Report: Gilbert dismissive of cortisone claims against him relating to his time with Lotto team
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Report: Gilbert dismissive of cortisone claims against him relating to his time with Lotto team

by Shane Stokes at 12:13 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
“I did my job seriously and always in the best possible way”

Philippe GilbertWorld champion Philippe Gilbert has sought to dismiss suggestions that doctor Jan Mathieu boosted his performances while he was with the Lotto team by giving him cortisone, saying that he was ‘surprised by the allegations,’ which were printed today in the Dutch publication NRC.

“I did my job seriously and always in the best possible way. Both before, during and after my years at Lotto I have won big races, most even in a typical way. I would hope that says enough.”

Gilbert’s comments, which were sent in writing to NRC, don't specifically address whether or not he had a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for cortisone, which is only permitted in cycling under medical necessities.

According to NRC, several former riders of the Silence Lotto/Omega Pharma Lotto team have said that current team doctor Jan Mathieu gave the team leaders, including Gilbert, the substance in the past.

One of the unnamed riders stated that Mathieu said that he was proud that he was responsible for Gilbert’s victories. Another implicates both himself and the current world champion. “I have also received cortisone from Mathieu, supposedly under a certificate [a TUE – ed.]. he told me that he did the same with Gilbert.

Cortisone usage was described in Willy Voet’s book Breaking the Chain, with the former Festina soigneur explaining that it gives a short term boost which can lead to a performance advantage in one day events and short stage races, but that it can have a catabolic (strength reducing) effect when over-used.

He attributed Alex Zuelle’s superb form in the first part of the 1998 Giro d’Italia to cortisone usage, but said the same substance caused his performance to collapse later in the race.

According to NRC, Jean Francoise Bernard also suffered from the effects of cortisone usage during the 1987 Tour de France. It quotes former pro Peter Winnen, who explained the circumstances.

“In 1987 there was a time trial on the Mont Ventoux. Stephen Roche against Jeff Bernard. The soigneurs of their teams spoke to each other. The soigneur of Roche lied: ‘We're going to completely pump full with cortisone.’” Winnen explained. “And so Bernard’s soigneurs made him fully loaded with it. Bernard won the time trial, but the next day was blocked. That's the way with cortisone: you ride a hard day and then you're fucked up. Roche attacked while Bernard was blocked and won the Tour. Hahahaha.”

Using Therapeutic Use Exemption certificates as a shield for cortisone usage:

Confessed doping user Philippe Gaumont stated several years ago that riders had been able to sidestep the controls on cortisone use by deliberately rubbing salt on their testicles to provoke skin irritation, then going to their doctor and receiving a skin ointment to relieve the symptoms. This substance, Diprosole, contained corticosteroids; a TUE would be provided and thus avoid problems with doping controls.

However the presence of the corticosteroids would disguise the more deliberate usage of cortisone for performance enhancement.

According to the NRC article, riders have come up with a number of excuses to receive TUEs, with an unnamed rider stating that a Belgian team turned up at a past Classic with such certificates for every one of its riders.

“Just before the Tour of Flanders the certificates came in for cortisone use. All nine riders of the team were allegedly injured,” he said. “One had something wrong with his knee, the other with his Achilles tendon, and another had an inflammation on his ass.” He added that they flew in the race as a result.

VeloNation has also heard similar suggestions relating to certain teams at the Tour de France, with multiple TUEs being used. Neither the UCI nor teams release details of the scale of TUE usage, however, and so it is difficult to know how widespread the issue is.

The anti-doping Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible [Movement for a Credible Cycling/MPCC] has been gaining strength with many teams in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal. It imposes tight controls on the use of corticosteroids, directing that all riders who receive cortisone injections – regardless of the reason – must take a break from competition of eight days.

All teams which sign up to the MPCC must accept this and other regulations as a condition of membership.

NRC quotes a past Rabobank rider who claims that former team doctors Geert Leinders and Jean Paul Van Mantgem were involved in administering cortisone to riders. “A lot of riders at Rabo raced with cortisone,” he said, stating that one on occasion they used it before the national championships.

Leinders and Van Mantgem were implicated by former Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen as having given false medical certificates. Leinders attracted controversy in recent months after it emerged prior to the 2012 Tour that he had a past role in doping Rabobank riders.

He was employed on a part time basis by Team Sky until last autumn, when it announced that it would no longer use his services. Team principal Dave Brailsford has maintained that no doping took place on Team Sky, but conceded that hiring Leinders was a big error.

NRC also quotes Laurens ten Dam, who raced with Unibet in 2007 and said that he saw an abuse of cortisone there. “The longer you race in the peloton, the more your eyes open,” he said. “At Unibet I knew about what happened. Cortisone was used. I did not participate, I didn’t want anything in my certificate [TUE] booklet. Even if I had a cold.”

Today’s publication will further increase the pressure on the UCI to tighten up on TUE usage. Irish time trialist Michael Hutchenson rode last year’s world TT championships and said that his blank medical booklet was the subject of surprise for the testers.

“Worth saying again that the dope control guys at the worlds last year were amazed I didn't have any therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs),” he stated via Twitter on February 16th, this revealing the extent of the number of certificates handed out to riders by doctors.

Even if some of these are warranted, widespread usage of TUEs is suggestive of an abuse of the medical system in the sport.

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