The UCI has taken the dramatic step of suspending Dr. Mario Zorzoli from his position as the Scientific Advisor and UCI doctor after allegations were made surrounding his conduct.
The allegations stem from the anti-doping investigation into Dr Geert Leinders who was handed a lifetime ban by USADA and two other recognised anti-doping organisations for his role in systematic doping at the Rabobank team.
Former rider Michael Rasmussen testified that Zorzoli met with Leinders and said that "Rabobank was a team that had ‘butter on its head’…meaning that all the problems, doping related problems would slide off,” USADA wrote in the full decision.
It goes onto say that Leinders refers to Rasmussen as "the most protected rider in the race". Rasmussen also claimed that Leinders advised him to use the steroid DHEA (didehydroepiandrosterone) as a result of a recommendation from Zorzoli.
In a statement posted on the website, the UCI said it "welcomes the decision of the panel of the American Arbitration Association North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (AAA) to impose a life-ban on Dr. Geert Leinders, of Belgium, for his doping violations committed while he was the Chief Team Doctor for the Rabobank professional cycling team.”
“The UCI is aware that the reasoned decision includes allegations made against UCI Doctor and Scientific Advisor Dr. Mario Zorzoli. The UCI is now waiting to receive the full file to look closely into these allegations, and whilst this investigation is taking place, Dr Zorzoli will not be involved in any matters relating to anti-doping. No further comment will be made at this stage.”
Zorzoli was briefly suspended by the UCI in 2006 for his role in the Armstrong-L'Equipe affair. He was suspended when it was discovered that he had supplied copies of Lance Armstrong's medical records to L'Equipe journalist Damien Ressiot.
Zorzoli made headlines again in June of last year when it was confirmed that he had fast-tracked a TUE for Tour de France contender Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the Tour of Romandie. Brian Cookson, president of the UCI later called the episode ‘routine’.
Leinders considers himself innocent
Leinders reacted to the news today, telling NOS.nl, "As a physician, I consider myself as innocent in this matter."
After working part-time with Team Sky before being dismissed as a result of the past doping allegations, Leinders put his involvement in sport behind him. "I have already decided three years ago to never act as team doctor in cycling," he said.
Leinders attorney Kristof de Saedeleer said that he would have to consult with his client before filing any appeals.