/ 6 November 2012

Top South African cyclist bust for doping

Suspended cyclist David George.
Suspended cyclist David George.

"The blood test showed suspicious activity with regard to possible manipulation of the blood profile and a subsequent urine test came back positive for the banned EPO  [Erythropoietin] drug," the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) chief executive, Khalid Galant said.

George has a long record of achievement in local cycling circles after competing in three Olympics and finishing on the podium at the 2012 Absa Cape Epic.

"His biological passport, which analyses the athlete's blood profile indicated suspicious activity and that triggered a targeted test for EPO. EPO testing gives us a window of between six and 12 hours for testing because that's how long it will show up in a test," Galant added.

George teamed up with disgraced cycling icon Lance Armstrong when he competed for the US Postal Service cycling team between 1999 and 2000.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and banned from cycling for life this October after the US Anti-Doping Agency found him guilty of doping throughout his career.

EPO is a hormone that artificially increases the red blood cell count, therefore increasing the athlete's oxygen-carrying capacity and, in turn, enhance performance.

The drug is beneficial to endurance athletes, who compete over long distances in sports such as cycling, running and triathlon.

As a result of the finding, George is provisionally suspended with immediate effect from competing in any event and the SAIDS will subject him to an independent tribunal to investigate the doping charge.

"Cycling South Africa respects the independence of the SAIDS process and will respect the outcome," William Newman, president of Cycling South Africa said.

"Cycling South Africa further reiterates its zero tolerance to doping in sport and confirms that there is no evidence of this being an endemic problem in the sport in South Africa."

George’s suspension and doping allegation has not only affected him. Nedbank has announced, with immediate effect, the suspension of Team 360Life – its sponsored professional cycling team.

"Nedbank has a zero tolerance towards the use of any banned substances or performance enhancing drugs and does not condone or support such use in any sport,"  Tabby Tsengiwe of the bank's group communications said.

Nedbank Team 360Life represents other premier South African cyclists Kevin Evans and James Reid, and are also known for their efforts in promoting transformation in the sport in South Africa.

George was not available for comment at the time of publishing.