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Fired Lotto doctor defends himself

Björn Leukemans is at the center of what could become a new doping scandal in Belgium

Björn Leukemans is at the center of what could become a new doping scandal in Belgium (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

Dr. Sam Vermeire, who was fired from the Predictor-Lotto squad this week as he was blamed for Björn Leukemans' positive anti-doping test result for artificial testosterone, has admitted that he prescribed Prasteron, which contains the forbidden hormone DHEA, to the rider. "I made a mistake, yes," he told Sporza on Friday. "But what I gave him could not have resulted in a positive test for synthetic testosterone.

"I don't want to say much, but there are a lot of sides to this story. This is something that could have much larger implications," he said. "The influences of many people are playing a role here, but I will keep the details to myself. At least for now...."

According to Sportwereld, Vermeire prescribed the drug for Leukemans in August. The doctor admitted this at a team meeting on December 6, "and for this reason his contract at Predictor-Lotto was not extended."

According to Sporza, the doctor said that the drug had "been used for years", and that Vermeire also gave it to other riders. "People who are calling me guilty would do better to look at themselves," he said. "For me, it was just one error. Others cannot say that."

Jan Mathieu, another doctor of the squad, said, "I see no reason why Leukemans needed this. It is only effective for impotence and muscle fatigue. But Björn is a healthy, 30 year-old top athlete, so I don't think he needs it for those reasons. And if he had those problems, there are other resources available which aren't on the prohibited list."

The product Prasteron is the direct cause of the positive test, according to Douwe de Boer, a Dutch biologist who has been hired as an expert witness by Leukemans' attorney, Johnny Maeschalck. Further, Leukemans was not informed of the "dangers" of the product, putting further guilt on the prescribing doctor, according to the Belgian newspaper De Morgen.

Vermeire denies a link between the product and the positive test. "I am sure that Dr. Vermeire has a sound scientific explanation," said team doctor Daniel De Neve. And Dr. Mathieu asked, "Did Leukemans take too much of the product? Did he combine it with something else? Those could also be realistic explanations."

The team got the good news that its main backer Lotto, whose sponsoring contract expires shortly, had pronounced its confidence in the team. Lotto marketing director Marc Frederix said that he was "very satisfied" with the way the team was handling the matter. "We have been delighted concerning the zero-tolerance policy concerning doping, which the team has consequently applied."

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