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Tinkoff-Saxo rider Roman Kreuziger, who is currently facing a hearing at the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) over irregularities in his biological passport from 2011 and 2012, has taken to the internet to declare his innocence and publish several documents from his case to a personal web site.
On Friday, Kreuziger wrote that he has never tested positive, that the Czech Olympic Committee cleared him of any wrongdoing, that he condemns doping and cheating in sport, and that the ongoing proceedings are damaging what is left of his career.
Six days earlier, on November 22, Kreuziger published several documents to his site, including computer analysis of individual samples of his biological passport, dated 2007 through 2013, done by the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU), based at the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses (LAD) in Lausanne, as well as the September 22 ruling by the arbitration committee of the Czech Olympic Committee.
On October 23, the UCI announced that, along with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), it would appeal the September decision of the Czech Olympic Committee to CAS.
In his recent posting, Kreuziger argues that he has never exceeded limit values in any biological passport analysis, from 2007 through 2013.
“Despite this, for a year and a half now I have been living in uncertainly as to whether I will be able to continue to devote myself to my life’s passion and continue with my career,” Kreuziger wrote. “I have never exceeded the basal values and did not even approach these values. The Arbitration Committee of the Czech Olympic Committee cleared me of any wrongdoing in October of this year.
“I consider the biological passport to be an excellent tool,” he continued. “However, clear rules for its use must be set out, otherwise it is useless and can be used to eliminate anyone. Rules cannot be changed during a game. And that is what is happening now. What purpose do the basal values serve if mere suppositions are used to determine guilt?
“I don’t ask for sympathy or leniency. I have always respected the principles of fair play, and as a competitor at two Olympic Games I respect the principles of the Olympic Charter. Today I find myself part of an absurd theatre, but tomorrow it could happen to any other athlete. I want a just process, I want clear rules and I want fair treatment.”
Whether or not the data that Kreuziger has shared will convince CAS of his innocence remains to be seen.
Biological passport data taken from early April through late May 2012 — the period that Kreuziger prepared for, and competed in, the Giro d’Italia — shows a concurrent drop in hemoglobin and reticulocytes, followed by a spike in hemoglobin concurrent with a rise, and then dramatic drop, in reticulocytes.
During the final 10 days of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, Kreuziger’s hematocrit rose from 43.2 to 48.1, finishing higher than his pre-Giro value of 45.1 — an anomaly, as most athletes see a decrease of hematocrit/hemoglobin “after physical effort of sufficient duration and intensity due to plasma volume expansion,” as the UCI attests, i.e. during the final 10 days of a grand tour.
A rise in hemoglobin and a drop in reticulocytes, or immature blood cells, can be indicative of blood transfusions, as the body shuts down creation of its own red blood cells. A higher than expected hematocrit and elevated reticulocyte percentage can also be indicative of the use of EPO to artificially stimulate production of red blood cells.
When the body senses hyper-oxygenation (a high red blood cell count), reticulocyte production drops. When the body senses hypo-oxygenation (a low red blood cell count), which can be caused by training or racing at high attitude, as well as by a blood draw, reticulocyte production increases. Because they are more fragile than mature red blood cells, reticulocyte levels are not seen as stable a biomarker as hemoglobin; reticulocyte production may also decrease due to illness or fatigue.
Kreuziger’s hemoglobin values also saw a similar spike during the final weeks of the 2011 Giro d’Italia and 2011 Tour de France. Kreuziger’s 2013 and 2014 biological passport data was not published.
The UCI is seeking a disqualification of Kreuziger’s results from March 1 to August 31, 2011, as well as April 1 to May 31, 2012.
Kreuziger also documented that, since 2003, he has have suffered from hypothyroidism, or reduced function of the thyroid gland, which required high dosages of hormone replacement therapy (hormone substitute L-Thyroxine) during 2011 and 2012.
Kreuziger rode for Astana from to 2011 and 2012, and was a member of the Tinkoff-Saxo team for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
At the 2012 Giro, while riding for Astana, Kreuziger sat fifth overall after 16 stages, but dropped out of GC contention on the Passo Giau on May 23, finishing 11:26 down on stage 17 winner Joaquim Rodriguez at Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Blood tests from May 24 showed a significant rise in hemoglobin and a drop in reticulocytes. The sample was taken at 10:07 a.m. prior to stage 18.
The following day, May 25, Kreuziger rebounded to win stage 19 at l’Alpe di Pampeago.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal went on to win the 2012 Giro, ahead of Rodriguez; Kreuziger finished the race 15th overall, 19:58 down on GC.
Following his 2013 Amstel Gold win, Kreuziger admitted to having worked with controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, during 2006 and 2007. In 2002, the Italian Olympic committee (CONI) banned Ferrari from working with athletes in Italy.
The UCI’s appeal will be the second time Kreuziger’s case has been heard at CAS; in August, CAS upheld a provisional suspension that had seen Kreuziger pulled from the Tour of Poland.
That provisional suspension was negated on September 22 when the Czech Olympic Committee cleared Kreuziger of any wrongdoing.
On Saturday, Tinkoff team owner Oleg Tinkov mentioned Kreuziger’s web site on Twitter, writing in Spanish, “Roman Kreuziger’s website, where he tries to prove his innocence,” before writing in, English, “God save him!”
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that blood samples from May 23 showed a significant rise in hemoglobin, and a drop in reticulocytes, and that it was not clear whether that sample was taken before or after stage 17, the day that saw Kreuziger plummet from his top-10 GC standing. The sample was actually taken on May 24, the day after Kreuziger dropped out of GC contention, at 10:07 a.m., prior to stage 18.