This year Dutch professional cycling seemed in an uplift again. After a long period of few successes since the heydays of the late 70-ies and 80-ies, bright prospects returned. Robert Gesink rode well in the Tour of California and in the Dauphine Libere, Sebastiaan Langeveld did very well in Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Niki Terpstra and Stef Clement both won stages in the Dauphine Libere, Lars Boom is a very promising young rider, Skil-Shimano has been invited to ride the Tour, Thomas Dekker seemed on the way up again with a very good time trial in the Tour de Suisse.
Only then to be tested positive for EPO.
The timeframe of Thomas Dekker’s alleged use of banned substances is either interesting or worrisome. His urine samples from December 2007 has found to contain traces of EPO. Thomas Dekker rode for Rabobank at the time. Although the team management denies knowing of Dekker’s use, the Rabobank did leave Dekker off the Tour squad in July 2008. At first the team stated this was because of lack of form on Dekker’s side but later it came out this was as a precaution due to unusual blood values.
In July 2007 the Rabobank suffered great embarrassment over the Rasmussen affair. Since then Bernhard Kohl has also be found to have used illegal substances. Kohl himself has stated that he started using these materials during his time at Rabobank. He and Thomas Dekker rode together on Rabo’s youth education team. Just before the Giro last May it was announced that Austrian authorities want to talk with several Rabo riders. This desire comes out of their interviews with Bernhard Kohl. Rabobank stressed that these conversations are voluntary and that they are fully assisting in the request.
I just can’t help but worry how many more snakes are hiding in the grass.
I have not fully checked this but I believe that Thomas Dekker is the first Dutch rider so far to have tested positive in this era of blood doping. Recently retired riders like Steven Rooks admitted to have used EPO arguing that it was not a banned substance in their time – which while strictly correct is a bit of a lame excuse. That Thomas Dekker now tested positive does not surprise me. He moved to Italy on his own at a very young age, training under the advice of Cecchini, a doctor with a questionable reputation. Dekker only reluctantly broke off relations with him. Then last year’s odd falling out between him and the Rabobank.
Bernhard Kohl, Patrick Sinkewitz, Jorg Jaksche all testified to, or made accusations of, structural doping by riders and teams. While current riders react aggressively in interviews when asked about Kohl or Sinkewitz or Jaksche I do believe there’s at least some truth in their accusations. First of all, Sinkewitz and Kohl made those opinions in formal interviews with law enforcement which lowers the chances of them making just it up or lying. Second, it is just not likely or believable that all those athletes who have tested positive did all this on their own. Where do you get the material? How do you know what to take and when? How do you know how to have the best chances of testing negative? I just don’t believe each rider works that out all by himself. Team doctors, who test and examine their riders frequently and who of their race results and progress, must at least be aware or suspicious. The same for team directors. Most of them, if not all, are ex-riders and some admitted to drug use during their careers. They know what’s what – they know where Abraham gets the mustard to use a Dutch expression. At the very minimum team doctors and directors must be very good at looking away.
Last year hope was emerging that dope usage would be declining, that it was a leftover from an older generation (Zabel et al) and thus would be purged from the peloton. I think by now we know better: the ghost is alive and well. Over the last year Dekker, Kohl, Schumacher, Rebellin, Ricco, Pfannberger, Hamilton, Astarloa, Caucchiolo, De Bonis, Elvira, Serrano, Mas, Ramos, Piepoli all tested positive and I’m pretty sure this list is not exhaustive. The names here are young riders and older riders, from many different countries and many different teams.
Kohl’s recent statement that doping is (still) widespread and systemic sounds not so impossible, does it?