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Facing a lifetime ban for EPO, Geneviève Jeanson retires

Jeanson calls it quits while still proclaiming innocence.

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Canadian cyclist Geneviève Jeanson has announced her retirement from the sport of cycling, Quebec daily La Presse reported on Thursday. Jeanson faces a lifetime suspension from USA Cycling after testing positive for the blood-booster EPO at the 2005 Tour de Toona.

As a resident of the United States, Jeanson held a racing license issued through USA Cycling, and was therefore subject to the anti-doping program administered by USADA. Jeanson took out a U.S. racing license following a battle with the Quebec cycling federation after the 2003 world championships in Hamilton, when she was not allowed to start the road race due to an elevated hematocrit level. She passed subsequent doping tests.

Jeanson was called for an out-of-competition urine test on July 25, 2005, during the Tour de Toona in Pennsylvania. Jeanson’s sample was found to be positive for EPO, and this result was confirmed by her B sample.

Jeanson and her lawyer declared in a hearing before the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that she had never taken EPO and suggested that she produced a rare “false positive,” like recently vindicated Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke.

However, Dr. Christiane Ayotte, director of the Doping Control Laboratory at Montreal’s Institut National de la Recherché Scientifique, told CBC News that the test that Jeanson took is dependable.

The case was examined by USADA’s review board, which supported the analytical results and recommended a lifetime ban from competition and coaching due to the fact that this is Jeanson’s second doping offense after her failure to appear at a UCI anti-doping test at the women’s Fleche-Wallonne race in Belgium in 2004. While Jeanson did not test positive there, failure to appear counts as a positive.

This decision was communicated to Jeanson in a letter issued on January 18 with copies sent to USA Cycling and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). According to USADA policy, Jeanson has until January 30 to inform them of her intention to accept the suspension or contest it.

Jeanson’s next step will be a hearing before the American Arbitration Association/Court for Arbitration in Sport (AAA/CAS), scheduled sometime this spring, according to CBC News. Should that hearing go against her, Jeanson would have a further option to appeal through the international Court for Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland.

The only other bodies that can appeal the suspension are the UCI and WADA; USA Cycling and all other sport governing bodies are bound by the decision issued by USADA. The process had been kept confidential in order to protect Jeanson’s right to privacy. According to USADA policy, USA Cycling would have been informed of the initial positive test in July, and as a courtesy USA Cycling would have contacted the Canadian Cycling Association immediately. However, USA Cycling officials indicated that they only learned of the matter through the media on Thursday, at the same time as the CCA.

Jeanson, who vowed to prove her innocence, nevertheless said she would retire from cycling. The decision to render the matter public by contacting the media and announce her retirement was her own.

“It’s over,” she told La Presse. “I don’t want anything to do with cycling. I’m tired of fighting and repeating that I have never taken EPO or any banned substance.”

USA Cycling chief of staff Sean Petty said that while Jeanson may have announced her retirement, that won’t change USADA’s protocol to recommend the lifetime ban.

“Just because she said she’s going to retire, it doesn’t stop the process,” Petty said. “She’s thrown a lot into the media, a lot of information out there that technically is not all correct. She has until January 30 to accept USADA’s sanction or appeal the case. If she accepts the ruling, she’ll sign a document and be banned for life, but her retirement announcement is a little surprising since, as of today, there is no sanction or ban by USA Cycling.”

Added CCA High Performance director Kris Westwood: “It is of course profoundly disappointing on many levels that Geneviève Jeanson’s career has ended in this way. She had the potential for a brilliant career, and it’s a terrible waste of talent that these repeated scandals are all we’re left with.”