Michael Rogers had the broadest smile of all at the start of Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday as the Australian made his comeback to racing. The Tinkoff-Saxo rider was making his first race appearance since being cleared of a positive clenbuterol test from last year.
The Australian tested positive for the banned substance at the 2013 Japan Cup Cycle Road Race in October 23. He was given a provisional suspension but was cleared by WADA on April 23, with the UCI stating that “there was a significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China.”
Rogers agreed to talk to Cyclingnews at the start of the race and the relief was clear.
“First of all I just want to say that I’m really happy to be back. It was a very difficult time for me and my family. I’m just happy to be back,” he told Cyclingnews.
Team owner Oleg Tinkov quickly appeared, giving Rogers a hug and stating that the team always supported and believed in the 34-year-old, before Rogers talked about the moment his positive test was confirmed.
“I was at my daughter’s Christmas party. And I got a letter from the UCI. You can imagine my immediate reaction. I was totally faint,” he said.
“Then it’s just a case of reflection. You try and understand. The news didn’t sink in but you try and retrace what happened and go about proving it.”
“Of course I would have liked the ordeal to have been shorter but I got a better understanding and I can see why I took so long.”
Rogers’ case raised several questions, one of which surrounding the time and length it took for the situation to be resolved. Rogers was also keen to stress that more should be done to protect riders who raced in China.
“I would like to see some rule changes but I don’t think my case will have a big influence on that. I would like there to be some understanding, particularly of the peloton going to China. It’s a really touchy situation. I can understand the authorities' position on it though. It’s very, very complicated.”
“I always hoped and believed. I didn’t miss a day’s training and I’m glad the decision came out the way it did.”
Despite a lack of racing days Rogers is likely to make Tinkoff’s Tour de France team. He was instrumental in the squad’s race last year and performed well as their road captain.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into racing. The goal is to do the Tour and there’s a lot of work to do. I’ve kept training but the race fitness isn’t there.”
“The team were very supportive and supported me from day one. I gave them a clear description of what happened and they stood by me.”
The team will probably add Rogers to the roster on their website as a further show of support but Rogers also added that Alberto Contador, his teammate, and a rider who has served a ban for Clenbuterol, was incredibly supportive throughout the case.
“I talked to him quite a lot. He was one of the first people to call me and tell me his experience and when the news came out the other day he was the first one to call me.”