January 19, 2006 — A bomb exploded in the cycling world this morning with a report in La Presse that GeneviÃ¨ve Jeanson, the “golden girl” of Canadian cycling, has received a lifetime ban, as the American Review Board upheld the original findings regarding her positive EPO tests at the Tour of Toona in July 2005. Jeanson subsequently announced her retirement and is working with her lawyer, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, to contest the ruling and clear her name.
Jeanson was first thrust into a doping scandal before the 2003 Hamilton Road World Championships, showing higher than normal Haematocrit levels, which resulted in her being banned from the competition — later she was cleared of any doping infractions. The following year, Jeanson was again in the spotlight, having missed a doping control after a stage at Fleche-Wallone in Belgium.
In July 2005, after a time-trial event at the Tour of Toona, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tested Jeanson and found industrial quantities of EPO in her sample. The American Medical Association (AMA) tested another second sample as well which revealed nothing. Both tests were analyzed by the same lab at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
According to the La Presse article Jeanson and her lawyer are contesting the ban, claiming that the anti-doping tests were interpreted incorrectly, supported by the fact that the additional second sample taken by the AMA revealed nothing abnormal. Bertrand is claiming that Jeanson is a creature of exception and her body consistently gives positive readings.
The cyclist and her lawyer are relying heavily on evidence from the doping case of Belgian triathlete, Rutger Beke, who was suspended for 18 months after a doping test revealed four-times the legal limit of EPO in his sample, after his fourth-place finish at Ironman Hawaii. Beke was cleared of all charges last August after scientists proved that the test had been misread, and that Beke’s own production of natural EPO – EPO endogene – was responsible for the elevation. Since the anti-doping test was administered immediately after the athlete had finished the race, his body was still rampantly producing EPO, making his level of the substance skyrocket. Bertrand states that Jeanson’s initial anti-doping control in July 2005 occurred under similar circumstance – right after a 5.1K time-trial.
Dr. Christiane Ayotte, director of Montreal-based anti-doping lab INRS, seemed inconclusive on the matter. Speaking on a popular Montreal morning show today she said, “There is a clear difference between the EPO that the body naturally produces and the synthetic version. Labs can tell the difference and even if the analysis is misread, the markers are very clear.”
However in an interview in today’s La Presse Ayotte stated, “Urine can be too diluted to arrive at a conclusive analysis, or the body can stop producing EPO enogene (the body’s natural EPO) if there is already an important presence in the body.”
It seems that Jeanson has yet another mountain to climb, and this one appears to be the toughest one yet.