In the first case of a professional domestic cyclist suspended for ties to former racer turned drug distributor Joe Papp, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday that Jelly Belly rider Jonathan Chodroff has accepted a two-year period of ineligibility for an anti-doping rule violation based on his use and possession of synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) in 2007.
As VeloNews.com reported earlier this week, a wave of domestic cyclists are believed to receive sanctions in the coming days and weeks for purchasing performance-enhancing drugs through a distribution ring Papp ran from September 2006 through September 2007.
According to the Justice Department, Papp imported the drugs from the Chinese manufacturer Shandong Kexing Bioproducts Company and sold the drugs to approximately 187 customers, including cyclists and other athletes, throughout the United States and internationally.
In February Papp, 35, pleaded guilty in a Pennsylvania federal court to conspiracy to distribute human growth hormone and recombinant erythropoietin. He has not yet been sentenced for his violation of federal narcotic laws. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both.
Because he is awaiting sentencing, Papp declined to comment about any USADA or criminal investigations with which he may be cooperating.
However, Papp posted this message on his Twitter account on Friday morning: “Respect to Jonathan Chodroff for doing the “honorable” thing and admitting HIS involvement. Many others haven’t/won’t, it seems.”
Reached by VeloNews.com Friday morning, Chodroff had no comment. However in another news outlet he admitted to purchasing doping products in 2007. When USADA confronted him with electronic evidence linking him with Papp’s distribution ring, Chodroff said he immediately phoned USADA and confessed.
Jelly Belly rider Kiel Reijnen confirmed that Chodroff notified him of the suspension yesterday with a phone call.
“(Chodroff’s EPO possession) was from a long time ago and isn’t really relevant to what we’re doing now,” said Reijnen, adding that Chodroff had already decided to retire earlier this season, after the Tour of Qinghai Lake showed him his limitations.
Chodroff’s two-year period of ineligibility began on September 10, 2010, the day he accepted the sanction. Additionally, Chodroff is disqualified from all competitive results achieved on and subsequent to March 26, 2007, the date he first committed the anti-doping rule violations based on evidence currently in USADA’s possession, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.
In 2007, during the time of his rEPO possession, Chodroff rode for the Meredith Group-GPOA-Cannondale amateur team, as a Category 3 racer. The 25-year-old from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, rode for the CRCA-Empire Cycling Team in 2008, turned pro with OUCH-Maxxis in 2009, and signed with Jelly Belly for 2010.
Jelly Belly race director Danny Van Haute said the team was “surprised to learn he had any involvement with doping.”
“Jon Chodroff announced to the team two months ago he was leaving pro cycling to pursue a different career and he hasn’t been riding for the team since then,” added Van Haute. “My focus right now is on our professional national championships, where the team has a good chance to win on Sunday even though Mike Friedman is back home sick.”
Chodroff’s USA Cycling career results can be found at USACycling.org.
VeloNews reporter Brian Holcombe contributed to this report.