Despite his illegal EPO usage, the UCI should be sending BMC Racing’s Thomas Frei a big thank-you note, a magnum of champagne, some chocolates, a gift certificate to Rapha, Cyclepassion 201o calendar, two free tickets to the UCI masquerade ball, something.
Why you ask with incredulity? Because while being a liar and cheat, when caught, Frei basically said, “you got me, I’m guilty, take me away honest officer of the law.” He didn’t fight, whine, call lawyers, dispute findings or embarrass cycling. Best of all, he didn’t insult anyone’s intelligence or invent another lie to cover the first.
Most likely, we can put the other three riders with the suspect blood parameters and Biological Passport boo-boos in that second category, the non chocolate and flowers one. The one that strains our definition of truth and hardens our cynicism. Let’s take a quick, cold look at the anti-Freis.
Italian climber Franco Pellizotti says he’s clean, that the UCI misinterpreted his blood values. Considering they’ve had his test results for nine months since the 2009 Tour de France, a misreading seems unlikely. Testing labs and the UCI are well aware results will be attacked and don’t move forward with evidence unless they’re 99.99% sure of their case.
“I’m not worried but it’s very annoying that I could be in Holland for the Giro. That’s why it feels like it’s all a joke, said Pellizotti. His lawyer Rocco Taminelli challenged the application of the testing. “We’re not contesting the actual Biological Passport. It’s the right instrument. But in this case it’s been wrongly applied,” Taminelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Pellizotti was described by cyclingnews as looking sad but defiant at his press conference. “They told me just two days before the Giro and so there’s no time for me to defend myself. At this point I don’t believe in cycling anymore.”
Summation: misinterpreted data, bad joke, disbelief in cycling.
Our second candidate Tadej Valjavec believes that his irregular blood values are the result of an extended illness which his team doctor failed to mention to the UCI. Said documentation was supposed to have been submitted to the authorities. “I have no words,” said the Slovenian. “My sporting career has ended. I can’t believe how it is possible that the system does not work and that this can happen.” This is one of those excuses that elementary school kids use — dog ate my homework, textbook stolen by Nazi frogmen.
Summation: sickness, sloppy paperwork, possible raid by frogmen.
Our third doping protagonist, Jesús Rosendo Prado, brings up the rear of our story with a rather novel explanation. The Andalucía-CajaSur rider claims he was suffering from anaemia as a result of bleeding caused by hemorrhoids. Supposedly this would raise his reticulocyte level and explain his suspicious blood parameters. He also states the the UCI has a medical note confirming the bleeding and testimony from doctors to support his seat-of-the-pants theory.
Summation: Pain in the butt — the UCI, not me.
This is all starting to sound like a black comedy episode of House, the genius misanthrope doctor who diagnoses the bizarre maladies that baffle other experts. Perhaps he’ll be called as a star witness in Prado’s hemorrhoids case. Maybe he can prove that the adverse effects of the common cold mimics those of blood booster CERA. Hard to say but fun to watch.
Here’s the giveaway for Twisted Spoke, something Valjavec said that makes us suspect guilt is far more likely than innocence. “I am not so stupid, so I really can’t believe this is happening,” he said. There’s a subtext that’s hard not to notice. The statement could easily be interpreted as “smart guys know how to beat doping tests. I’m not stupid so how is this happening?”
Semi-honest man Frei said much the same thing, claiming if he’d drank the required one liter of water after his EPO micro-dose, the controllers’ urine test would never have picked up the illegal drug. He didn’t follow the usual protocol for beating the test — thus, a stupid move.
“I would otherwise now be preparing for the Giro d’Italia,” said Frei. So would Franco Pellizotti.