The Czech Cycling Association has given a four-year ban to the country's elite men's cyclo-cross champion Emil Hekele after the 43-year-old tested positive for two anabolic steroids, oxandrolone and clenbuterol. Hekele blamed the positive test on contaminated food.
Last January, Hekele surprisingly beat out some of the country's top professionals to claim the elite men's title, riding away from Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal's Tomas Kopecky and Michael Boros.
In addition to the national championship, Hekele won six other cyclo-cross races in the 2019-2020 season, four of them in Japan. He tested positive in an out-of-competition control on September 9 last year.
"Pursuant to Article 10.2 of the Directive on the Control and Punishment of Doping in Sport in the Czech Republic, Emil Hekele has been sanctioned by a 4-year ban on activities," the chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee of the Czech Cycling Association, David Průša said in an announcement on the federation's website.
In a previous article on iDNEZ.cz Sport, Průša said the proceedings were delayed because of the coronavirus measures and Hekele's protests of innocence. Hekele blamed his positive on a meal eaten in a restaurant while travelling with the national team, a claim denied by the team's coach Petr Dlask, who pointed out that there were other riders who ate in the same restaurant and Hekele was the only one to test positive.
"Oxandrolone and clenbuterol must have entered my body without my knowledge, and I'm absolutely convinced of that. Most likely, it had to take place at a four-day national team meeting in Bělá pod Bezdězem," Hekele told irozhlas.cz in November.
"It cannot be ruled out or confirmed that the food was completely safe and the meat could not be contaminated. The four-day training camp is also long enough for anyone to purposefully give me something to drink and deliberately get any substance into my body without my knowledge."
After receiving news of his ban, Hekele continued to deny having doped in a post on his Facebook page, claiming he was targeted, blaming a sloppy doping control and saying that a blood control taken at the same time was negative.
"I'm guilt-free internally. It's important to me that I know I've never taken any banned substances. I know that many people will never believe this, but many others believe that I should not need it. I take it as a personal injustice," Hekele says.
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