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22-year-old who tested positive at race in China tries to take own life after insisting he has never doped

A young Belgian professional cyclist who was provisionally suspended by the UCI this week after testing positive for clenbuterol after racing in China has attempted to take his own life.

Jonathan Breyne, aged 22 and a rider with the UCI Professional Continental team, Crelan-Euphony, had to have his stomach pumped after taking an overdose, reports Sudinfo.be.

Breyne’s positive result for the banned substance was announced the same day as the UCI revealed Saxo-Tinkoff rider Michael Rogers’ positive result for clenbuterol.

Rogers claims that his result, from a sample taken after he won the Japan Cup in October, was due to contaminated food he had eaten at the Tour of Beijing the previous week.

In Breyne’s case, the sample that led to his positive result was taken in China itself, at the Tour of Taihu lake last month, where he won a stage and finished eighth overall and second in the young rider’s competition.

Sudinfo had spoken to Breyne on Wednesday. “I told myself, ‘you have a problem,’ “ he told the newspaper, which reported that he was in tears.

“The news was like my world collapsing on me,” he went on. “What have I done to deserve this? Nothing. Absoloutely nothing. I’ve never taken anything. But how can I prove that with what’s happened in China?”

In that country, clenbuterol – which in doping is typically used as a masking agent – is often found in the food chain due to its illegal use by farmers to build muscle mass in livestock. Mexico has a similar problem.

In the past, the World Anti-Doping Agency has said that athletes should "exercise extreme caution with regards to eating meat when travelling to competitions in China and Mexico."

Sudinfo adds that on Thursday morning, Breyne was beginning to comprehend the scale of the situation he found himself in but did not know what he could do about it, adding, “I haven’t eaten since Wednesday, I’m not hungry. This is all making me ill because I am wondering why it is happening to me.”

He added: “The amount [of clenbuterol] found in [Alberto] Contador’s urine, the UCI told me, were tiny compared to mine.” 

An hour later, his father rang the newspaper to break the news that his son had taken an overdose – the medicine in question was not specified – and that he had been taken to hospital and had his stomach pump.

According to Sudinfo, by Thursday evening Breyne, who had been due to join UCI Continental team Josan-To Win next year but will now have disciplinary proceedings opened against him, remained in intensive care but was conscious.

In October, Italian rider Mauro Santambrogio implied in a message on Twitter that he was contemplating suicide after testing positive for EPO during this year's Giro d'Italia, revelaing afterwards that the support he received from other users of the social network helped pull him back from the brink.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

16 comments

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pwake [374 posts] 2 years ago
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This is a very sad situation. It seems that if the UCI want to continue to 'internationalise' cycling in countries such as China and Mexico, then maybe they need to work with WADA and allow a minimum threshold for Clenbuterol?
I know there will be a lot of people saying that the rider is responsible for what he ingests, but, even in Western countries, we don't know the full supply chain of everything we eat. i.e. horse meat Cottage Pie!

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Argos74 [389 posts] 2 years ago
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Regardless of the outcome of the doping allegations, best wishes to the lad. There's much more to life than competitive cycling.

There's cycling to work, nipping out to the shops, sloping out for a recovery ride and a slice of cake, riding with family and friends, in sportives and Sunday morning club rides. And there's always another mountain to be knocked over.

Get well soon Jonathan.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
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I think that teams just need to be aware of the Clenbuterol ingestion is more likely. Given all of the materials they bring to a race having their meat shipped in for a week wouldn't be out of the question. Either way though I hope Breyne recovers and gets the support and help he needs

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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I am not surprised by the positives at this time of year, not because of racing in China (can't believe that pro teams would allow their riders to eat Chinese beef), but because these races will be treated as training and preparation for next season, and the more you dope, the harder you train! This particular episode is very sad and highlights the very fact that we are burying our heads in the sand about current doping in cycling, using Armstrong as the line in the sand between doped and clean. Of course that view is utter rubbish, and the sooner the majority of fans, the press (especially the British press), and the UCI (supposedly in a new era) start to ask uncomfortable questions, the better. Teams are responsible for what their riders put in their bodies, and are either directly or indirectly complicit in a major cover-up regarding the real truth about doping in the sport. Then a rider gets caught and is hung out to dry! And as fans, you either want riders to be capable of riding 80-100 days of competitive racing per year whilst spanking the arse out of ridiculous climbs, terrain, and cross-winds, or you want clean riders. A full, frank and honest debate is needed - what should constitute doping? - should cycling even follow WADA regulations? - is all doping unhealthy? - should there be a cap on the number of days a rider can race per season? - are some stages of the Grand Tours too severe? - is current testing working? - etc, etc. If this never happens, nothing will change, and there will be more tragic instances like this one. I wish this young guy all the best and hope he can find the strength to put things into perspective and move on in a positive way.

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DeanF316 [135 posts] 2 years ago
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Well said all of the above. Lets hope the UCI and team management take a good long look at the way cycling is going the way of most others sports were commercial interests are killing sport. Cycling has traditional like no other sport. Expanding cycling into new markets is all about selling more products and not about sport. Our sport doesn't need new markets when is has over 100 years of sporting tradition.

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stefv [211 posts] 2 years ago
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What a sad story. Best wishes to Jonathan and I hope he recovers well, physically and mentally, whatever the outcome of the positive test...

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PaulVWatts [111 posts] 2 years ago
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China knows it has a clenbuterol problem and has banned its production and use as a veterinary drug. Their main problem was in pork so any meat is a risk there. It is still trying to stop its illegal use by testing etc. In Europe however we claim we do not have a problem and perform very little testing. This is the same Europe who as pwake said have food safety standards that allowed horse meat to pose as beef for years. And guess what I'd watch out for your cottage pies as Clenbuterol can be used to treat respiratory disease in horses. So the problem is not internationalisation as some of you think but something else. Along with everybody else I wish the best for Jonathan Breyne.

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Critchio [176 posts] 2 years ago
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Sad story. The drug which I think is used (illegally) to boost aerobic capacity of an athlete surely must be found in the body higher levels when used as a performance enhancer than it is found in meat products that an athlete may ingest?

I also think the UCI need to be very careful and make sure they are not getting their testing techniques wrong - that would be horrendous if testing errors ocurred in labs or interpretation of results was wrong. This has happened before, for example with certain types of forensic evidence that everybody believed until proven wrong many years later.

When you know you have done nothing wrong and a life-changing, career ending thing happens then I can see why people in a moment of extreme anguish make sad decisions on how to deal with it.

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Lungsofa74yearold [281 posts] 2 years ago
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Spot on daddy Elvis ('the more you dope the harder you train'). With the added bonus that you've got a ready made (if entirely specious) excuse if you get caught.

After all, how could the teams - for which no detail is too small / insignificant - possibly know about this problem or take any steps to manage it - like being careful about where they source meat from? Simply not possible. I could do better job than these numpties.

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Lungsofa74yearold [281 posts] 2 years ago
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Spot on daddy Elvis ('the more you dope the harder you train'). With the added bonus that you've got a ready made (if entirely specious) excuse if you get caught.

After all, how could the teams - for which no detail is too small / insignificant - possibly know about this problem or take any steps to manage it - like being careful about where they source meat from? Simply not possible. I could do better job than these numpties.

So its one of two things - either they're doping or the teams are totally incompetent - I know which my money is on....

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Madi [5 posts] 2 years ago
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Doesn't China not allow meat importation? I think it's been the case since the mad cow scare. Either way I bet it would be a regulatory nightmare to import food to China. Food importation in China is pretty strict. I don't think it's very possible to avoid meat in China. That being said there are certainly options, the height being McDonalds, which does testing in China and reports to the Government if they find Clenbuterol. So while I think it's avoidable, if they don't happen to eat at the safest places, I don't think it should be on the rider. There should definitely be a threshold for clenbuterol for riders who've gone to China or Mexico (or a few other countries that have the problem).

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atlaz [180 posts] 2 years ago
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Given a lot of teams at the level of this rider's team are on a shoestring budget, even getting to Beijing is a big spend. However, given the Chinese swimming team were banned from eating meat at home before the Olympics, I think that at the very least, the UCI should be providing food sourced outside China for races there for the teams that can't afford it.

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mingmong [257 posts] 2 years ago
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Hope he gets the help he needs.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 2 years ago
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A

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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first, foremost - hope he gets well and help.

Can't support the idea of 'exemptions' or 'minimum thresholds' for Clenbuterol in certain countries.

However - maybe more responsibility could be placed on the teams in these 'difficult' countries? Not sure how feasible that would be. I can imagine it would get pretty political defining which countries are on the dodgy list.

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maldin [128 posts] 2 years ago
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edster99 wrote:

first, foremost - hope he gets well and help.

Can't support the idea of 'exemptions' or 'minimum thresholds' for Clenbuterol in certain countries.

However - maybe more responsibility could be placed on the teams in these 'difficult' countries? Not sure how feasible that would be. I can imagine it would get pretty political defining which countries are on the dodgy list.

Then you could also argue that the riders could chose not to go? Or the teams could chose not to go to suspect countries? But the truth is that they can't - in one case they are employees under contract, in the other case, the UCI have them over a barrel in that they are obliged to ride certain races (Tour of Beijing in particular). The only 99% fool proof way is that the organisers provide all food for the race and every rider may only eat the proved food. The UCI then tests the food, if drugs are found in the food then any riders found with the same drugs are exempted. Massive undertaking? Perhaps, but still less of an undertaking than what its going to take for riders who have tested positive after racing in these countries are expected to undergo in order to clear themselves. Its their careers and future livelihood on the line...