EWS leader Martin Maes handed 90 day suspension for anti-doping infraction

Belgian rider will lose some results and any chance at series overall

June 26th, 2019 by | Posted in MTB | Tags: ,

GT Bicycles announced today that its team rider Martin Maes has been given a 90 day suspension by the UCI for a non-intentional Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).

The Belgian enduro racer had been leading the Enduro World Series standings at the time of the announcement. Maes was the winner at all three of the 2019 EWS rounds. His results from the first two rounds, in New Zealand and Tasmania, will be annulled. Because Maes returned a negative result at Round 3 in Madiera, Portugal, his win there will stand.

Maes will not be allowed to race the fourth EWS round this weekend in Canazei, Italy on June 29.

Enduro World Series
Martin Maes. Image: Enduro World Series
Maes Suspension how it happened

Prior to the Rotorua EWS event, Maes raced the New Zealand Enduro, a multi day enduro race running from March 8-10, 2019. During the event, Maes suffered a deep laceration to his leg. It was treated on site, but developed a serious infection in the following days.

According to NZ Enduro’s official race doctor, Dr. Tom Jerram, “The infection was worsening despite standard doses of antibiotics, and it had the potential to become life threatening. The doctors at the New Zealand Enduro elected to add Probenecid, which is commonly used to boost blood levels of penicillin-type antibiotics, and it was effective in treating Martin’s infection. It is a common part of all of our practices to use this medicine in the setting of serious infection.” Dr. Jerram’s full statement is included below.

According to Dr. Jerram’s statement, neither the medical team, Martin, nor GT’s enduro team staff suspected Probenecid might be on the UCI’s prohibited substance list.

In his response to the suspension, Maes has stated that he ultimately accepts responsibility for not checking the prescription against UCI’s list. “This is our sole mistake,” the Belgian rider stated. “There was an emergency to treat an infected wound, and we did not double check the prescription from the doctors.”

Probenecid, and Maes Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) request

According to the UCI, Maes was notified of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) by the Cycling Anti-doping Federation (CADF) on May 21, 2019. Test samples from EWS Round 1 in Rotorua and EWS Round 2 in Tasmania, both of which took place in March 2019, returned a high level of Probenecid.

Probenecid is included on the UCI’s list of Prohibited Substances and Methods. It is considered a “specified substance” according to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List. Probenecid is classified in the category of “Diuretics and Masking Agents.”

After being notified of his AAF, Maes applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). The application was on the basis that Maes was prescribed Probenecid by a race doctor, for medical reasons, and that the drug would not have conferred any performance enhancement.

That request was rejected by CADF’s TUE committee. The committee did, though, acknowledge the Maes and GT Factory Racing’s arguments.

90 Day Suspension: UCI’s decision explained

While the CADF did acknowledge Maes arguments, it did not grant a TUE. This could be because the application was made after, and not at the time of Maes use of Probenecid. In an interview with Vojo, Maes does say that the declared the use of the antibiotic during the anti-doping sample collection at both Rotorua and Derby EWS rounds.

Without a TUE, a suspension was all but unavoidable. The UCI does appear to have taken the circumstances into consideration in deciding on Maes suspension, though. In the UCI’s statement, they refer to the the 90 day suspension, which is the minimum possible sentence, as a non-intentional Anti-Doping Rule Violation.

Maes history of clean tests likely also factored into the decision. In Madiera, Portugal, where the Belgain again won the race, he returned a negative test. This is consistent with the narrative that he only used Probenecid to treat a leg infection. Maes also has clean tests from his 2018 EWS win in Whistler, B.C., earlier EWS events, and likely from his bronze medal in the downhill race at UCI mountain bike world championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

In a statement confirming its continued support for Maes, GT Factory Racing said “Each GT team and rider understands that support comes with strict requirements regarding the rules and regulations that govern the sport. It is for this reason that Martin will accept the UCI’s ruling.”

The Enduro World Series statement on Maes echoed GT’s acknowledgement that it is ultimately the athlete’s responsibility to follow anti-doping regulations, and the athlete that will be held responsible in the result of a violation.

2019 is the first year that the EWS is officially partnered with the UCI. At its race in Canzai this weekend, the EWS will host its first anti-doping rider and team educational seminar alongside the UCI Legal Anti-Doping Services.

“As per the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules (ADR),” the UCI’s statement reads, “the sanction began on 13 May 2019.”

Martin Maes
Martin Maes performs at the UCI DH World Championships in Lenzerheide on September 9th, 2018 // Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool // AP-1WUPUJEP12111 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //
What does it mean? More Maes at downhill?

In a statement confirming the suspension, GT Factory Racing outlined their continued support for Maes. In addition to Maes continued public support for clean racing, GT says it believes that “neither he, nor the team, took any actions to intentionally violate anti-doping rules or regulations.” GT continues that “Martin inquired with the official race doctors if the prescriptions they had given him were acceptable for use by a UCI athlete and the race doctors were acting within their clinical responsibility to treat a potentially life-threatening infection in Martin’s leg.”

The UCI’s decision does, however, cause an immediate upheaval of the EWS series standings. It also leaves questions to where the Belgian, who has been successful in downhill and enduro, will focus his efforts when he returns.

With Maes results from the first two rounds vacated, Florian Nicolai (Canyon Factory Racing) will move into the EWS series lead. Keegan Wright (Unior Devinci Facotry Racing) will be the top rider from Rotorua, with B.C.’s Jesse Melamed (Rocky Mountain Race Face) moving into third. Melamed has stated his support for Maes on social media already. In addition to the series lead, Nicolai will now be the winner from Round 2 in Derby. Squamish’s Remi Gauvin (Rocky Mountain Race Face) moved up to third in that event.

Prior to the announcement, Maes led the series with 1620 points to Nicolai’s 1240. Melamed sat third with 1180. The EWS has not yet adjusted it’s overall standings, but Nicolai will remain in the lead while Melamed moved into second going into this weekends race in Italy.

Maes 90-day suspension will end immediately before the Whistler round of the Enduro World Series. While it is not yet clear whether or not Maes could race in Whistler, GT Factory Racing said it is unlikely that he will be able to do so.

After losing his results from the first two rounds and missing the up coming two rounds, at minimum, Maes will no longer have any chance at the EWS overall title. This raises the prospect that the Belgian will partially shift his focus to downhill, in order to add more races to his calendar for the season. Maes won the downhill World Cup final in La Bresse, France last season, and followed that up with a bronze at world championships.

While he will also miss most of the World Cup season, Maes suspension will be lifted weeks before UCI mountain bike world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec at the end of August. Asked about the prospect of seeing the Belgian’s return to racing take place on Canadian soil, GT Factory Racing responded that “this situation was obviously not planned, and therefore, Martin is evaluating the timing and shift of his goals for the remainder of the 2019 season,”

The news of Maes suspension comes just days after American Richie Rude announced his return to the EWS after an eight month ban. A decision Jared Graves case, which dates back to the same event as Rude’s suspension, has not been announced. Graves continues to battle a cancer diagnosis received last year.

Statements from GT Factory Racing, the UCI, the Enduro World Series, and Dr. Tom Jerram’s full letter in support of Maes can be read in full below:

Full Statement from GT Bicycles regarding Martin Maes (June 26, 2019)

On May 21, 2019, GT Factory Racing athlete Martin Maes was notified by the Cycling Anti- doping Federation (CADF) of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for a prohibited substance. There was a high level of Probenecid in his test samples from EWS Round 1 in New Zealand and EWS Round 2 in Tasmania in March 2019. Probenecid is on the UCI’s List of Prohibited Substances and Methods. The Probenecid and a related antibiotic were prescribed by an official race doctor at the New Zealand Enduro to help treat a serious infection in Martin’s leg.

According to the official race doctor:

“Martin sustained a lower leg laceration which developed a serious infection while racing the New Zealand Enduro (March 8-10, 2019). The infection was worsening despite standard doses of antibiotics, and it had the potential to become life threatening. The doctors at the New Zealand Enduro elected to add Probenecid, which is commonly used to boost blood levels of penicillin-type antibiotics, and it was effective in treating Martin’s infection. It is a common part of all of our practices to use this medicine in the setting of serious infection.

“At the time, neither the volunteer medical team nor Martin considered that Probenecid would be on the banned substance list. It has no performance enhancing effects, and in fact, Martin’s performance was likely to have been impaired in the weeks following due to the severity of the infection.” – Dr. Tom Jerram MBChB (Hons) FACEM Emergency Physician and Volunteer Medical Director of the New Zealand Enduro. To read the full version of Dr. Jarrem’s statement, see the attached.

On June 1, 2019, Martin received a denial for his Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) request. While the CADF TUE committee recognized the Probenecid was purely for medical reasons and that it would not have provided additional enhancement to Martin’s performance, the TUE was still not approved.

GT Factory Racing fully supports Martin Maes in this situation due to the understanding that neither he, nor the team, took any actions to intentionally violate anti-doping rules or regulations. On the contrary, Martin inquired with the official race doctors if the prescriptions they had given him were acceptable for use by a UCI athlete and the race doctors were acting within their clinical responsibility to treat a potentially life-threatening infection in Martin’s leg.

GT Factory Racing is committed to creating and fostering an environment where riders can perform to the best of their ability, within all rules and regulations mandated by the governing body of the sport. GT invests in teams and athletes because of the love of the sport, and racing is a way to connect with their passionate fan base.

Each GT team and rider understands that support comes with strict requirements regarding the rules and regulations that govern the sport. It is for this reason that Martin will accept the UCI’s ruling.

“I’m speechless at the moment. My entire life has been dedicated to cycling and racing since 2013. I’ve trained so hard to make my dreams come true. There was an emergency to treat an infected wound, and we did not double-check the prescription from the doctors. This is our sole mistake. Now, it’s time to face the situation, train harder than ever, and get back very soon to convert that frustration into pleasure and performance on my bike.”

The UCI complies with a set of strict rules and regulations, but also fully acknowledged the circumstances and that this was not a deliberate violation of any antidoping rules. As a result, Martin will be prohibited from racing for a period of ninety days. He will be disqualified from rounds 1 and 2 of the EWS and will be required to pay a fine of 2,500CHF. However, his win and results from EWS Madeira will not be affected as he returned a negative test result after going through doping controls at this event.

Martin is and will remain an advocate for clean and fair racing. He will return to the season stronger than before. Meanwhile, he’ll stand next to his teammates and will fully support them during the next Enduro World Series’ events.

Enduro World Series statement regarding Martin Maes (June 26, 2019)

We write this as we learn of the adverse analytical finding and subsequent penalty imposed by the UCI on Martin Maes following anti-doping tests carried out at Round 1 and Round 2 of the 2019 Enduro World Series.

We will not pass comment on the details of this case as that is the duty of the UCI and the athlete involved but we acknowledge and respect the outcome of this unfortunate case and 2019 series rankings will be updated accordingly.

We will state that from the beginning of the Enduro World Series, as we celebrate our 50th event  this coming weekend, that we have always placed athlete health and safety at the very fore and have worked hard to create everything a new sport needs, ultimately partnering closely with the UCI and adopting all associated international sporting laws and practices while taking the international lead on others, including medical and head injury guidance. This week in Canazei we host our first anti-doping rider and team educational seminar alongside the UCI Legal Anti-Doping Services, a further investment of the EWS in athlete education and best practice.

What is important in this and previous cases is not to apportion blame, but to look at how everyone can avoid these occurrences from happening again.

Therefore, the prescription of medication outside of EWS racing that has ultimately lead to the penalty imposed on Martin Maes must serve as a lesson to all athletes, organizers, teams, coaches and medics that although the athlete will always be held responsible in the outcome of an adverse anti-doping finding, all parties in mountain bike sport must be responsible at all levels for learning and operating at the highest level, and with the best knowledge available.

We will continue to work to educate all parties in and out of the EWS family of riders, teams and events and urge all other parties in the sport out-with the official EWS sphere recognize the potential impact of their actions on riders and seek as much education as possible in order to protect the sport, and every rider within it.

As we continue our work on these topics we will take no questions on this topic and ask that any questions are directed to the sanctioning body in this case; Louis Chenaille, UCI Press Officer

UCI Statement regarding Martin Maes (June 26, 2019)

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that the Belgian rider Martin Maes has been suspended for a period of 90 days for a non-intentional Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).

The affair concerns an ADRV for the presence of the prohibited substance Probenecid* in samples collected in-competition on 24 and 31 March 2019.

As per the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules (ADR), the sanction began on 13 May 2019.

Moreover, the results obtained by the rider in rounds 1 and 2 of the Enduro World Series have been annulled. This is not the case however for round 3, where he tested negative.

The case has been resolved via an acceptance of consequences as provided for by the WADC and the UCI ADR.

The UCI will not comment any further.

* Probenecid is classified in the category “Diuretics and Masking Agents” and considered a specified substance as per the World Anti-Doping Prohibited List.”

Statement of Dr. Tom Jerram regarding Martin Maes

Statement_Doctor Tom JERRAM on Martin Maes by Matthew Pioro on Scribd