Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d’Italia champion, has made a veiled admission to doping – but the Garmin-Sharp rider says it happened a decade ago.
With an eight-year statute of limitations applying under the World Anti-Doping Code, no action can be taken by sporting authorities against the Canadian rider.
The 32-year-old made his what is widely viewed as being an admission to doping - he couched it in oblique terms - on the same day it emerged that Danish ex-pro Michael Rasmussen claimed to have taught Hesjedal how to take EPO in 2003.
Following Rasmussen's allegations, contained in his autobiography, Hesjedal said in a statement: "I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago I chose the wrong path.
"Even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since.”
He added: "I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and over a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities I was open and honest about my past."
While Hesjedal, who rode for US Postal and Discovery Channel in 2004 and 2005, gave testimony to the United States Anti-Doping Agency as part of its investigation into Lance Armstrong, his statement was not included in its Reasoned Decision, published in October 2012.
Many will wonder why it is only now that he has been named by another rider that Hesjedal’s admission has become public.
His confession, however oblique, to having doped at the start of his career will cast doubt on the validity of his subsequent achievements.
While his Garmin-Sharp team believes in giving riders who have doped a second chance, epitomised by part-owner David Millar's presence in its line-up, some will view Hesjedal's statement as further undermining the credibility of its anti-doping stance.
Three of its riders – David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde – received six-month bans last year after admitting to doping in testimony provided to USADA.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who is also CEO of its management company, Slipstream Sports, also confessed to having used performance enhancing drugs during his riding career.
There is no insinuation that any of those riders took drugs while with Garmin-Sharp.
But Hesjedal’s confession raises questions of how much the team knows about a rider’s background when it engages him, and whether it should disclose such information to the relevant authorities.
Garmin-Sharp gave Hesjedal its support yesterday evening, however.
In a statement, the US-based team said: “As we have previously stated, our expectation is that anyone in our organisation contacted by any anti-doping authority must be open and honest with that authority.
"Ryder is no exception and a year ago when he was contacted he cooperated fully and truthfully testified to Usada and CCES [Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport].
“For this reason and because of our desire for 100% truth and reconciliation in the sport of cycling, we support him."
Hesjedal spent two spells in the race leader’s maglia rosa in the 2012 Giro d’Italia, but lay second overall to Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez going into the final day’s individual time trial in Milan.
A much stronger rider against the clock than the Spaniard, Hesjedal overturned what had been a 31-second deficit at the start of the day to win the race by 16 seconds to become the first Canadian to win one of cycling’s three Grand Tours.
While there is no suggestion that he has taken drugs during the past decade, for many – including fellow Canadians his exploits introduced to the sport – that achievement will now be forever tarnished.
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