Tinkoff-Saxo hits back at the UCI regarding Kreuziger's Biological Passport suspension
Team questions Cookson's comments to Cyclingnews
The Tinkoff-Saxo team has published an open letter on its website highlighting what it believes are contradictory comments made by UCI President Brian Cookson to Cyclingnews and questioning why the UCI has decided to suspend Roman Kreuziger before he has faced a full disciplinary hearing for his alleged Biological Passport violation. The letter follows a series of provocative tweets from team owner Oleg Tinkov, suggesting he may take legal action against the UCI.
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Kreuziger was suspended by the UCI on Saturday after Cyclingnews revealed that he was about to return to racing in the Tour de Pologne. He was first sidelined on the eve of the Tour de France after the UCI announced that anti-doping authorities had opened a biological passport case against him. Cookson revealed to Cyclingnews that the UCI had discovered "very serious anomalies" in Kreuziger's Biological Passport.
Stefano Feltrin, managing director of Tinkoff-Saxo, pointed out that the UCI had allowed Kreuziger to compete until now, even though it had told him in May it would formally initiate proceedings against him.
"What seems inexplicable to us is how UCI can decide that from a certain moment in time but also retroactively the interpretation of the rule, that riders will not be provisionally suspended for alleged blood passport violations, which has applied since 2011 when the blood passport was introduced, shall be revised. What changed on August 1st, 2014?" the letter reads.
Tinkoff-Saxo did not suspend Kreuziger before the Tour de France but opted "not to send him to TdF to protect him and the team (which was trying to win that race) from media attention, speculation and to allow him to get his defence organized," the team explains in its letter.
Kreuziger was first contacted by the UCI on the eve of the 2013 Tour de France. The anti-doping authorities had raised concerns over fluctuations in the rider's biological passport between March 2011 and August 2011, and between April 2012 through the end of the 2012 Giro d'Italia. At the time, Kreuziger rode for Astana but made the switch to Tinkoff-Saxo at the start of the 2013 season.
Several medical experts have supported Kreuziger's claims of innocence and after reviewing the case, the Tinkoff-Saxo team believe he should be eligible to continue racing.
The team reiterated its stance against doping and support for the Biological Passport but questioned Cookson's statements and independence concerning the Kreuziger case.
"It is also hard to understand how the UCI’s President in the same interview can state, on the one hand, that 'I don’t know the detailed history of the case as I wasn’t the president then, and one of the things that I have done is separate myself from the detail of the anti-doping process' and, on the other hand, 'There are very serious anomalies': obviously one of the two statements can not be true," the letter reads.
There was no initial reaction form the UCI or President Brian Cookson.
The full letter from Tinkoff-Saxo to UCI President Brian Cookson:
TO: UCI President, Mr. Brian Cookson
Re: Your interview of August 3rd on the Roman Kreuziger’s case
Dear Mr. Cookson,
As Managing Director of Tinkoff Saxo I am writing to you in response to your statements in your interview of August 3rd to explain what you have described as an “inexplicable” decision by our team (i.e. the decision to put Roman Kreuziger in the line up for Tour of Poland).
I am not going to go through the history of the case – but just going straight to the point:
When the UCI informed the rider about its fluctuations in 2013 – which the rider received on the first day of the Tour de France – he was requested to provide an explanation but no provisional suspension was imposed; it was fine for him to continue racing, and he did.
In May 2014, again shortly before the start of the TdF, the UCI formally indicated it would initiate proceedings against the rider but, again, nothing was said about a possible provisional suspension pending the outcome of those proceedings.
The team did not suspend him but decided, with his agreement, not to send him to TdF to protect him and the team (which was trying to win that race) from media attention, speculation and to allow him to get his defence organized.
It should be noted that since becoming aware of the issue in 2013 the team had requested expert opinions, had reviewed Kreuziger’s expert opinions, had reviewed the UCI anti doping rules applicable at the time and concluded that the rider should be eligible to continue racing, a decision, until now supported by the UCI.
On June 28th the team clearly stated: “Though he won’t be racing for now, until more information becomes available to the team it will not provisionally suspend Roman unless required by the UCI or the Czech Federation“.
UCI did not react to the public statement from the team that its clear understanding was that the rider was not suspended.
More than a month after that statement both Roman and the team expected to be able to have him racing in Tour of Poland. After all, we have a contract with the rider and we pay him a salary to race.
What seems inexplicable to us is how UCI can decide that from a certain moment in time but also retroactively the interpretation of the rule, that riders will not be provisionally suspended for alleged blood passport violations, which has applied since 2011 when the blood passport was introduced, shall be revised. What changed on August 1st, 2014?
It is also hard to understand how the UCI’s President in the same interview can state, on the one hand, that “I don’t know the detailed history of the case as I wasn’t the president then, and one of the things that I have done is separate myself from the detail of the anti-doping process” and, on the other hand, “There are very serious anomalies“: obviously one of the two statements can not be true.
It is also difficult not to object to your statements below:
(i) “The WADA code is clear but a little bit ambivalent on that point“, and (ii) “And I’m not saying that he [Kreuziger]‘s guilty” but “In this instance that’s [to suspend the rider provisionally] what we’ve decided and we’re going to look at all future cases to see if they should be pursued in the same way. It’s not a definite once and for all though“.
It seems to us that (a) a penalty to a rider shall be applied only based on very precise and verified circumstances (b) UCI and yourself have written that the provisional suspension is imposed because it is likely that the rider’s results will be affected by the asserted anti-doping rule violation – thus you believe he is guilty; and (c) we believe that justice shall be administered treating all cases in the same manner and not on a case by case basis.
This team is fully committed to the fight against doping in sport, to the use of the biological passport and to the application of strict anti-doping rules but does believe this should be conducted in a manner that respects the facts and proper process, guarantees proper defense right and do not jeopardize the team’s ability to plan properly when hiring riders and select a team to participate in a race.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.