Dan Staite's EPO positive

When rumours come true

Dan Staite. Most people with an interest in cycling would have never heard of him up until today, when the news finally came out that he'd been banned by British Cycling for two years for taking EPO and an aromatase inhibitor.

He's British, in his late 30s, has raced on the domestic scene in both the UK and the US, won several time trials and road races, and has even achieved fame as a Concept 2 indoor rower, holding at least one British record. He even contributed to a forum thread asking about drug testing at the British Indoor Rowing Championships in 2004. Interestingly, he edited some of his responses in July 2010.

Staite is not a pro, just an amateur who it seems has a win at any cost mentality. Rather sad but not uncommon. People take illegal drugs just for fun. Add in some kind of incentive like a win and there's an even stronger reason to dope.

We were first made aware of Staite's positive test from several different sources around May. There was also plenty of forum chatter about it, including on BikeRadar's forum, but that had to be removed as at the time it could have been considered libelous.

We had enough off the record information to be 99% sure of the facts, but no-one in the know was willing to go on the record to back it up. Not British Cycling, not UK Anti-Doping, not his former teammates who'd noticed he'd stopped racing for no apparent reason. No-one, so no story.

Of course in some circles that meant we, British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping were complicit in a massive cover-up to protect the sport's reputation. Cover-up of what? You mean if this news got out, sponsors would quit cycling in droves and no-one would ever ride a bike again? Or worse still, that British amateurs were being defrauded out of tens of pounds of prizemoney while this cheat was still at large?

Journalists have to follow rules too. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. If the latter, they can claim it's in the public interest. [Note: this is not the same as in the interest of the public!]

Thus:

1) Harming someone's reputation can be considered defamatory, even in some cases if it turns out to be true. The UK is not America and freedom of speech here is somewhat restricted by libel laws. It's easier for a plaintiff to win a libel case in England and Wales than it is in the supposedly litigious United States.

2) Doping cases at local level are not fast-tracked like they are in, say, the Tour de France. There is a due process to be followed, which involves an A test, notification of an adverse analytical finding, a possible B test, a disciplinary hearing, an announcement and maybe an appeal. It's not until the announcement is made that a rider should be declared positive. That generally takes months. Four and a half months in this case, possibly excessive but nothing out of the ordinary.

At the professional level, news travels fast and it's common for a rider's A sample result to be leaked almost straight away. In accordance with UCI rules, this results in the rider being suspended until the disciplinary procedure is finished. The downside of this is that if the rider's B sample is negative, they are officially clean but will still bear the stigma of a positive test.

A good example of this is Danish cyclist Bo Hamburger, who became the first pro rider to test positive for EPO back in 2001. His B sample, however, was negative, and he was cleared to race again. But he was forever stained by that first positive, and had to fight with the Danish federation to be included in the Danish national team.

We could almost feel sorry for Hamburger for bearing that burden for the rest of his career. That is until in 2007, after he retired, he published a book where he confessed to doping with EPO and growth hormone between 1995 and 1997.

3) There has been an increase in testing at the UK domestic level this year. I've been to two races with random drug testing of up to 10 riders: the national 25 mile championships and the BDCA 100 mile time trial. That can only be a good thing, as any kind of drug testing should be a deterrent to amateurs who think it's OK to dope as long as you don't get caught.

It's not OK, it's a pathetically hollow attempt at garnering some self esteem by getting one over your fellow competitors. How can you justify that to yourself?

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