The Tinkoff-Saxo team has reiterated its support for Roman Kreuziger as the Czech rider prepares to fight for his reputation and career in his Biological Passport case against the UCI and WADA.
The drawn-out case is set to go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the UCI confirmed that it, along with WADA, would appeal the Czech Olympic Committee’s decision to clear the rider of a doping violation relating to his Passport readings from 2011 and 2012 – while Krueziger was riding at Team Astana.
The case has been on going for 15 months but only came to the public’s attention on the eve of this year’s Tour de France when Kreuziger himself announced that the UCI were investigating his Passport data. He was subsequently removed from Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour de France line-up but was scheduled to ride the Tour de Pologne in August. That move promoted the UCI to provisionally suspend the rider, a move which angered Tinkoff-Saxo.
The UCI has begun working on its appeal and will head to CAS in the knowledge it has yet to lose a Passport case. In the meantime, the Tinkoff-Saxo team can only sit and wait for the final verdict. Kreuziger remains on the team's roster.
“We’re sitting on the side-lines and watching as a spectator in all of this and all I can say is that it’s unfortunate that the UCI is always waiting until the last possible minute but it’s their right to prepare the case (as they like) but it’s unfortunate for cycling that it takes so long,” Stefano Feltrin, managing director of Tinkoff-Saxo, told Cyclingnews.
When asked if the UCI’s decision to seek a resolution at CAS gave the team any doubt in their support of Kreuziger, Feltrin replied: “Why should we change now given that he won the first battle? The reason we stand by the rider is because he’s provided all the medical evidence needed for his defence.”
Kreuziger’s defence team appear reliant on their belief that the rider suffered from severe dehydration, and that this in turn provided the data for the abnormal passport reading. Such a defence was used by Jonathan Teirnan-Locke in his recent case, with the British rider eventually handed a two-year suspension.
“We’re suffering,” Feltrin added. “We were not involved when the abnormalities took place. We asked the rider to provide evidence for his defence and this was provided and now it’s a question over whether we believe it was sufficient or not. We hope that the CAS panel believe the rider so that we can put this to rest.”
Improving the Passport for the future
Feltrin and the UCI have both admitted that the process by which Passport cases are dealt with needs restructuring with both parties appearing frustrated with the time it has taken to reach this point. At present no date has been set for the CAS hearing and the final verdict could take months.
“Whatever the outcome the way the Biological Passport is managed needs to change because we think that this case has showed the problems in the management in what is a very important instrument,” Feltrin told Cyclingnews.
“If Roman wins the case we don’t want that considered as a loss for the Biological Passport. That shouldn’t be the case. It should be a way to improve it and whatever happens the Passport should remain in place and improved. We can all learn from this and put safeguards in place for the riders.”
“We’ve seen that abnormalities in the Passport can be interpreted and explained in different ways and it’s now a question of what level of explanation you need from the rider and what level of uncertainty you need to accept in the process. The passport is a wonderful tool but it should be made better and it should be there to safeguard the riders.”
Although Feltrin has raised questions over procedures at the UCI, he has stated that whatever the resolution at CAS, it will be accepted by the team.
When asked if he believed Kreuziger’s assertion that he had never doped, Feltrin answered: “We believe in what he’s saying. Now will his truth remain as the judicial truth at the end of the case? We don’t know but whatever the outcome of the case we’ll abide by the decision and take that as the ultimate truth.”