegem, Belgium on June 7, and was given a one and a half year ban by the disciplinary commission of the Flemish Community in October. However, Capelle appealed the sanction to Belgium's Council of State, the country's highest administrative court and was cleared on a technicality. He is now a free rider, albeit one without a contract.
The basis for lifting the ban was a procedural error. "The drug testing officer went beyond his competence during the control," said Capelle's lawyer Johnny Maeschalck on Sporza Radio. "We had seven points to argue to lift the suspension. The Council of State immediately found in the first one a procedural error, and therefore didn't consider the other points. We asked for acquittal and got it."
The Flemish Community said that it will respect the decision of the Council of State, although it maintains that Capelle had EPO in his system on June 7. "We will take Capelle off the list of banned athletes," said Chris Vanderauwera from the Disciplinary Council of Medically Responsible Sports. "Capelle disputed whether he was called up by the draw for the doping control. The doctor could not explain that to the disciplinary commission. Therefore, the Council of State lifted the suspension.
"Still, it's true that there was EPO found in Capelle. The Council of State will discuss that later. In the meantime, we will improve our procedures."
Capelle's former employer, Gérard Bulens of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, did not want to comment on the possibility of re-hiring the rider. "This is all over my head," he said. "I don't know anything about the whole affair, because neither Capelle nor his lawyer has really told me anything. We couldn't do anything else but sack him. Certainly after the suspension was confirmed by the Flemish Community. The dismissal was in accord with the rules of the federation and the UCI."