Twenty riders were tested for corticoids at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque on Monday in additional controls organised by the French Cycling Federation in conjunction with the Movement for Professional Cycling and France’s Ligue Nationale de Cyclisme.
The riders, who were from French teams and MPCC member Argos-Shimano, underwent blood tests, which were analysed for elevated levels of cortisol. According to L’Équipe, one rider did not start Tuesday’s final stage as a result of the tests.
FFC president David Lappartient told L’Équipe that the unannounced tests were carried out under the auspices of the federation, and that in the case of a sample showing elevated levels of cortisol, “a certificate preventing the practice of high level sport could be issued.”
“There were twenty tests, and one rider did not start again,” Lappartient continued.
In such a scenario, a rider is normally notified by registered mail that he is prevented from starting and must undergo further tests before returning to competition. L’Équipe notes that given the timeframe in Dunkerque, it would have been up to the team itself to withdraw the rider.
The only non-starter on stage five of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque was former Tour de France king of the mountains Anthony Charteau (Europcar). Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau said that his rider withdrew from the race due to a knee injury.
“He had a pain in his knee, he was complaining about it last night [Monday – ed.],” Bernaudeau said. “The team doctor then took the decision to stop him. There was no point in going on, all the more so as it was cold and Anthony much prefers the heat.”
Charteau is set to return to action at the Bayern Rundfahrt on May 23.
An elevated level of cortisol is indicative of corticoid use, and while this is legal with a therapeutic use exemption (TUE), concern has grown about the number of riders availing of such exemptions since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) extend the permissible threshold for corticoids in 2005.
As well as its potential use as a performance-enhancer of considerable significance, the abuse of corticoids poses a number of health risks, including adrenal insufficiency.
During last year's Tour de France, riders from MPCC teams were tested for cortisol the day after the second rest day, with all controls reported as negative. The seven MPCC member teams are Cofidis, FDJ-BigMat, Europcar, Bretagne-Schuller, Ag2r-La Mondiale, Argos-Shimano and Garmin-Barracuda.