Schleck attends camp, in waiting game over doping case

Fränk Schleck is mum on his doping case, but is hopeful he'll be able to return to his RadioShack squad for 2013

LEON, Spain (VN) — Fränk Schleck’s future remains in limbo more than four months after testing positive for a banned diuretic at the 2012 Tour de France.

The RadioShack-Nissan rider is anxiously awaiting word from the Luxembourg anti-doping agency, which could slap him with up to a two-year racing ban. Following a hearing in mid-October by the disciplinary commission, there have been no public announcements about the status of Schleck’s fate.

When contacted by VeloNews on Wednesday, Luxembourg officials said there was no definitive timetable on a verdict.

“There is no news at the moment. The experts are making their reports,” said Dr. Anik Sax, with the Agence Luxembourgeoise Anti-Dopage (ALAD). “It’s an ongoing process. The work has not stopped, but there is nothing to report now.”

The duchy’s disciplinary commission (CDD) heard testimony in the Schleck affair on October 18 in a three-hour session when officials and representatives from ALAD and the UCI, which has joined in the case, and Schleck’s legal team presented their arguments.

The CDD (conseil de discipline contre le dopage, akin to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) is poised to release its findings, which could range from a warning to the maximum two-year ban. Dr. Sax refused to speculate when that might occur.

No matter what happens, all parties, including the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency, can exercise their rights to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A speedy conclusion certainly does not look likely for the case dating back to July.

RadioShack officials said Thursday they were in a “holding pattern” as the team waits for the verdict.

“We are waiting for a response from the commission, then we will make our decision,” RadioShack team manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews. “It is very frustrating for Fränk, because he is someone who always follows the rules. If he is cleared, then he is back in with the team. If he is not, then we will see what kind of suspension he has received and we will make the right decision for everyone. We all just hope it will be solved soon so we can move forward.”

Although inactive on the racing front, Schleck is attending a RadioShack team-building camp held this week in the forests of Luxembourg.

Schleck declined an interview request by VeloNews, but he did release this statement via email:

I’m optimistic about the case and I feel good support from the team. I’m happy to be here at the team-building event and to catch up with everybody and hear their stories from the off-season. I trust that the authorities will come to a decision soon, but as I said, I feel confident for the outcome. I cannot give any details about the case and we need to wait the result now.

The positive control marks the low point for what was an annus horribilis for the elder of the Schleck brothers in 2012.

A year after finishing third in the 2011 Tour de France, Schleck grated under the arrival of now-former team manager Johan Bruyneel in the wake of the merger between RadioShack and Leopard-Trek.

Bruyneel, who has since been pushed out of the team and is battling a lifetime ban for his role in the Armstrong affair, forced Schleck to race the Giro d’Italia against his wishes in May.

Schleck admitted he was not in shape to fight for the pink jersey and crashed out in the second week with a heavy shoulder injury.

With younger brother Andy Schleck knocked out of the Tour with a career-threatening hip injury in June, Schleck tried to pick up the slack.

He rebounded to finish third at the Tour of Luxembourg and second at the Tour de Suisse, but a crash in the first week of the Tour undermined his GC hopes on a course that never suited him.

After both his A and B samples revealed an “adverse analytical finding” for Xipamide, a banned diuretic that aids weight loss and can also act as a masking agent, Schleck pulled out of the Tour.

The 32-year-old, meanwhile, says he’s trying to maintain a brave face that he will be cleared and has vehemently denied wrongdoing.

Ahead of the October hearing, Schleck’s lawyers presented the CDD with a hefty dossier in his defense.

Initially, Schleck suggested there was intentional contamination, hinting even at sabotage. According to Luxembourg media reports, lawyers have since looked at other possibilities, such as contaminated nutritional supplements.

Younger brother Andy, who has struggled to come back from his hip injury, staunchly defended his elder sibling with whom he shared the 2011 Tour podium in what was a first in Tour history.

“Anybody who knows Fränk knows this is not a doping case,” Andy Schleck told VeloNews last month. “We have to see what happens. We can only hope for the best.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Schleck.

This case is not the first time he has appeared before the Luxembourg disciplinary commission.

In 2008, Schleck admitted making payments of 7,000 euros to Operación Puerto ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. Bank documents confirmed that Schleck wired money into accounts belonging to Fuentes, one of the most notorious doping doctors in cycling.

Schleck, however, argued that he only paid the money to the Spaniard for training programs and did not actively participate in doping practices. Lacking hard proof, Luxembourg officials gave Schleck a warning and he resumed racing in the 2009 season.

Whether Schleck can dodge the bullet again remains to be seen.