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Jeanson faces press in Hamilton

The pall thrown over the Canadian team at the world championships Saturday, when its star rider Geneviève Jeanson was declared “inapt” to compete after a high hematocrit reading in a UCI blood test, was partially lifted at a press conference given by the team Saturday evening. Jeanson attended the press conference and said that her above-47-percent hematocrit level can only be due to her sleeping in an altitude tent — a common practice among top riders, including Lance Armstrong. “I started using the tent in 1998,” she said, “and I use it all the time.” Jeanson said she was in a state of

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By John Wilcockson

The pall thrown over the Canadian team at the world championships Saturday, when its star rider Geneviève Jeanson was declared “inapt” to compete after a high hematocrit reading in a UCI blood test, was partially lifted at a press conference given by the team Saturday evening.

Jeanson attended the press conference and said that her above-47-percent hematocrit level can only be due to her sleeping in an altitude tent — a common practice among top riders, including Lance Armstrong. “I started using the tent in 1998,” she said, “and I use it all the time.”

Jeanson said she was in a state of shock when she heard the result mid-morning, but the 22-year-old rider from Lachine in the Montréal suburbs was composed at the press conference and calmly answered questions from the assembled media.

The young Canadian said that since using the altitude tent she regularly has her hematocrit tested, and has found that the tent “is very effective for me.” But this was the first time she had been tested by the UCI immediately prior to a competition.

Jeanson was one of 14 riders from the Netherlands, Germany and Canada who gave blood in the early-morning tests. Jeanson’s hematocrit test was the only one that cam out above the women’s accepted level of 47 percent. “Even if its only .1 over 47 you’re not allowed to race,” Jeanson said.

A spokesman for the UCI told VeloNews that a follow-up urine test was performed on Jeanson to test for the presence of the banned blood-boosting drug EPO. “We will know the results within a few days,” he said.

Should Jeanson’s urine test prove positive for EPO she could be suspended for two years; if it is negative, she will undergo a further blood test in two weeks, and should her hematocrit level then be below 47 percent, her racing license will be reinstated.

The blood test news is unfortunate for Jeanson’s team sponsor, Rona, a national Canadian chain of stores similar to Home Depot in the U.S. Rona is also one of the sponsors of these world road championships. Asked about if her sponsor was supporting her, Jeanson said, “They are 100-percent behind me.”

Also supportive of Jeanson is the Canadian head national coach Yuri Kashirin, who also answered questions at the press conference. “We had a short meeting in the team tent before the [elite women’s] race,” Kashirin said. “It was very emotional. There were tears. The wrong kind of tears.”

In the race, Jeanson’s Canadian teammates Sue Palmer and Lyne Bessette rode strongly to finish respectively 13th and 17th. But it wasn’t the gold medal the team was hoping for.