The Wanty Groupe Gobert team stopped Enrico Gasparotto and Björn Thurau from starting the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday after reports tests carried out on behalf of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) association revealed they had low cortisol levels.
The Belgian team confirmed their withdrawal to Cyclingnews and said further information will be given later on Sunday. The MPCC confirmed the two new cases of low cortisol in a statement after French sports newspaper L’Equipe revealed that the riders were tested on Saturday evening.
"These voluntary tests have been performed in collaboration with French Cycling Association (FFC) and French Cycling League (LNC). It was found that 2 cortisol level were below the voluntary MPCC norm. In each case the physician in charge of the team prescribed a minimum of 8 days of non-competition to the rider," the MPCC said in its statement, also giving background information on the tests.
"The objective of the MPCC and its member teams is to contribute to restoring the credibility of cycling. One of the organisation’s activities are voluntary cortisol tests amongst the riders of the member teams of the MPCC. In case the results of the test present an abnormally low value, the rider concerned will not race for a period of minimum eight days until the cortisol value has recovered again above that minimum value."
"For the sake of clarity: it concerns a voluntary norm and the test does not concern an anti-doping control. Under WADA rules, athletes across all sports, with a cortisol level abnormally low, are entitled to perform their sport in competition (unless an anti-doping test has revealed the unauthorized use of the cortisol hormone)."
Gasparotto –the winner of this year’s Amstel Gold Race, appeared in fine form during the early stage of the Dauphine. He was often aggressive and finished ninth on stage three won by fellow Italian Fabio Aru (Astana).
Unusual low cortisol levels do not violate UCI or WADA rules, however the MPCC’s article 9 requires that a rider sits out from racing for a minimum of eight days as a health precaution. Low cortisol levels can point to the use of cortisone or be due to other health problems. Cortisone abuse has been a serious problem in the past because it is difficult to detect and can be hidden by medical needs.
In recent years the stringent MPCC rules have clashed with those of the UCI and WADA and the desire of the teams to continue in races while also basking the credibility MPCC membership has carried.
Last year the Astana team ignored the MPCC rules when Lars Boom was found with a low cortisol level before the Tour de France. The team was subsequently kicked out of the MPCC. Other teams have also fallen foul of the stringent MPCC rules in recent years and have left or been forced out of the organisation. Several of the biggest WorldTour teams have always refused suggestions that they should be a part of the MPCC.