Sutherland suspended for 15 months, but no misconduct found

Australian rider Rory Sutherland has been banned for 15 months after testing positive for clomiphene during the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany) this year. The sanction was announced on Thursday by the disciplinary commission of the Belgian cycling federation, which had jurisdiction in the matter as Sutherland possesses a Belgian licence. The ban, which also carries an additional 9 month provisional suspension, will run until December 15, 2006.

An investigation into the affair, headed by Dr. J. de Beer (Drug Control Service of the Scientific Institute of Public Health in Brussels) and Mr H.J.A. Knijff (attorney at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Hague), reported that clomiphene - an anti-estrogen fertility drug - is practically unheard of in endurance sports, and is "not expected to produce any performance enhancing effect." By inhibiting estrogen production by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, it is designed to help women get pregnant, but this also has the counter-effect of improving the production of testosterone. In this way, it's been claimed to reduce the effects of exercise-induced muscle damage in endurance athletes.

In Sutherland's case, no link was found between the positive test and the products that were given to him by Rabobank's medical staff during the Deutschland Tour. The investigation could not find "any indication that Sutherland was directly or indirectly implicated in expressing interest in, or in using substances classified as doping agents" and concluded that he must have taken it without being aware of it.

The investigation recommended that in future, Rabobank should only use certified products and supplements, including those taken outside of racing. It also recommended that riders get a copy of the UCI doping list at the start of each season, and sign for the receipt of this list. Rabobank said that it will adopt all the recommendations of the investigation committee.

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