Today Geert Leinders, former Team Rabobank and Team Sky doctor was banned for life for possessing, trafficking, and administered banned performance enhancing substances and methods. Leinders was originally informed a case was being brought against him on July 8th of 2013 and indicated he would appeal his sanction. This appeal turned out to be legal deflection, he never showed up for his arbitration hearing. This was wise decision as the evidence against him is overwhelming.
Some may ask why Leinders, a Doctor from Belgium working on a Dutch team was banned by USADA. The answer is simple, the UCI ADR is clear, the ADA that first discovers the infraction has jurisdiction. The same rule is why CONI was able to sanction Valverde.
The decision details the testimony of several witnesses but Rasmussen’s is the most interesting.
- Michael Boogerd received a transfusion, of his brothers blood, at the 2002 Tour de France (Levi admitting doing did the same in the 2003 Vuelta)
- Rasmussen said that at the 2005 Tour Leinders had told him “He had a very busy night and had other clients to take care of”
- Rasmussen says his normal Hct was 39. Yet another rider who had the low Hct/high Vo2 combo that receives out sized benefits from oxygen vector doping
- Boogerd introduced him to the Human Plasma clinic in 2005. Boogard also introduced Kohl and Menchov to the lab
- When Human Plasma stopped their transfusion business Rasmussen bought their equipment.
- Leinders had a pharmacy custom manufacture testosterone pills so they looked like A-Zinc, a common Dutch Vitamin.
Rasmussen pointed the finger at UCI’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mario Zorzoli. He says this about the 2005 Tour
“After his meeting with Zorzoli, Dr Leinders told Rasmussen that ‘Rabobank was a team that had ‘butter on its head’…meaning that all the problems, doping related problems would slide off,” he was “The most protected rider in the race”
Despite his position at the UCI Zorzoli does not come across as a stern enforcer. When Rasmussen’s blood values showed obvious signs of doping at the 2005 Tour Zorzoli’s response to Rasmussen’s comical explanation was to tell him “Just don’t it again”
Steven Tietler, manager of legal affairs for NAD, also talked about Zorzoli in his testimoney painting him as someone who would
“keep in touch with team doctors so that “riders and staff” would have the idea that the UCI was basically on top of them and that they had to be careful with what they would do in terms of doping“
This is not the first time charges of a cover-up have been leveled at Zorzoli. Fellow banned for life doping doctor Michelle Ferrari had this to say on his blog
“In the spring of 2010, some riders of a Pro-Tour team that were training at altitude (on Teide, Tenerife) were subjected to the normal ABP samples. One they received the results of the analysis, considering them unreliable (the values were too high), all it took was a phone call from the team doctor to his friend Dr. Zorzoli, in charge of UCI’s doping department, in order to get the results of those tests cleared from the profiles”
From David Millar’s book
“Riccos arrogance and the episode at Flanders had tipped me over the edge. I contacted the UCI saying that I had my suspicions about doping within my team, and that I wanted them to be aware of this. They told me they were looking in to it.
But there were issues. Marco Zorzoli, the UCI’s chief medical officer, is a good friend of Mauro Gianetti. I am not suggesting that this affected Zorzoli’s work, but it was indicative of a wider conflict of interests. The UCI’s positioning, as both promoters of cycling and guardians of its ethics, has always been controversial.”
Zorzoli was also the one man TUE committee that approved Froome’s use of Cortisone.
Rasmussen also claims that Lienders said it was Zorzoli who recommended that he get his riders to use DHEA as “All the other teams are doing it as well”. DEHA is banned by the WADA code. Tom Zirbel and Tyler Hamilton were sanctioned for their use of it.
One of Zorzoli’s more comical episodes came during L’Equipe report on Lance Armstrong using EPO in the 1999 Tour de France. Zorzoli was the source for these documents for his mistake he was suspend. With the continued stream of questionable actions by Zorzoli perhaps it is time for a permanent suspension?
“The UCI is aware that the reasoned decision includes allegations made against UCI Doctor and Scientific Advisor Dr. Mario Zorzoli. The UCI is now waiting to receive the full file to look closely into these allegations, and whilst this investigation is taking place, Dr Zorzoli will not be involved in any matters relating to anti-doping. No further comment will be made at this stage.”
Innovator or administrator?
It is common for doping doctors to downplay their actions, portray themselves as conservative and working in the best interests of the riders. Leinders has already responded to his sanction by trying to downplay his role
“As a physician, I consider myself as innocent in this matter,” he said. “I already decided three years ago to never be active in cycling as team doctor.”
By most reports Leinders was not full service pusher like Ferrari. He did not offer full programs that incorporated doping, training, and the most advanced methods of evasion. Leinders specialty seems to have been making sure Rabobank riders did not test positive. He did try to pretend to be more then just a supplier, writing two books on the “big engines” of Rabobank
Leinders was giving riders EPO, Insulin, and Cortisone so the word “Innocent” does not come to mind, but where does he fit into the spectrum of doping doctors? Leinders actions are inconsistent at best. While Bruyneel was pressuring Zabriskie to start doping Leinders was consoling young riders against doping. While Lienders was advising riders how to keep their levels at safe, and undetectable, levels he was also working with Grand Tour contenders on their “Full Gas” programs. Leinders does not come across as much of an innovator. He starts advising riders on the use of transfusions several seasons after USPS had put their “A” team on them. He outsourced the more complex parts Human Plasma.
It would be easy to diminish Leinders as just an administrator but that would miss that he was the main interface with riders. Many riders. Instead of saying no and being fired and assulted like Prentice Steffen Geert said yes and continued to be employed in the sport for close to two decades.
A variety of pressures led Rabobank to gradually dismantle their team doping program in 2007. Leinders, unhappy with Rabobank’s new direction, resigned mid-season 2009. Despite a lot of publicly available evidence of Lienders active participation in Rabobank’s doping program he was hired by Team Sky in late 2010.
It appears Sky did little due diligence before they hired Lienders. Perhaps if they asked some of their own riders and staff? Juan Antonio Flecha, Mat Hayman and Steven de Jongh all rode for Rabobank, surely they should have been asked about Leinders’ work……Although Hayman has been reluctant to discuss Leinders in the past.
As more evidence of Lienders work at Rabobank entered the public domain questions were raised about his employment at Sky
Link tooriginal Leiphimer/ Leinders story http://t.co/oCzc4Mrf Also Boogerd, Dekker, Menchov and Rasmussen visiting Humanplasma
— Race Radio (@TheRaceRadio) December 22, 2012
The team docter from Rabobank, Geert Leinders, left the team a while back….. He works for Team Sky now
— Race Radio (@TheRaceRadio) May 5, 2012
Problem w/ Leinders is he left Rabo in anger because he disagreed with new, clean, direction. Doesn't sound like a guy who embraces change
— Race Radio (@TheRaceRadio) July 23, 2012
Sky’s response was puzzling. At first Brailsford defended Lienders’ hiring while Wiggins called skeptics who asked questions “Wankers” After a year of questioning Brailsford admitted the hiring was a mistake Was Sky clueless, lazy, or did they hire Lienders to continue the type of work he was doing at Rabobank?
Years ago a friend of mine who worked for Rabobank give me a signed Rasmussen jersey as a joke. Maybe it is time to put it on eBay
Here is the compete decision