The record books show that Roman Kreuziger claimed one win in 2015 but in truth his victory tally was double that, with his stage win at the US Pro Challenge nestling next to a dropped UCI case into his Biological Passport data.
An email from the UCI announcing the closure of a protracted doping case may not seem like a victory in the truest sense of the word but, given that Kreuziger’s job, reputation and livelihood were all on the line, there were few sweeter moments for the Czech rider this year.
Still, almost six months on from the UCI’s about-turn, Kreuziger says he is still none the wiser as to why the sport’s governing body dropped their charges just before a landmark date in court for both them and the Biological Passport.
"It was a second victory in some ways but the most important was the one that came in the middle of June when I won my case. I won it, even if some don’t like to hear it, and that’s the truth,” Kreuziger told Cyclingnews at the World Championships.
“However, we never got a real explanation as to why [they dropped the case]. My lawyer, maybe he knows or maybe the president of the Czech committee, but I never got the reason why.”
Just to rewind, Kreuziger and the UCI had been through a drawn-out war over the rider’s Passport with the UCI President Brian Cookson telling Cyclingnews in August of 2014 that there were "very serious anomalies" in the Czech rider’s readings. Those readings dated back to Kreuziger’s time at Team Astana between March 2011 and August 2011, and from April 2012 through the end of the 2012 Giro d'Italia. Cookson also stated, at the time, that passport cases would therein be treated as positive tests, with subsequent provisional suspensions put in place.
However, Kreuziger was cleared by his national Federation last September and the UCI and WADA subsequently announced their intention to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A hearing was eventually fixed June of this year – only for cycling’s governing body to withdraw its appeal just days before their date in court.
In July Cookson told Cyclingnews that new information had been provided to the WADA experts analysing Kreuziger’s data and as such doubt could be added to the argument. He would not specify the information, only stating that, “an agreement was reached with the rider about the terms and conditions on how that would happen, and one of the conditions was that we wouldn’t comment any further.”
Kreuziger has since raced the Tour de France and a number of other races. With his season over he will turn his attention to 2016 and the aim of supporting Alberto Contador's bid to win a third Tour de France. The Czech rider will also be looking for his own chances in races but the public are still none the wiser as to why a rider the UCI were so keen to suspend has been cleared without a full explanation.
“I think that’s more of a question for the UCI and the public,” he says when asked about the topic and whether the UCI should apologise as well as hand out a fully-explained decision on the matter.
“For me it’s done but it would be nice, for the other athletes, to know what was going on and why they arrived at this conclusion.
“When my lawyer called me to tell me I at first didn’t believe him. We had had a meeting on Sunday to prepare and we were hoping to win but also preparing for the worst case. When he called and said there was a chance of them closing the case we didn’t believe it until we heard it was official.”
In July, when Cyclingnews asked Cookson if he thought Krueziger was a doped rider, the UCI President refused to give a straight yes or no, instead choosing to lean on the legal advice he has been given and the new evidence shown to the passport experts.
When asked flatly if he had ever doped, Krueziger said: “I did the lie [detector] test and I’ve said from the start that I’ve never taken any substance or any doping. I’ve never used that and I’ve never doped. That’s just the truth. In this period though, through those bad times, I’ve come out stronger and I’ve matured as a person.
“I think the Passport is a good tool but if a rider is sure he’s not cheated then he has the right to clear his name. Even if some don’t trust me, because of how cycling has been in the past, I know that my head is clear because I’ve not done anything wrong.”
Although he has now been cleared Kreuziger will not seek damages from the UCI.
“It could sound strange but I spent a lot of money, time and energy already. If you want to go for damages then you need to spend more time, maybe another two years, and I have a big part of my career ahead of me. I want to concentrate on that.”
The rider’s full focus is now on 2016 and a return to his top form. His win at the US Pro Challenge - his first race win since Amstel Gold in 2013 - has provided a catalyst for motivation for the winter months ahead.
“I’d like to start the season pretty well and show what my level can be because the last year and a half I performed well but I wasn’t at my top level, because there was always some doubts in my head. I was maybe thinking about things too much and it used up a lot of energy. I’m looking forward to least starting this winter looking ahead and with a clear head.”