Jure Kocjan has been dismissed from the Lupus Racing Team before ever turning over a pedal for the US Continental squad, team General Manager Brendan Sullivan told Cyclingnews.
The UCI announced on Monday that it provisionally suspended Kocjan for an anti-doping violation dating back to 2012 after a sample taken on March 8 of that year turned up positive for EPO. Kocjan was riding for Team Type 1-Sanfoi when the sample was taken.
“We're very pissed off right now as you might imagine,” Sullivan told Cyclingnews Monday evening. “It has nothing to do with the Lupus Racing Team program. It's as big of news to us as it was to anyone. We're very frustrated, very pissed off. We have a zero tolerance, and it's just sad for people who are trying to change the sport for the better. That's really about as much as I can say about it now.”
Lupus Racing Team was hoping Kocjan would be a key part of its efforts to take the program to a new level and gain invitations to some of North America's biggest races. The team moved in the off-season to shore up its edges and present a tempting new target for race organisers. Management hoped that bringing a proven closer like Kocjan on board would help in that regard.
“He was the last signing we made, but we've got a very strong team without him,” Sullivan said, adding that the team has yet to consider whether it will bring another rider onto the roster in Kocjan's place. “He was a name, so from that perspective it's probably just – the wound is a little fresh right now – but that's probably something we need to consider over the coming days. There's been nothing discussed right now.”
Kocjan raced for Team Type 1-Sanofi in 2011 and 2012 before moving to the WorldTour with Euskaltel-Euskadi. When that team folded at the end of 2013, he signed with Team SmartStop and rode with that US Continental team for two years. Kocjan won a stage at the Tour of Utah and wore the leader's jersey in that race in both 2014 and 2015. He finished second in the Philadelphia Cycling Classic in 2014 and won the overall at the Grand Prix Cycliste Saguenay in Canada.
News of Kocjan's provisional suspension comes several months after two other cyclists were suspended after retrospective testing was performed on their frozen samples. Slovenian mountain biker Blaza Klemencic was suspended for an EPO positive dating to March 27, 2012, and another former Team Type 1 rider, Russian Alexey Shmidt, was suspended after a sample from November 15, 2011, also came back positive for EPO.
The provisional suspension means Kocjan cannot participate in any competition until his case is officially adjudicated or until the UCI's Anti-Doping Commission lifts the suspension.
Meanwhile, Sullivan said his team, which has a mission to raise awareness about Lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 1.5 million people in the US, will continue to move forward with its growth plans.
“It's just one of those things I guess, but it's just unfair,” he said of Kocjan's suspension. “It's a shit situation. It's the farthest thing from what we stand for, so all we can do is march on.”