Belgian rider Gert Steegmans will persist in not signing the anti-doping agreement required by his Katusha team, he told Cyclingnews on Monday. He consequently risks missing the Tour de France.
The Russian squad issued an ultimatum to the 28-year-old, demanding that he sign by Monday. The agreement requires any riders testing positive to pay a penalty of up to five times their annual salary, an unprecedented demand in cycling.
In 2007 the UCI implemented a fine of one year's salary, but Cyclingnews is not aware of any instance when this was successfully imposed on a rider.
"It's a really complex story, so I can't make a lot of comments on it," said Steegmans. "Anyway the decision is made by me not to sign the document."
Other riders on the team had misgivings about the newly-introduced clause to their contracts, including Robbie McEwen, but they eventually signed.
Steegmans won stages in both the 2007 and 2008 Tours de France and, with McEwen missing the race due to injury, he would fancy his chances in sprints. However it now looks unlikely that he will be granted a place on the Tour team.
He got things off to a good start with the team this year when he won the Trofeo Mallorca and a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia, but then started having injury problems.
General manager Andrei Tchmil criticised him in May, telling Het Laatste Nieuws that he felt the rider didn't live up to his responsibilities and didn't have the right mentality. He was similarly dismissive in recent days.
"Where would he have earned the Tour place?" he asked, when speaking to Sporza. "He showed nothing this year, there was always something [wrong].
"We have only received promises from him. It's sad, because you can surely expect more from a well-paid rider."
Despite the tension, Steegmans says that he wants to stay with Katusha and that his form is improving. He was seventh on the second stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. "I still have another year at this team," he told Cyclingnews. "And I really hope to give the team as much victories as possible.
"I 'm finally feeling okay with my hip and back. The Dauphiné was great. I went really well over the hills, so I still hope for a Tour selection on the normal way."
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