Monday, July 30, 2007

Mayo reported positive for EPO

Here's this late-evening Eurosport version of the Mayo story:

Spaniard Iban Mayo tested positive on the second rest day of the Tour, July 24. Saunier Duval has suspended its rider while waiting for the second analysis. This is the third case of doping in the Grande Boucle, after Alexander Vinokourov and Cristian Moreni.

The 2007 Tour de France and positive tests: it's a little like the famous brand of dishwashing liquid: "When there are more [dishes, I suppose], it's got more." The day after the arrival on the Champs and the coronation of Alberto Contador, a third doping case has just been revealed. This time it's Spaniard Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) positive for EPO on the second rest day of the Tour, July 24 at Pau. This was the day before the expulsion of Michael Rasmussen, then Yellow Jersey. The ICU advised the Spanish team of the rider's test. (Mayo was 16th in the Tour, 27 minutes behind Contador in Paris.)

Saunier Duval wasted no time in immediately suspending its rider, explaining that it could not do otherwise "given the line it's taking to combat doping." The team also stated thaat it would cancel Mayos contract if the B-sample analysis confirmed the A-sample result. DS Josean Fernándex Matxin characterized the news as "an unpleasant surprise. He has never been a rider suspected of anything. Quite the contrary. He had passed all our internal tests."

Last May, Iban Mayo had tested positive for testosterone during the Tour of Italy, in which he won a stage. But the Basque rider, subject to natural variations in this hormone, was cleared finally, after a more profound analysis. This time, no doubt: since it's EPO, a substance that is anything but natural. This is the third rider "caught" by the Grande Boucle, after Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) and Alexandre Vinokourov--and perhaps not the last. There must surely be a few more drops at the bottom of the bottle. . . .

Agence France Presse helpfully adds:

This positive result for EPO--the first in several years for the Tour--also proves that the test used by the National Doping Detection Laboratory (LNDD) at Châtenay-Malabry, which has regularly criticized for its limited detection window, does work. This radar, while imperfect, still claims its victims.

Before this latest revelation, the forced departure of Danish Michael Rasmussen, the Yellow Jersey who practically had the race won, and the exclusion of his team, Rabpbank, had already thrown the 2007 Tour into a media whirlwind worthy of the Festina storm during the 1998 Tour.


JR said...

"EPO, a substance that is anything but natural"


LuckyLab said...

I was thinking the same thing, jr. EPO, or erythropoeitin as those of us who did not flunk human physiology, is just as natural as testosterone. Of course, there is such a thing as synthetic EPO, but no mention of that...

Unknown said...

I understand the inherent catch-22 involved with keeping the results of a non-negative A-Sample test confidential when it concerns a top rider in the early to middle stages of a Grand Tour. I don’t like the catch-22 that works against an athlete and I think the writer of the rule should be metaphorically flogged, but I understand it.

I don’t understand why we are learning about the A-Sample of Iban Mayo now. The man is not currently riding in a high profile race where his withdrawal and subsequent absence would be noted and an explanation would be wanting. Unless Iban Mayo has asked for this information to be released, this is but another example of distain for following the rules by someone(s) along the line from LNDD, UCI, ASO, or his team.

We are not supposed to know about this until the confirmation of a non-negative on the athlete’s B-Sample, or until an athlete declines testing of his/her B-Sample, or unless the athlete consents to making the information public. What exactly are the anti-doping authorities having trouble grasping here? If they can’t/won’t grasp the before mentioned simple concept, how can we trust them to carry out the rest of the more complicated anti-doping job/mission in a competent manner?????????????????????????????????????????

Larry said...

jrd -

Let's go through the rules on disclosure of positive test results. You can examine these rules at

If an A Sample tests positive, the UCI's Anti-Doping Commission notifies the rider's National Federation, the rider's National Anti-Doping Organization, and WADA. In addition, the UCI Anti-Doping Commission may send a copy of the notification to the rider and the rider's team.

Under Rule 294, the earliest time that a positive test can be disclosed is when the case is referred to the rider's national anti-doping organization for the instigation of disciplinary proceedings. This would, of course, be after any testing of the applicable B sample.

However, there is the question of who is bound by Rule 294. I think that, for example, the accused rider is not bound by this rule - he or she can probably freely disclose the alleged violation to anyone who will listen. The same probalby goes for the rider's team.

If I understand the facts correctly, the UCI properly disclosed the Mayo positive finding to Mayo's team, who in turn disclosed it to the press. So in this case, at least, I see no violation of the confidentiality rules.

If I'm wrong, tell me where I'm wrong.

Unknown said...

You have cited Rule 294, supporting the notion of when a non-negative can be disclosed. No problems there.

Notification of a non-negative is made by the UCI to the rider's national federation (or whatever nation the rider was issued a license from? - example: Rasmussens' license was issued by Monaco, not Denmark), the anti-doping org of the rider's national federation, WADA, the rider's team, and the rider.

Why is this kind of notification required? It is required to make sure the rider does not take part in UCI sanctioned and national federation sanctioned competitions during a time when the rider is ineligible to do so. The rider is not eligible to ride after a non-negative A-Sample until eligibility is restored.

It's not a cue for the notified agencies to disclose the results of the A-Sample. They are supposed to keep those results confidential, unless the athlete gives them the go ahead to make them public.

That decision rests with the rider alone. He/she makes the call. It's not clear to me from the sources cited, and from a casual search of other possible sources, that Mayo gave permission for his team to announce the result.

There seems to be no advantage to the athlete, innocent or guilty, to immediately announce the result as it wouldn't even allow him time to consult with an attorney, should he wish to. There seems to be little advantage for the team to disclose immediately. If the B-Sample turns out negative, they have opened themselves up to bad (doping) publicity for no reason. Is there such pressure to make hasty statements about non-negative A-Samples to curry favor from the anti-doping establishment that teams will take that hit (on behalf of the athlete?) rather than allow the process to play out as the rules intended, with limited protections afforded to the athletes???? I don't know, do you???

nahual said...

From the can't happen here region.....
Allegations may cast cloud over DUI cases
State lab manager quits after she's accused of signing false statements

Allegations that the manager of the state toxicology lab has repeatedly signed false statements over nearly seven years could raise questions about criminal cases and prompt hundreds of drunken-driving suspects to challenge their breath tests.

Ok, I've got my bearings again.

Larry said...


Good post filled with good points!

Before responding, let's stress that Rule 294 probably does not restrict the ability of a cycling team to disclose a positive "A" test, before the results of the "B" test are available. So, I don't think Mayo can complain that his right to confidentiality under the rules has been violated, at least not technically. Yes, the spirit of the rules would seem to push for positive findings to be kept secret for longer ...

My guess is that cycling contracts give the team broad rights to disclose these kinds of matters. I don't know this for certain, but the absence of any legal action by riders against their former teams leads me to suspect that riders typically waive whatever rights they have to confidentiality in these contracts.

As to why a team would want to make the earliest possible announcement of the results of a positive "A" test? I think you stated the reasons in your post. First, the team has to hold the rider out of any competition pending the "B" test. I think this came up with Landis -- wasn't he supposed to ride in a one-day race after the Tour, then had to pull out? At this point, any rider withdrawal from a race will raise suspicion that the rider may be in trouble with the anti-doping authorities. Rather than allowing the rumor mill to go to work, the team will probably decide to disclose what's going on and thus exercise some control over what's been said in the press and on the blogs.

I also think that the teams are under great pressure to enforce "zero tolerance" kinds of policies when it comes to doping and banned substances. This pressure comes from sponsors, and also from the Tour organizers. So, the early announcement makes the team seem "tough on doping."

Yeah, to be sure, the team will look terrible if the "B" test comes in negative. But for whatever reason, the "B" test rarely comes in negative.