By Greg Johnson
In what may be regarded as a landmark decision by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Genevieve Jeanson, banned for life after testing positive to EPO in July 2005, has been awarded a reduced sentence of just two years. Despite announcing her retirement on January 19 this year, it appears the Canadian is re-thinking a return to professional cycling, who is now able to resume racing as early as July 2007.
"I’m 25 and I still have a lot of good years ahead of me," said Jeanson in a statement. "But accepting the USADA’s offer was a difficult decision. Other decisions will wait."
The agreement between USADA and Jeanson, dated November 1, 2006, comes after a recent expert report submitted by Belgian doctor Joris Delanghe, hired by Jeanson, who questioned Jeanson's test results from the 2005 International Tour de Toona, claiming it to be a false positive.
It should be noted that the agreement is not an admission of guilt by Jeanson. According to her statement, the purpose is to "take into account all of the circumstances of the matter and to avoid the mutual burden of going forward with the AAA/CAS hearing".
Equally, USADA has not admitted their test results were inaccurate: "Both parties acknowledge that they are not changing their respective positions by agreeing [...] but seek to end this matter without further process."
According to Dr. Delanghe, his report casts further doubt on the accuracy of urinary EPO tests, who concluded: "In the case of severe exercised-induced proteinuria (like in Jeanson's case), there is a serious concern about the validity of the EPO test."
“I have never in my entire career taken EPO, or any other banned substance,” said Jeanson. “After the USADA informed me that I had tested positive in July 2005, I did some research to figure out how this could have happened. I secured the help of a reputable professor and researcher at Ghent University in Belgium, Dr. Joris Delanghe. I am very grateful that he graciously offered to investigate my case.”
Jeanson has experienced a hugely successful, yet turbulent career. The 1999 road race and time trial junior world champion was heavily criticised during the 2000 Olympic Games selections after applying for an exemption from the rules, as the selection criteria didn't acknowledge her achievements at a junior level. After being granted a spot in the Canadian line-up, Jeanson was further dogged by critics who accused her of preventing teammate Lyne Bessette from claiming a medal in the road race.
Jeanson's utter dominance in North American races led to suspicions of doping. In 2003, those suspicions were heightened by Jeanson's high hematocrit reading prior to the 2003 road world championships in Hamilton, leading to her exclusion from the race. The next year, Jeanson failed to appear for anti-doping control following La Fleche Wallone in Liege, Belgium, and was fined and given a warning.
While Jeanson will now take her time deciding whether to return to professional-level cycling, after officially announcing her retirement on January 19, 2006, she's thankful to those that have stood by over the past two years. “I know that I’ll never be able to convince everyone of my innocence,” concluded Jeanson. “Innocence cannot be proven. But Dr. Delanghe’s work has shed light on the probable causes of the incident on July 25. I want to thank him for his interest in my case, as I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported me during this difficult period of my life.”