Former Rabobank doctor banned for life for doping violations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Former Rabobank cycling team doctor Geert Leinders was banned for life on Thursday for multiple doping violations during his time with the Dutch squad.

The Belgian was punished for violations committed while he was working with Rabobank from 1996 to 2009, before he joined Team Sky.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that a three-member American Arbitration Association panel found Leinders ''possessed, trafficked, and administered banned performance-enhancing substances and methods without any legitimate medical need ... to athletes under his care, and was complicit in other anti-doping rule violations.''

USADA, which worked on the case with anti-doping authorities in Denmark and the Netherlands, said Leinders was involved in doping with EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, insulin, DHEA, corticosteroids, and other substances.

''It shocks the conscious that a board member and team doctor would abuse his trusted position by overseeing and participating in this type of dangerous and fraudulent activity,'' USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.

The case was based on evidence discovered by USADA in 2012 during its investigation of doping in cycling that led to the demise of Lance Armstrong.

USADA said Leinders was sanctioned after a hearing that included presentation of ''eyewitness testimony, corroborating documentation, and an expert analysis of abnormal blood values of cyclists.''

Leinders was hired by Sky in 2011 and 2012 on a freelance basis but has left the team.

In 2007, Rabobank removed Danish rider Michael Rasmussen from the Tour de France while he was leading the race after he repeatedly declined to explain why he missed three doping tests ahead of the event. He was subsequently given a two-year ban and later admitted he took banned drugs for more than a decade.

Rasmussen's cooperation and testimony in the investigation of Leinders were ''integral to the outcome,'' said the head of the Danish anti-doping agency, Lone Hansen.

The reformed doper also implicated the former chief of the UCI medical commission Mario Zorzoli, accusing the doctor of protecting potential cheats, and encouraging doping.

According to the USADA document, Rasmussen testified that on the first rest day of the 2005 Tour de France, his team was approached by the UCI because a test showed a very low reticulate count suggesting blood transfusions. Leinders met with Zorzoli, then told the rider that he should not worry and was ''the most protected rider in the race.''

Rasmussen added that according to Leinders, either in 2004 or 2005, Zorzoli advised the Rabobank doctor to give his riders the banned hormone DHEA because ''all the other teams were doing it as well.''

Zorzoli is still serving as a doctor and a scientific adviser for cycling's governing body.

The UCI said in a statement it is aware of the accusations against Zorzoli and ''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.''

Leinders is banned from training or advising athletes, and can't take part in ''any event sanctioned by USA Cycling, the International Cycling Union, or any other WADA Code signatory.''

After ending his team's collaboration with Leinders, Sky boss Dave Brailsford said that hiring him was a mistake, and he would have never employed him if he had known about his doping past.

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