Pierre Rolland abandoned the Dauphiné after 20 kilometres of racing on the last stage, citing tendon problems that had affected him on Saturday evening after he took part in a breakaway for most of stage 7.
But according to Dr Mégret who independently conducts health tests for the French cycling federation (FFC), the National League of Pro Cycling (LNC Pro) and the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), the Europcar rider shouldn’t not have taken to the start on Sunday due to abnormally low cortisol levels.
Once the news was broken by lequipe.fr on Monday morning, team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau denied that his team had contravened the rules of the League and the Movement he adheres to.
“Pierre was controlled at 6.45am”, Bernaudeau explained. “Normally, half an hour is necessary to get a reliable result. It was impossible to get it on time because of the very early start time of the stage. We contacted Dr Mégret who authorized the start.”
Bernaudeau’s version is now contradicted by the doctor. “The test was done on Saturday morning”, Mégret told Reuters.
“On Saturday evening, there was a problem [only in the case of Rolland out of 42 riders of French teams tested during the Dauphiné]. I followed the procedure. I immediately called the team doctor [Hubert Long] to let him know. As always, I called a panel of experts who advised on the matter. When we conduct this kind of test for the FFC, we send a registered letter to the riders so he gives his license back until the health problem is resolved. When it’s for the MPCC and the League, the contraindication is immediate. I’ve kept record of my communications with the team doctor on the phone and via email. I’ve sent him all data of lab quality control, times and results. This rider shouldn’t have taken the start on Sunday morning.”
Mégret insisted that it was a health test and not a dope test even though a collapse of cortisol level is a strong indication of absorption of corticoids, which can be used with a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) but the MPCC rules a withdrawal from racing in that case. Anthony Charteau, also from Europcar, was prevented from starting the last stage of the 2012 Four Days of Dunkirk for similar reason and authorized to race again once his cortisol levels were back to normal.
According to L'Equipe Rolland has been forced to hand is racing license back for the next 8 days, a period in which he was not scheduled to race.
“The allegations carried by poorly informed journalists were released on the internet. I indeed had a health check from the MPCC to check cortisol. It turned out that the audit was conducted in a bad time slot 6h30/45 after lunch so that cortisol is fasting between 7h30/8h30,” Rolland posted on his Facebook page.
“these values can not be accurate (besides, I want to say that my blood was not depleted but just below), it does not necessarily require an immediate shutdown, but additional examinations later to verify that this is not a medical problem. It was therefore decided, the doctor and me to challenge the check and therefore ride the last stage of the Dauphiné. The passion took precedence over reason and this is what is actually accused of me today. Just to inform you that a health check has nothing to do with doping control: it is health tests to see if the riders are in good health (no deficiency of iron, magnesium, potassium etc etc) these reviews must remain in strict confidentiality! And I do not really see why I make an exception today.”