News shorts: Sweeck could face suspension in Belgian investigation

Sweeck faces suspension following investigation into Belgian doctor

Under-23 cyclo-cross rider Laurens Sweeck claims that he did not receive illegal ozone treatments from Belgian doctor Chris Mertens, but that he did purchase Vaminolact, injectable amino acids developed as a nutritional source for premature and sick babies. The disciplinary commission of the Vlaamse Gemeeenschap (Flemish Community) is expected to make a decision on whether the actions violated anti-doping rules on March 10.

In a report in, Sweeck’s lawyer Johnny Maeschalck argued that his client, "is mentioned in the so-called Mertens ozone doping file, even though it is not even about ozone therapy. He was not even questioned. There is not even a single positive test, there is no prohibited substance, there is no illegal doping method. They have tried to find something to condemn him, well, there's nothing."

Sweeck added, "since I know that to Dr. Mertens is under investigation, he is no longer my family doctor."

Sweeck, along with Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens were named among 19 athletes linked to a two-year-long investigation into the activities of doctor Mertens, who is suspected of providing ozone therapy to his patients. Ozone therapy is a treatment where blood extracted and infused with ozone before being injected back into the body. The treatment is banned under the WADA code.

Because of UCI rules and their connection to the case, in January, Sweeck, Meeusen and Wellens were found to be ineligible to compete at the World Championships in Tabor. However, the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport (BAS) agreed that the riders should not be held back from competing and that Cycling Belgium must allow them to race.

UCI distances itself from controversial E3 Harelbeke banner

The UCI has asked the organisers of the E3 Harelbeke to remove its WorldTour logo from a banner that has sparked criticism around the world. According to Het Nieuwsblad, the race committee held an emergency meeting last night to discuss reactions to the advertisement, which made light of inappropriate groping of podium hostesses.

"We have received a call from the UCI. They asked for their logo to be removed from the banner. They do not want to be associated with the campaign," E3 Harelbeke communications manager Jacques Coussens said. "We're going to change the banner and remove the logo. The printer has been informed. Thankfully the thirty banners that will hang in the center of Harelbeke were not yet printed."

The UCI issued a statement today, stating that they requested that the organisers remove the offending banner entirely. "The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) was extremely unhappy with the promotional poster of the 2015 E3 Harelbeke," a statement read. "We have reminded the organiser of its responsibility and the UCI Regulations and they have agreed to take off the poster from all communication platforms."

Cult Energy ready for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad despite theft of gear

The Danish Cult Energy Pro Cycling team is ready to get back to racing after having a large portion of its bikes and equipment stolen at the Tour de Haut Var last weekend.

Thieves lifted €300,000 worth of gear from the team, and despite a social media campaign to locate the goods, nothing has yet been recovered. However, support from sponsors and friends has given the team enough gear to make its debut in this weekend's semi-Classic, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Team director Luke Roberts is hoping the team will be able to show itself at the front of the race. "If you’re not targeting at least a top-10 position, you’re not really in the race and we have a few riders capable of finishing with the best," Robers said. "Russell Downing and Martin Mortensen have both trained hard over the winter and they know these races really well so I reckon they will have the best chances for a top position. However, the rest of the group still lack the race kilometers and the experience on the cobbles but they’re motivated and we want to take part of the development of the race to show we’re in there."

Cult Energy for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Russell Downing, Michael Carbel, Alex Kirsch, Martin Mortensen, Michael Reihs, Mads Pedersen, Joel Zangerle and Troels Vinther.

Cycling community says goodbye to Claude Criquielion

The family and friends of former world champion Claude Criquielion gathered at his funeral in Deux-Acren, part of the Henegouse Lessons on Wednesday. The service was held at the church of Saint Martin. Among those present from the cycling community were Marc Sergeant, Rik Verbrugghe, Maxime Monfort, Patrick Lefevere and Belgian Cycling Federation President Tom Van Damme.

"Claudy has left us too early," van Damme said. "He was in more than one respect a great champion. Besides the sprint cyclist as he had it all. This can be seen on his impressive record. Claude was seen as an example for both the youth and for the pros. I also knew him as the organizer of his Grand Prix and as vessels of Sport in Lessen. We have always had a good relationship. He always had good ideas. Claudy was incredibly charismatic, but always remained modest, both inside and outside the world of cycling."

Criquielion suffered a stroke and a brain haemorrhage on February 15 and was taken to the General Municipal Hospital, campus in Aalst, Belgium, where he died last Wednesday. He was 58 years old.

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