By Susan Westemeyer and Jeff Jones
Shimano-Memory Corp rider Stefan Schumacher has now learned the difference between pseudoephedrine and norpseudoephedrine (cathine), after testing positive for the latter during the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt in May. The German rider told the Nürtinger Zeitung, "This has been the worst week of my life. But, I really am innocent."
According to the newspaper article, the test showed more than five micrograms per millilitre of cathine in his blood. Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, cathine is banned above this level. And although it is a metabolite of the restricted substance pseudoephedrine, generally the only way to exceed the 5 mcg/mL level is to ingest it directly.
Schumacher said that norpseudoephedrine is an ingredient of an allergy medicine that he was taking, and both he and his doctor believed that it was treated by WADA the same as pseudoephedrine, in that it had to be declared for therapeutic use. But that is not the case.
Schumacher faces a suspension of up to two years by the German cycling federation (BDR), as athletes are bound by a law of "strict liability" as far as doping substances are concerned. It's always the rider's responsibility to know what they are putting into their body. In this case, there appears to be no argument about the positive test or even how the cathine got there. It's up to the BDR to determine how severe the sanction should be. The USA Cycling Federation let Phil Zajicek off with a warning for a similar offence last year, although he was disqualified from his win at the Tour of Qinghai Lake.
Schumacher has scheduled a press conference in Heidelberg on Thursday to explain his position.