Looks like the cyclist formerly known as “John Doe” has been handed a two-year suspension for doping at the 2007 edition of Superweek (as the International Cycling Classic, which takes place in Wisconsin and Illinois at roughly the same time as a certain loop through France, is known). Kayle Leogrande, who sued USADA late last year to stop additional testing of samples previously deemed negative, was found guilty of a “non-analytical positive” for doping by a three-person arbitration panel yesterday.
Non-analytical positives, pioneered in the doping convictions of Tim Montgomery and others connected with the BALCO scandal, can be decided based on other evidence, documents and testimony even though an athlete hasn’t tested positive for the use of any banned substances.
In Leogrande’s case, testimony by Suzanne Sonye and Frankie Andreu, photographs of Leogrande holding vials of EPO, and a postcard sent by Leogrande to Joe Papp (which said “Joe, 2 boxes G. 100 iu; 7 boxes E. 60,000; $500. I owed you! Thanks, Kayle.” ) was enough evidence for the panel hearing his case to determine that a doping violation had occured.
[Update: Although the panel's decision notes that Leogrande claimed the photographs were taken at Joe Papp's home and several news agencies, including The Associated Press, have reported that the photographs were taken there, Joe Papp tells me otherwise. In an email last night, he said that the photographs were actually taken in California, at Leogrande's home and that the EPO in the photographs belonged to Leogrande. The former Rock Racing cyclist has never been to Papp's home in Pennsylvania. Papp contacted The Associated Press, and he tells me they will be issuing a correction to their story. When I see a link to the correction, I'll post it here.]
The panel’s 15-page decision, released two weeks after hearings conducted November 17-18 in Los Angeles, concluded that Leogrande’s “clear and repeated admissions of doping, which in and of themselves may be sufficient to establish an anti-doping rule violation, are corroborated by a significant amount of circumstantial as well as scientific evidence, including but not limited to, drug tests that were not reported positive but which reveal the presence of recombinant EPO in [Leogrande's] samples.”
Neal Rogers reports Leogrande’s reaction to the panel’s decision in an article on VeloNews.com:
“Now that it’s finally happened, in a way it’s a relief, and a weight off my shoulders … I’m not devastated. I kind of knew this was going to happen, even though I was hoping for the best. It could have gone either way, to be honest with you.”
Leogrande went on to tell Rogers that he felt that he had been targeted and that the decision announced yesterday was preordained.
“I didn’t want this to happen, but the powers that be wanted that it happen,” Leogrande said.
“Having sat (in arbitration) for two days and hearing all these things that people working for USADA have to say about you, and their view on the collection of evidence they’re putting against you, it’s an odd thing to sit in a room and hear people say these things about you and judge your character along with the evidence,” he said.”It’s not something that most people should have to deal with. I could see it destroying some people. It won’t destroy me, because I’m not that kind of person, but I could see it having a really negative effect on people if they weren’t equipped to deal with that.”
Leogrande said he would probably issue a formal response in the next few days.
“There is a lot stuff that people don’t realize about the whole thing that has been pushed aside, in the back, kind of hidden from everybody that certain people didn’t want others to see,” he said. “œEventually those things will come out.”
The 31-year-old cyclist is suspended from competition from December 1, 2008 through November 30, 2010. Leogrande’s results since from Superweek 2007 until yesterday have been erased. As a result, any prize money may also have to be returned.
Travis Tygart, the current head of USADA, told Rogers:
“All those who value clean sport should be encouraged by this decision and by those who voluntarily come forward with reliable evidence, placing their trust in USADA, to aggressively pursue those who will cheat their fellow competitors by using prohibited drugs.”
Over at Roadcycling.com comes commentary from Leogrande’s former employer, Michael Ball, owner of the Rock Racing professional cycling team.
“Whenever a rider is suspended — be it for doping or any disciplinary issue — it brings negative attention to the sport that so many of us are working hard to cast in a positive light,” commented Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball.
“In Kayle’s case, knowing that several of the sport’s governing bodies were also conducting their own investigations, we felt it was not appropriate to prevent him from racing until a verdict was reached. USA Cycling and the UCI did not deny him the right to race. Rock Racing absolutely and unequivocally does not condone doping, but we do respect due process.”
According to Ball, “The decision to not re-sign Kayle for the 2009 season had nothing to do with this case. It was based on performance.”
Over at Trust But Verify, jrdbutcher offers a good summation of the case against Kayle Leogrande, too. In a nutshell, the evidence against the tatooed cyclist boils down to a classic she said/he said story, were it not for the photographs taken by Joe Papp and the postcard sent by Leogrande to Papp.
(Also noted in the arbitration panel’s decision, USADA introduced cell phone records that showed 274 messages or calls between the two cyclists over a 12-month period that ended in July 2007.) On a hunch, it seems like the photographs and postcard may have sealed the deal against Leogrande. But the panel’s written decision also cites the scientific evidence as corroborating the charges against the rider, even though it was not the main evidence used to reach a decision.
Leogrande is expected to release a formal response to the panel’s decision in the near future, according to Rogers’ article at VeloNews.com. Depending on what Kayle Leogrande decides to do, this story may have at least one more chapter to write before it’s done.