UAE Team Emirates’ general manager Mauro Gianetti has dismissed the idea that keeping a known rider in the Tour de France who has COVID-19 is a moral or ethical decision, saying that science and the appointed medical teams should decide.
The former rider was responding to the news that his athlete Rafal Majka was allowed to continue in the Tour de France despite returning a positive COVID-19 test on the eve of stage 10. Majka’s CT score was reportedly below the threshold limit that could have taken him out of the race, and the team stated that the rider did not display any symptoms.
The UAE Team Emirates rider came through stage 10 and is set to play a pivotal role in the upcoming mountains for his teammate and race leader Tadej Pogačar. The Slovenian has already lost two teammates to COVID in the race with George Bennett and Vegard Stake Laengen both departing the Tour due to positive tests for the virus.
“He is asymptomatic and analyzing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to the case of Bob Jungels earlier in the race,” the team said in a statement.
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However Team DSM has told VeloNews that they would pull any rider from the race if they returned a positive test, no matter what. Meanwhile, on Team BikeExchange, Luke Durbridge left the race ahead of stage 10. He was displaying symptoms.
“The most important reason for taking a rider out is their health,” the DSM doctor told VeloNews.
“We see riding with COVID as too high of a risk to continue. The main concern is the cardiovascular risk. I can’t judge other teams but we think this is the best practice.”
Gianetti told VeloNews that Majka’s continued participation in the race was down to the low level of virus in his body and that the mountain domestique’s place in the race had been approved by the team doctor, race doctor and the UCI’s medical personnel.
“It’s the decision of the doctor with a very low viral load. The UCI doctors say that he can start so that’s the decision of the doctor,” Gianetti told VeloNews at the end of stage 10.
“If the doctor and the UCI say that he can start then I suppose they know what they’re doing. That’s not my job. Since the beginning of the Tour we’ve been wearing masks. We wear them in the car, or together, or on the bus. Everyone wears them all the time. Since the beginning of the Tour.”
Pogačar heads into the queen stage of the Tour de France with a slender lead over his main rivals. The two-time winner is still expected to come through the Alps with the yellow jersey on his back and even extend his overall advantage. Gianetti, however, isn’t taking anything for granted at this point in the race.
“Every day at the Tour de France is a big stage,” he said.
“Some days we underestimate and at the end of the day they’re more complicated. We know that from the beginning that tomorrow and the day after we have two very important stages. We have two riders less in the team but the rest are in good shape. The GC contenders are many, and they are very close so it will be a funny day.
“The Tour is long and we’ve just started the second week. I think we can’t say it’s done until the last stage so we just need to be careful day-by-day.”