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Lack of testing in Borneo leaves more questions than answers

Jono Lovelock
August 26, 2013, 03:45,
August 26, 2013, 13:02
Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, August 26, 2013
Tour of Borneo
Kolahdozhagh and Mizbani (TPT) celebrate the stage victory and crushing blow to other GC hopefuls

Kolahdozhagh and Mizbani (TPT) celebrate the stage victory and crushing blow to other GC hopefuls

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Discontent grows in UCI Asia Tour

The Tour of Borneo drew to a close last week, but the fallout following the fourth stage is continuing to unfold. The queen stage of the tour finished with a dominating two-man victory with Tabriz Petrochemical duo Ghader Mizbani and Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour finishing over six minutes in front of their nearest rivals on the stage.

After multiple attacks the Iranian pair eventually found themselves clear of a 14-man chase group. The group which contained New Zealand time trial champion, Joseph Cooper (Huon-Genesys), 2014 Sky trainee Nathan Earle (Huon-Genesys), John Ebsen (Baku) and Sea Keong Loh (OCBC) remained dedicated to the chase but the leading Iranian duo pulled away regardless.

Within the initial 30 kilometres of their escapee along the mostly flat valley floor, Mizbani and Pourseyedigolakhour put five minutes into the chasing group of which eight riders remained fully committed. It was only on the final 10 kilometre climb of the day that the two leaders began to concede time after extending their lead to over 11 minutes.

For many within the peloton it was a feeling of déjà vu. Only a few months earlier, Mizbani, along with teammate Amir Kolahdozhagh, finished eight minutes in front of the nearest chasers during the fifth stage of the Tour of Singkarak. In fact it has become a common occurrence to witness powerful two-up attacks from the Tabriz team.

During the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2010, Hossein Askari and Medhi Sohrabi (Tabriz) took off halfway through the sixth stage. This time they had a passenger in the 18-year-old Nikola Kozomara (Partizan SRBIJA). When the young Serbian's team manager drove up to the breakaway to encourage his young charger, he witnessed his rider sitting on the Iranian duo, in tears. He was unable to contribute to the chase.

During that stage the leading duo held a two and a half minute gap over a bunch closing so fast that there were complaints within the peloton that the leading group was being motor paced. The rider in yellow at the stage start, Radoslav Rogina (Loborika) was in disbelief at the stage finish.

"I cannot believe what's happened," he said. "It's unbelievable how they rode in front."

Following the stage 4 hill top finish in Borneo, Australian rider Dan Bonello (Team Corbusier) commented that feelings within the peloton had not changed.

"There was an incredible amount of talk and discontent in the bunch with not only the invitation of a certain team, but also the style of racing that the same team inflicted on the bunch," he explained.

The discontent lead to a self-policing effort within the peloton whereby teams began refusing to work in breakaways populated by Tabriz riders. To make matters worse, a lack of drug testing at the race left riders pondering the veracity of what occurred before them.

"I think it is ridiculous [the lack of testing]," added Bonello. "In light of what the sport is going through and the process involved with proving the alleged credibility of the sport, to not have doping controls is extremely counter-intuitive."

When questioned about the lack of controls at Borneo, the race organisers commented saying:

"The organiser was well aware of the importance of doping control[s] in [the] Tour of Borneo. [The] UCI did not send anti-doping inspector[s] for this race and had advised the organiser to make sure that the participating riders are not under suspicion."

Suspicions justified?

The discontent within the peloton over the performances of some riders is not without substance. Second place finisher on the overall, and second place finisher during stage 4, Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour, returned a positive test for EPO during the Tour of Iran in 2011.

Pourseyedigolakhour returned to racing at the 2013 Tour of Qinghai Lake, a race he won after gaining a race winning lead following yet another two up Tabriz attack during the third stage. This performance granted many candid rider responses with Matt Brammeier from Champion Systems taking his frustration to twitter.

"Pan y agua my arse!" Complained the Irish Champion.

According to UCI anti-doping statistics, there have been nine riders from Iran in the last three years to have failed anti-doping tests. And it is this pattern that is tarring all riders from that nation with the same brush. Huon-Genesys manager in Borneo, Steve Price, commented that a lack of testing coinciding with dominating performances only heightens suspicion.

"At the end of the day it devalues the race and leads to a popular view that all teams behave the same way when in fact they don't," he said.

Another problematic piece to the equation is the type of testing that takes place. Testing was conducted at the aforementioned Tour of Singkarak, but it was only urine testing. This has left many teams now calling for increased blood testing to take place at races in Asia. This theme, however, is only indicative of a wider trend. In fact, the 2012 WADA Report shows that when testing for EPO, the majority -nearly 70 percent- of out of competition tests conducted are tested for EPO. But the detection rate for EPO in these out of competition tests is very low, just over .1 percent.

On the other hand, in competition EPO testing has a very high detection rate, over .7 percent. But the percentage of in competition tests that are tested for EPO is below 25 percent.

On a more practical note, it was raised that if teams knew in advance that there would be no testing held during certain races, they could simply better allocate funds to travel to races where they knew there would be testing. Although practical, Bonello highlights the opposing argument in stating that the element of surprise is an essential ingredient to the anti-doping front.

"For me I would like to know that there will be doping controls in the sense that you would hope this awareness would mean that all riders are showing up with the knowledge that they may be tested," said Bonello. "On the other hand, if I am going to be a rider that brings certain teams and their performances into question, then I think that no prior knowledge of doping controls for those individuals would be a good thing. That element of surprise could be a huge factor in the effectiveness of the testing."

wee westy More than 1 year ago
Any UCI sanctioned event should be subject to proper targetted and unannounced doping controls, and if there is not the finance to do so it shouldn't be sanctioned. Simple as that. Its why we need rid of McQuaid and his approach to globalisation. Fine, spread the sports events as widely as possible, but do not do so by relaxing or ignoring the rules that apply to the rest of the world.
ceramiccyclist More than 1 year ago
I agree. Every race sanctioned by the UCI should have drug testing. Funding should be allocated by the organisers and recouped from the sponsors. No tests, no race.
wigvelo More than 1 year ago
The race organisers need to wake up and get their house in order. Otherwise I cant see esp Aussie teams wanting to go back again.
harrydowdney More than 1 year ago
really reall good article - thank you
Ajones More than 1 year ago
The figures in this story are wrong. 70% of EPO tests are not positives. Why print nonsense that slanders our sport.
Aus Sau More than 1 year ago
Perhaps you might want to go back and read the article again. It says 70% of tests conducted out of competition are testing for EPO and that of those tests, only .1% are found to be positive.
brian meahan More than 1 year ago
No where does it say 70% of epo tests are positive. .7 % of in competition tests are positive but only 25% of the in competition tests are for EPO.
Ajones More than 1 year ago
The article originally stated 70% yesterday. It was fixed overnight. Makes my comment look stupid now...
ianfra More than 1 year ago
This highlights a lot of things I have said on these boards about globalisation: Globalisation needs to take place with a proper understanding of the cultural norms of the countries involved. For example, Thailand as a nation is fully acquainted with corruption at every level (note they are McQuaid's main backers!) and it may well be that this also affects the sport here in Thailand. For example: Talented kids overlooked for national selection because a sponsor's offspring has more money (but inevitably less talent). The Tour of Beijing (held in another corrupt country if there ever was one!) is owned by McQuaid's son! It's easy to do these kind of deals in these countries .... and Iran? Well, they're not exactly known for following international principles and practise are they? Incientally, I still do not know why McQuaid was a guest of the Thai Cycling Association a couple of years back. The sport has not progressed in any way since he's been here - but he did get an award of some sort from the King of Thailand.
ToreBear More than 1 year ago
The UCI would need to surprise these guys when they are training in Iran I would think. If they are using epo they would need to test them several times in order to hopefully catch them when they are still glowing. They would likely get some negative samples, some suspicious samples before finally the positive. lets say they each require 10 surprise visits. Thats 20 samples that need to be taken by surprise in a country that is not known for it's transparency and then transported out of the country to the nearest Wada lab(Iran doesn't have one IIRC). It's difficult for the UCI to do this within a sensible budget. But they might get overconfident and get pinged in an in competition test of course. Perhaps the ASADA would consider sending some testers for a learning experience, since I doubt Indonesia has much of an anti doping system in place.
barn yard More than 1 year ago
maybe people didnt realize that this article was written by someone who is very well connected with the huon-genesys cycling team?
Aus Sau More than 1 year ago
And your point is? It is a well written article that quotes from numerous sources (i.e. teams other than Huon-Genesys)
dimspace More than 1 year ago
exactly. its got multiple sources. And even if Jono was writing it as a biased account from the viewpoint of a rider, then surely he is just doing what we are all asking for riders to do. Speak out?
Ajones More than 1 year ago
Has he tried to contact the Iranians for their opinion? One think that he does not mention, that is little known, is that bike racing is very very popular in Iran. It is possible that they have many talented cyclists. Google bike racing in Iran to find out more.... Australians always claim that cyclists that are better than them are on drugs... And this always contributed to the drug culture ( ie you cant perform without drugs).
barn yard More than 1 year ago
my point is that genesys are and have always been sore losers. they are quick to point the finger at others but always seem to forget the times when their riders mysteriously get 'sick' and fail to sign on to a start list when ASADA show up looking for them... interesting.
Ajones More than 1 year ago
Summing up this artical: 'Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.'
Ajones More than 1 year ago
Exactly. This is a cyclist using cyclingnews in a thinly veiled manner to defame other cyclists based on their ethniticity. Really ashamable article.. I would urge cyclingnews to remove this article.
Aus Sau More than 1 year ago
Are you for real? Cyclingnews finally gets a well written article, and you claim it defames Iranian cyclists based on their ethnicity due to some imaginary bias for being an Australian Pro cyclist? The statistics speak for themselves. Iran only has 3 UCI listed teams (all in the UCI Asia tour) and they have constituted almost 10% of all positives over the past 3 years.
Ajones More than 1 year ago
Yes, I am for real. Firstly the author is not a pro cyclist. But he does ride for Huon-Genesys and should state this - especially since he interviews his team manager! (this is not impartial journalism.) Secondly, to imply that all the Iranians are on drugs (whether true or not) is wrong. They deserve the same benefit of doubt that is extended to non-middle eastern riders. He has not approached this article in an impartial manner. He has not included comments from the Iranians. He has not discussed the BASE of strong cycling in Iran. It is basically just a few comments and accusations from his mates that he has pulled together as a story. A balanced article by a real journalist could include such facts as 'cycling is a long-standing and mainstream sport in the country' as most people’s perception would be that Iran is not a cycling nation. Considering the population of 75M and the popularity of cycling there, Iran is if anything under performing at an international level compared with Australia or New Zealand. Re:,-big-in-iran
Aus Sau More than 1 year ago
I fail to see what the cycling base in Iran has got to do with anything. You cannot escape the fact that Iran only has about 60 UCI registered riders and those riders have constituted nearly 10% of all drug positives over the last 3 years. Jono is not singling out Iranian cyclists as a whole, he is talking about those that ride in the UCI Asia Tour. Also, Huon-Genesys riders/staff were only a portion of the sources quoted in the article. I can plainly see sources from Team Corbusier & Champion Systems. What would Iranian sources say? It's a conspiracy that at any one time about 15% of our UCI registered riders are suspended due to testing positive? I do admit Jono should have disclosed his affiliation with Huon-Genesys at the end of the article, but none of this should detract from the facts.
Ajones More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the response Aus Sau. (this response may show above...) Can I try to get you to look at this from a different perspective? We can agree that Iranian cycling has a doping problem and that Asian races and federations have room for improvement in doping control. I am not blind to the prospect that Iranian riders took drugs in these races, however their also exists the prospect that they did not. Iranian riders were allowed to race under the UCI rules. And their performance should be given some benefit of the doubt. This story clearly paints the Iranian riders as drug cheats. However their performances are not outside the realm of what is physically possible (many top euro pros would also destroy these races). Hence my comment on the strength of Iranian cycling and that it actually underperforms internationally. I have no problem with an article that discusses these suspicions and doping situations in a balanced manner (this event occurred, these opinions were raised, so it is news). However this article does not do that. It is clearly an opinion piece designed to imply that the Iranian cyclist won these races as drug cheats. The writer selective chose his sources knowing the comments they would likely give. Also FYI if you check the Huon-Genesys twitter feed you will see they (and their community) have been calling the Iranians drug cheats. I don’t know what the Iranians would say if they were interviewed. But hey, that’s a good reason why they should be interviewed! It would be interesting to hear them discuss their training plans, race preparation and SRM date…
Raoul Duke More than 1 year ago
They need surprise...announce no testers and then have the testers arrive half-way through the event in large numbers. Will certainly make the host country and certain federations very upset, but it must be done.
_nm___ More than 1 year ago
how well would these Tabriz riders do in a world tour event? maybe they'd even beat Froome
Dope Fiend More than 1 year ago
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and takes drugs like a duck, well heck, it must be an EPO-fuelled duck then.
Ajones More than 1 year ago
There has been other standout performances in the last few years by europeans. eg sagan, fabian, froome and wiggens where they are literally in a league of their own and can ride people off their wheel. But they are not middle eastern... If the top tier of the middle east is better than the 2nd/3rd tier of australia than they must be cheating... On a serious note their is obviously some drug issues in Iran (and still in europe) as they have a high number of positive tests. However it is wrong to condem all on this basis. These perfomances are not as extreme as people think as they are NOT racing the best in the world(or Aus) - but these ARE the best cyclists from Iran. If this article was written about a western team cyclingnews would have legal troubles i am guessing. I have never read anything on cyclingnews that has angered me before this... Show me some facts (eg positive tests, eye witness accounts, srm data etc that show these guys cheated.
Mondrian More than 1 year ago
I do agree with Ajones as it is a poorly written article. I am surprised Cyclingnews publish this as an article rather than a blog by a racer on one of the losing teams. It’s missing many facts both pro & against TPT. For starters, TPT has 3 cyclists who between them have won the UCI Asia Tour ranking 6 times in past 7 years. Their climbers have also dominated the tours in Asia for the past decade. Historically their natural predators have been the Kazaks but since Astana started plying their trade at pro ranks their top guys are no longer competing at Asia Tour level. Another distorted fact is the disharmony in the peloton, you need a strong group to chase these guys down and in most cases it just doesn’t happen, lets not forget we are mostly talking about poorly run & poorly funded continental teams with a mix of junior cyclists, part-time cyclists or burnt-out old timers here and not world class professional teams run by world class team managers. Basically Huon-Genesys & co aint the team to be able to chase these guys down so its more a weakness of the field rather than the strength of TPT – to prove this point TPT did not manage such a lead at Tdql because there was much more strength in the field.