Team LottoNL-Jumbo has stated that Kevin De Weert has not been implicated in the doping investigation into the activities of Dr. Chris Mertens, and confirmed that he will participate in Tirreno-Adriatico as planned.
The statement came in response to a report in Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws on Tuesday, which linked De Weert to the inquiry. De Weert confirmed that he was a patient of Mertens in 2012, when he raced for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but stopped being treated by him when the investigation began in 2013.
The Belgian, who signed for LottoNL-Jumbo this winter, added that he later provided a DNA sample to investigators and said that he has not been summoned to either a civil or sporting hearing on the matter.
"I was a patient at doctor Mertens' practice for a short period of time in 2012, which is close to my home. At the moment I received notice of the investigation, I immediately looked for a different physician," De Weert said.
"At the end of 2013, I received a court letter with the request to voluntarily provide them with DNA-material because they wanted to close the case. In the beginning of 2014, I voluntarily gave them samples of my DNA, and I do not have to justify myself at the court or my sports federation, because I was never summoned for further hearing."
Team LottoNL-Jumbo said that De Weert's DNA did not match with samples seized from Mertens' practice by investigators. "De Weert has voluntarily cooperated in the DNA investigation at the beginning of January 2014, in which no match was found," the team said. "The team sees no reason for Kevin not to race, therefore he will start in the Tirreno Adriatico."
The investigation into the Rotselaar-based Mertens' activities began in early 2013 and focused on his alleged provision of ozone therapy, a controversial treatment where blood is extracted, infused with ozone and then re-injected. Under the WADA code, any manipulation of blood can be considered a doping offence.
On Monday, the Belgian Cycling Federation confirmed that it had summoned Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and cyclo-cross riders Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens to appear before its disciplinary commission on March 13 to discuss their links to Mertens.
News of Van Avermaet's implication broke on Saturday morning ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He admitted that he had been a Mertens patient in the past but denied wrongdoing.
Last week, under-23 cyclo-cross rider Laurens Sweeck denied receiving ozone treatment from Mertens, but said that he did purchase Vaminolact, injectable amino acids developed as a nutritional source for premature and sick babies. He will appear before the disciplinary committee on March 10.
One rider has been suspended to date as part of the investigation. Pieter Van Herck, a former teammate of Belgian champion Sven Nys, was banned for two years in June of 2013.
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