Federation asks for four years for De Clercq

Belgian cycling federation prosecutor Jaak Fransen has asked that Mario de Clercq be suspended for four years and be fined CHF10,000 over his involvement in the José Landuyt doping affair. De Clercq, who retired from competition at the end of last year, has admitted that he spoke with the veterinarian Landuyt about EPO, however he denies ever having used it.

"If every rider in the Tour de France is considered doped if he talks about EPO, then you'll have no-one left in the peloton," said De Clercq's lawyer Peter Callebaut to Sportwereld.be, after confirming his client's admissions to discussing the drug with Landuyt. "De Clercq has never tested positive for EPO in his whole career. Also the blood and urine tests taken during the legal investigation showed no banned products."

De Clercq is also accused of possessing growth hormone, but there appears to be some controversy surrounding the identification of the Somatropine that was allegedly found at his house in 2003. "The investigators said in their first verbal report that they had found a Chinese-manufactured growth hormone," said Callebaut. "The laboratory analysis found nothing. Only after a second analysis in another lab, the suspicions of the investigators were confirmed and there is again talk of a forbidden growth hormone. Mario de Clercq has now asked for a third analysis for his own benefit. That result is not yet known but the disciplinary commission still wants to suspend him."

After Callebaut's attempt to delay the hearing failed, the Belgian federation's disciplinary commission will release its verdict on De Clercq on March 2. So far it has suspended three other professional riders implicated in the case - Johan Museeuw, Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers - for four years, with two years suspended.

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