Vacansoleil team accused of using cortisone TUEs for several riders

Arno Wallaard Memorial considers removing Westra's 2009 victory

Dutch publication AD.nl has alleged that the former Vacansoleil-DCM team used Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for ‘non-existent’ injuries in order to obtain cortisone for several riders within the team. AD reports that a doctor at the team, which was founded in 2009 and disbanded in 2013, obtained TUEs for Johnny Hoogerland and Aart Vierhouten. Both have denied the accusations.

The accusations come days after former rider Lieuwe Westra admitted to utilising the TUE system to get cortisone, which is banned in competition without an approved TUE. In his recently released autobiography, Westra says that he would feign an injury, such as an inflammation in the knee, and then apply for a TUE for cortisone.

"Within a few months, I noticed that riders were guilty of using cortisone," Westra wrote in his book. "It was secretly talked about. You felt no pain through an injection, you could go deeper, and the euphoria became master of your body. Every rider of note provided a medical certificate for the Classics and other big competitions."

Westra recalled in his book how general manager Daan Luijkx confronted him about the cortisone injections but said that they were often overlooked if a rider was performing. Luijkx has denied that false TUE applications were submitted and has said that the team always complied with UCI regulations.

The article also reports a face-off between Luijkx and team doctor at the time, Peter Janssen, during the 2009 Vuelta a España. The two were reportedly arguing loudly with each other in the car park of their hotel about whether or not rider Matteo Carrara should continue the race. According to AD, Carrara had been riding the race with a TUE for cortisone and had dangerously low levels of cortisol, a side-effect of using cortisone.

Janssen wanted Carrara to leave, while Luijkx did not. Luijkx, according to the article, believed that Janssen was overstepping his job brief and Carrara was kept in the race. Janssen submitted his resignation on the spot. Luijkx told AD that Carrara had been suffering from knee problems during the 2009 Vuelta.

Cyclingnews called and left messages for Luijkx but he did not respond.

Arno Wallaard Memorial

As well as admitting to using TUEs to be able to take cortisone injections, Westra also said that he used tramadol and caffeine pills as performance enhancers. In addition, Westra admitted to buying his first race victory. After finding himself in a two-man move at the 2009 Arno Wallaard Memorial, Westra offered German sprinter Eric Baumann money to allow him to win.

Westra believes that he has done nothing wrong but race organisers have since said that they are considering scratching both Westra and Baumann from the record books.

"We have not thought about that yet. What do you do?" race director Arno van der Veen told Dutch website WielerFlits. “The second one also participated in the game. If you read a story like that, then you are not thinking of moving the name of that German to the first place."

If both riders are removed from the results then the race victory would be handed to Kenny van Hummel, who won the bunch sprint for third place.

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