By Shane Stokes
Following the positive A sample tests for CERA by Tour de France stars Stefan Schumacher and podium-finisher Bernhard Kohl, UCI President Pat McQuaid has confirmed that the UCI will double its maximum sanction for doping cases next season.
A four-year suspension could effectively end the career of positive riders and should act as a strong deterrent. McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that he'd personally opt for life bans if possible, but that WADA rules had to be followed.
"I have said before that I would like to see them out of the sport for good. That is purely on a personal level," he stated. "However, we are obliged to follow the world anti-doping code, and that is what the UCI will do. Currently the world anti-doping code gives a maximum two-year sanction in the case of a positive test. From the first of January there is a bit more flexibility in it, and we can go up to a four year ban in the cases of something regarded as willful cheating.
"In these cases [Kohl and Schumacher], considering that these guys were given the product and then went and took it for the Tour de France, it would be very much classified as willful cheating. Next year a rider in that position would face a four year ban.
He acknowledged that the two Gerolsteiner riders were not yet in a position where they can be sanctioned. "Of course, you have to bear in mind that these guys have to go through due process," he continued. "Once that process is finished and if they are proven guilty, I on a personal level – and probably everyone else in the cycling family – don't want to see them back in cycling again."
Recent evaluation of Tour de France blood samples revealed that three more riders had taken the third generation EPO drug CERA, with Leonardo Piepoli, Schumacher and Kohl joining the previous positive case of Riccardo Riccò. Giro d'Italia sensation Emanuele Sella was also caught by the earlier analysis, although he did not compete in this year's Tour. Like Kohl in France in July, he was best climber in the Italian Grand Tour.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full feature on this latest development.