The board of directors of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) announced on Monday that they have temporarily suspended Team Astana for allowing Lars Boom to start the Tour de France after he returned a pre-race test that showed abnormally low cortisol levels last Thursday.
“In the wake of the choice of Astana to allow Lars Boom to take the start of the Tour de France and thus not to respect the article 9 of the MPCC’s rules, unanimously the board of directors of MPCC take cognizance of this decision and temporarily suspend Team Astana of its movement, waiting for the next meeting of the board of directors according to its statute,” the MPCC’s statement read.
The abnormally low cortisol levels shown in Boom’s test 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.
“We shall remind that cortisol levels controls are part of the health protection of the rider, because a collapse cortisol level can have serious consequences for the high-level athlete. Since 2009, more than 1400 cortisol levels controls have been conducted on the riders belonging to teams’ members of MPCC,” the statement read.
“During this period, only 8 deductions were displaying abnormal low cortisol levels.”
Boom was tested on the morning of July 2, two days ahead of the Grand Départ, as part of the normal pre-race tests carried by the UCI. However, the test results came back after the manager’s meeting on Friday July 3, and according to the UCI’s rules, Astana were not permitted to swap out Boom for their reserve rider Alessandro Vanotti after the usual entry deadline.
Instead of starting the Tour de France with only eight riders, Team Astana’s manager Alexander Vinokourov decided to go against the MPCC’s rules and start Boom, completing their nine-man team in support of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Team Astana released a statement ahead of the stage 1 time trial on July 4 that explained their decision to start Boom, which read, “Astana Pro Team will start the 2015 Tour de France with nine riders, including Dutch cyclist Lars Boom.
“After the 3 July receipt of blood tests administered by the UCI on 2 July that showed a low level of cortisol, Astana Pro Team medical staff examined Boom in order to assess the athlete's health and viability for the 2015 Tour de France start in Utrecht. As such, a low cortisol level is grounds to stop a rider for a minimum eight days of competition in order to prevent any health risk to the rider according to rules established by the MPCC, of which Astana Pro Team is a member."
“Astana Pro Team asked the UCI to allow a replacement rider in place of Boom, and received confirmation from the UCI that as a low cortisol result is no risk to the health of the rider, therefore there are no valid grounds for a late substitution. The MPCC will make its final decision with regard to Team Astana temporary suspension from the movement at a second board of directors meeting. Until then, it stated that, “In virtue of this decision, team Astana will no longer be subject to the unscheduled cortisol levels controls conducted by MPCC from this day on.”