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Administrative hiccup keeps WorldTour rookie out of Tour Down Under

Belgian Borg Lambrecht, 20, will miss what would have been his first professional race because of the snafu.

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Dreams of a WorldTour debut are being put on hold for a Belgian neo-pro following an administrative technicality that will keep him on the sidelines during the Santos Tour Down Under.

Twenty-year-old Borg Lambrecht was hoping to race Tuesday’s opening stage in what would be his WorldTour debut with Lotto-Soudal, but he didn’t meet requirements of the UCI’s ADAMS whereabouts program.

Lotto-Soudal seems to be putting the blame on the UCI.

According to team officials, Lambrecht listened to a UCI-sponsored webinar in mid-December to teach neo-pros how to follow the ADAMS program. Lotto-Soudal said in a press release it received Lambrecht’s official log-in information the following day on December 15. That date meant it was too late to meet the requirements, however, and the team isn’t taking any chances to run afoul with anti-doping authorities.

So, Lambrecht won’t race until the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race at the end of January.

“This is a huge disappointment,” he said. “We came to Australia a week ago, and I was looking forward to my first pro season and then it’s a huge disappointment when you hear you can’t start. But of course we can’t take any risk. I will stay here to train for a week and then I will head to Melbourne with the team.”

The case reveals just how complex the WADA code can be. And rather than risk running afoul with rules, Lambrecht won’t race this week.

Rules used to require neo-pros to undergo three doping controls as part of their biological passport before their WorldTour debut. New rules call for neo-pros to be registered in the ADAMS system 42 days before the start of their first WorldTour race.

According to Lotto-Soudal officials, the UCI organized three webinars in French, Spanish, and English during December. Lambrecht sat in during the English class on December 14, and received his log-in the next day. That date, however, was 10 days short of the requirement to start the Tour Down Under.

Team officials said they filed an official complaint with the cycling federation, but without UCI confirmation that he could race, Lotto-Soudal is sidelining its rookie.

That means Lotto-Soudal will line up for the first race of the 2018 WorldTour calendar with six starters instead of seven.

The situation harkens back to another controversy involving Lance Armstrong and the Tour Down Under in 2009.

At the time, UCI officials waived rules requiring athletes to be in the WADA testing pool for at least six months. The UCI allowed Armstrong to make his highly anticipated comeback at the Australian race despite falling nearly two weeks short of the cutoff date.

The UCI issued this statement on the matter on Wednesday:

“To ensure a level playing field at the UCI WorldTour level, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) requires that all riders competing in the Series are subject to the Athlete Biological Passport programme run by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF). Therefore, Article 2.1.005 of the UCI Regulations provides that a rider shall provide accurate and up-to-date whereabouts information to an Anti-Doping Organisation for a minimum of six weeks prior to his first participation in a UCI WorldTour event.

“By informing the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) only on 11 December 2017 of its intention to register neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht for the 2018 season, the Lotto Soudal team had already exceeded the 6-week deadline for the 2018 Santos Tour of Down Under which was set on 5 December 2017.

“Article 2.1.005 of the UCI Regulations has been in force since 2009, and consistently applied to and complied with by UCI WorldTeams and UCI Professional Continental ever since.”