Former Team Sky doctor Leinders hit with life ban

Geert Leinders was banned for doping violations committed at Dutch team Rabobank. 'Picture: AFP/Getty
Geert Leinders was banned for doping violations committed at Dutch team Rabobank. 'Picture: AFP/Getty
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FORMER Team Sky doctor Geert Leinders was banned for life yesterday for multiple doping violations during his time with Dutch cycling team Rabobank.

The Belgian was punished for violations committed while working with Rabobank between 1996 and 2009, before he joined Sky. Leinders worked for Sky on a freelance basis in 2011 and 2012, but his employment caused the team great embarrassment given their public commitment to anti-doping, and team principal Sir Dave Brailsford later described it as a mistake.

The US Anti-Doping Agency announced that an American Arbitration Association panel found that 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 conscience that a board member and team doctor would abuse his trusted position by overseeing and participating in this type of dangerous and fraudulent activity,” said USADA chief Travis Tygart.

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.”

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“The Arbitration Panel agreed with the charges that the alleged doping offences involved aggravating circumstances, which justify a lifetime period of ineligibility,” USADA said in a statement. “As the chief team physician and a member of the board of directors for the Rabobank cycling team, Dr Leinders occupied even higher positions of trust and responsibility than other support personnel, trainers, coaches and team physicians who have been sanctioned for doping violations.”

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 that 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.

Leinders is now banned from training or advising athletes and can’t take part in “any event sanctioned by USA Cycling, the International Cycling Union (UCI), or any other Wada Code signatory.”

Sky had previously hired UK-based doctors with no connection to road cycling in order to remain free from the stain of doping, but Brailsford turned to Leinders concerned that he had left the team short on knowledge of how to prepare riders for the rigours of Grand Tours. Leinders was dismissed in 2012 by Sky when the team introduced a zero-tolerance policy with regards to those linked with doping.

During the 2013 Tour de France, won by Chris Froome, Brailsford was asked about the decision to hire Leinders as Froome was facing daily questioning about doping.

“The reality is that the thing is my responsibility. I’ll take that squarely on the chin, it’s something I’ll always regret,” he said of Leinders’ hiring. “It allowed people the licence to ask these questions of Chris now, but it’s not his fault. I made an error of judgment, quite frankly.”