Alexandre Kolobnev has claimed he does not know how the banned substance hydrochlorothiazide was discovered in his urine sample taken after stage five to Cap Fréhel and has insisted that he has not been sacked by his Katusha team.
The former Russian national champion was informed of his positive test by the UCI on Monday afternoon during the first rest day of the Tour de France. He was the first rider to test positive during this year's race. Kolobnev and room mate Egor Silin were questioned by French police in the presence of Katusha team manager Andrei Tchmil on Monday evening but were allowed to return to their hotel.
"Yesterday, during the rest day I was reported the laboratories had found a substance, hydrochlorothiazide, which I do not know where its come from” Kolobnev writes in a message on his personal website.
“Therefore, waiting for more information, I have nothing to say about it for respect to the race organizers and cycling in general. After police's investigation made after being tested positive, the French police found nothing suspicious so we are waiting for the results and what investigation may say.”
Kolobnev has twice finished second in the world championships, and was awarded the bronze medal from the Beijing Olympic Games road race after placing fourth behind disqualified Italian runner-up Davide Rebellin.
He claims he had voluntarily quit the Tour de France as he awaits for the results of his B sample test.
“Asked by my team about what I wanted to do after this news, I have decided to leave the Tour de France in a voluntary and personal decision waiting for the b-sample in the following days and, again showing my respect to UCI and WADA rules. I must say that I have received all the support from the team from the beginning and I have not been fired, as some media reported yesterday," Kolobnev concluded in his statement.
The doping case is the third for Katusha in its history after Antonio Colom Mas (EPO) and Christian Pfannberger (also EPO) in 2009 and sparked criticism of the Russian team.
A cultural problem
“We’re trying to rebuild our sport but guys like him still don’t seem to have understood that. They’re rogues,” Europcar team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau is reported as saying by L’Equipe.
“It’s a cultural problem. He didn’t study medicine. The diuretic is a masking agent and some one must have told him this.”
Kolobnev is one of five Russian riders caught up in the Italian police investigation into Dr Michele Ferrari and his links to Lance Armstrong. His medical record and contract were seized by police from Padova in April.
The Katusha team issued a statement reaffirming that internal rules of the Russian team would result in Kolobnev being sacked if his B-sample confirms his positive test for hydrochlorothiazide. He would also have to pay a penalty of five times his estimated £500,000 salary.
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