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Toon Aerts asserts innocence after banned drug found in doping test

Belgian Toon Aerts pictured in action during the mens elite race of the Flandriencross in January 2022 in Hamme Belgium BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Belgian cyclo-cross racer Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) has asserted his innocence after his team confirmed that Aerts' out-of-competition doping control sample taken on January 19 was positive for a banned substance.

The sample was taken 10 days before Aerts raced the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Arkansas, where he finished in sixth place. Aerts stands to be stripped of that result as well as his victory in Lille on February 6, a third place in the Gavere Superprestige and at top 10 in the Brussels University Cyclocross, that gave him the X2O Badkamers Trofee series title, if the B-sample confirms the result.

"I will do everything I can to prove my innocence and clear my name," Aerts said in a statement, according to Sporza, after being notified that the breast cancer drug, Letrozole, turned up in his A-sample.

"Yesterday my world was turned upside down," Aerts said. "I received a letter from the UCI that no athlete wants to receive in his career. I was informed that an abnormal result was found in my urine sample, which was taken during an out-of-competition check at my home on January 19th.

"I am currently in the dark as to how this could have come about. The product 'Letrozole Metabolite' was found in my urine sample. A product that I had never heard of until yesterday and do not know how it got into my body."

Letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor that is used mainly to block estrogen and slow the progression of breast cancer, is also abused by people who use anabolic steroids and want to block feminizing effects or to boost testosterone production by preventing its breakdown. It is forbidden at all times in the WADA prohibited substance list.

Aerts has requested further analysis of his B-sample but has opted to end his season until "there is more clarity".

"Anyone who knows me a little knows that I have been against any form of doping all my career and have always done everything I can to set an example as an athlete.

"I will therefore do everything I can to prove my innocence and clear my name. Pending the analysis of the B sample and further investigations, I will not comment," Aerts concluded. "I would urge everyone to respect this and to give me and my family the time and opportunity to get more clarity first."

Baloise Trek Lions have also chosen to put Aerts on the inactive list and wait for the confirmation of the result.

"We have given Toon a warm heart for years and we hope for soon and better news with him. As a precaution and in consultation with Toon, it has been decided that he will no longer take action and that he will be inactive until more is known," the team wrote.

"Within Baloise Trek Lions, we have a strict zero tolerance for doping for all our riders. As a team, we owe that to ourselves, the other riders in the team and the cycling fans."

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.