Alexandr Kolobnev Interview: Russian rider gets his career back on track
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Friday, May 4, 2012

Alexandr Kolobnev Interview: Russian rider gets his career back on track

by Shane Stokes at 6:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Cleared by CAS, Classic specialist will return to racing this month with Katusha

Alexandr KolobnevAs the date of his return to racing draws closer, Russian competitor Alexandr Kolobnev has spoken of the tough experience he has encountered between testing positive at the Tour de France in July and winning his case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport just over two months ago. The Katusha rider has suffered a disruption to his career, but hopes to return to racing later this month, using that frustration as a motivating factor.

“I had strong emotions on both July 11 and February 29. But as you know they were two completely opposite feelings,” he told VeloNation recently. “On July 11th I received a heavy blow which was a big shock and hurt me a lot. I needed time to come to my senses and to find the strength to stand up. I was able to find the strength due to the people around me, those believing in me.

“I had to go through a lot, but now that experience is behind me.” Then, philosophically, he added, “in a way, I think those kinds of experiences can be useful.”

Kolobnev is eligible to resume racing, but has lost over nine months as a result of what happened. On July 11th it was announced that he had provided a positive A sample for the diuretic Hydrochlorothiazide. He left the race as a result.

Under WADA rules, Hydrochlorothiazide is listed as a specified substance by WADA and carries a possible sanction ranging from a warning to a two year suspension. Kolobnev claimed he didn’t intentionally take the diuretic and, ruling on the case in October, the Russian federation decided that he was not responsible. It gave him a warning and a fine of 1,500 Swiss francs.

The UCI appealed this in early December, but CAS subsequently ruled that the rider had committed no deliberate fault and that the Russian decision should stand.

Relieved with the decision, Kolobnev is happy to push forward with his career. However he also told VeloNation that he is not happy with how his case was treated by the media. ““My situation in 90% of the articles was described absolutely incorrectly,” he said. “I will not go back to the articles that were written before the decision of the CAS, because there is an absurdity of blaming [me] and the misconception of my position in order to build a scandal.”

What CAS decided:

In its ruling, the CAS panel found that Kolobnev had not sought a competitive advantage, and was not at significant fault of negligence for the positive test. It therefore decided to uphold the RCF decision not to suspend him.

alexandr Kolobnev“On the basis of the evidence produced by the parties, the CAS Panel found that Kolobnev has been suffering from varix dilatation, a chronic vascular disease, for 15 years, that he has regularly consulted a doctor for it, and that he has undergone medical treatment that included surgery and that, in order to treat such disease and enhance his venous system, Kolobnev was recommended by his personal doctor to use products called ‘Kapilar’ or ‘Natural Kapillyaroprotector’,” CAS said in its ruling.

The rider clarifies this slightly to VeloNation, saying that the doctor who recommended the product was the one who operated on him.

CAS added that the substance is sold in Russia without prescription [but under doctor recommendation – ed.] and that the rider had purchased it in Ufa, the Russian Federation, on June 24th and brought it with him to the Tour. It stated that an analysis performed on the product by the HFL Sport Science Laboratory in London showed contamination of HCT to the estimated level of 6.3 micrograms per tablet.

The panel concluded that the product was ‘justified by medical reasons totally unrelated to sport performance,’ and, because of that, it ruled for him and against the UCI.

Kolobnev explains the situation a little further. “What happened is that I took a medication to strengthen the capillaries and veins. This medication is prescribed to me by doctor who operated on me before,” he said. “HCT was not supposed to be present in this medicament. The substance HCT is not designated to treat disease of the capillaries and veins; the substance for the treatment in medication is dihydroquercetin.

“The fact is the presence of HCT in that medication is the fault of the manufacturer. And the amount of this substance was a little absurd…a single tablet had 4000 times less of HCT than the minimum daily dose of the diuretic. This was studied and compared to that found in the urine sample and was presented before CAS by independent doping experts. Such an absurdly small amount of HCT indicates contamination by the manufacturer of the medical products.”

Many riders, Alberto Contador included, have fought their own cases by saying that contamination was the issue. However, even for those who have proven that their ingestion of a substance occurred because of the error of a manufacturer, they were deemed subject to sanction. Kolobnev’s case turned out differently for two reasons; firstly, because Hydrochlorothiazide is a ‘specified’ substance, which is deemed less serious than ‘controlled’ substances such as Clenbuterol.

Secondly, because CAS believed his account to be plausible, his fault to be minimal. Kolobnev states that he spent more than €20,000 on laboratory tests which show that the HCT was in the product he had legitimately used.

Kolobnev admits that he was initially surprised at the CAS decision. “I could not believe it at first,” he said, thinking back to that time. “The reason for that was that the decision took a long time to be handed down compared to the awards of Brazilian swimmers.” [editor’s note – Brazilian Olympic gold medalist Cesar Cielo and three of his team-mates also tested positive for a diuretic, and were cleared by both their national federation and by CAS]

“But then, I still regarded it as something logical after all the work that lawyers and experts did. They did their job professionally and to a high level, and so we got the outcome we had expected.” He adds that CAS awarded him CHF 3,500, payable by the UCI.

Starting his career again:

Now cleared of blame, Kolobnev is ready to return to racing. He has been a professional for eleven years and this has been his longest break from the bike in that time, but he’s been working hard.

Alexandr KolobnevHowever while he was eligible to return to competition as soon as CAS made its ruling on February 29th, and had a team in place one month after that, he is yet to ink his name to a sign on sheet and pin on a race number.

The issue has been an injury he suffered in March. “I crashed during training and tore my rectus femoris,” he explained to VeloNation. “It was a few days before I found out what was wrong. After evaluating the situation with doctors, I decided to do the surgery and get the torn muscle stitched.”

He has been training in the meantime and is expected to make his return to racing in the 2.HC Bayern-Rundfahrt, which runs from May 23rd to 27th. If he decides that he wants to return to the Tour de France, that will give him several weeks to clock up the sort of results which would secure him a place on the team.

Whether he rides the Tour or not, he confirms that the Olympic Games road race will be a big target for him. He finished fourth in Beijing but was elevated to the bronze medal position when Davide Rebellin tested positive; taking another medal will be a big goal.

The world road race championships are also a logical target, both because the profile of the course will suit his characteristics, and also because he has twice finished second there in the past.

Rejoining Katusha:

He’d be with the national team for both those events, but in all other races he’ll once again don the Katusha uniform. The team initially said that it couldn’t take him back as it was full, but Kolobnev subsequently received a derogation from the UCI which saw it waive its rules in order to fit him back in.

The latter was as a result of a battle with the UCI. “It was not easy. We know that no one thought that I would get into the team,” he said. “In any case, I needed to make a request in the UCI to get an exception that would allow the team to sign one more rider. This request was made by my manager Paul de Geyter, as well as by the CPA [the professional cyclists’ association - ed.].

“At the same time the Russian part of the project of cycling in Russia had expressed its interest to sign a contract with me, something I was certainly glad about.

“At the beginning, I was given moral support by Igor Makarov. In the end, another contract was signed, which speaks for itself.”

Kolobnev will now line out alongside Oscar Freire and Denis Menchov as part of the team. Both are new additions, both are likely leaders in races, but he doesn’t anticipate any issues arising. He’ll still have scope to chase his own targets, and he’ll help them when it is required.

“They are both great people,” he said. “They are not arrogant despite the fact that they are both great riders. Therefore, they are easy to get on with.

“I know them both quite a long time and I was with them in the same team [Rabobank] in 2005 and 2006. I think it will be interesting to meet together again as a team mates. Despite my personal ambitions, I am ready to help them to achieve victory.”

It can be presumed that they too will return the favour when he is in a position to win once again. He turns 31 today and is around the optimum age for Classic success. 


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