First African to lead Tour de France was innocent victim of contaminated product, hearing decides

Daryl Impey, who last year became the first rider from Africa to win the leader’s jersey at the Tour de France, has been cleared of the doping charges that saw him pulled from the Orica-GreenEdge team just days before this year’s race began in Yorkshire last month.

The 30-year-old South African was informed at the start of July that he had tested positive for the prescription diuretic, Probenecid, which can be used as a masking agent, from a sample taken at the South Afican Road Time Trial Championships in February.

Impey, who was replaced in the team’s line-up for the Grand Depart by British rider Simon Yates, denied ever knowingly using the banned substance.

A hearing in Johannesburg yesterday accepted that while the substance was present in his system, it was due to his having bought a contaminated product at a pharmacy through no fault of his own, reports IOL Sport.

The Durban-based pharmacist involved in the case told the hearing that Impey had gone there to buy empty gelatine capsules, intending to put bicarbonate of soda in them to counteract the effects of lactic acid.

The pharmacist had no capsules to hand, but subsequently found some and rang Impey, who returned to the shop. Prior to serving Impey, he had filled a prescription for Probenecid to another customer, resulting in his hands becoming contaminated and passing the substance on to the cyclist’s capsules.

Till records from the pharmacy helped convince the hearing of the sequence of events and that Impey had not deliberately taken the substance.

The rider, who took the yellow jersey at last year’s Tour after winning Stage 6 in Montpellier, is reported to be considering taking action against the national anti-doping body, the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport, due to the seven-week delay between his sample testing positive, and his being notified on 23 June.

In a statement published on his website, Impey said: “Whilst I never disputed the lab results and the finding, I was put in a very tough position of defending my case due to strict liability. That being said, and after already having to go back 5 months to try find out how this could have happened, I finally was able to prove that this was a case of cross-contamination and I was also cleared of any fault or negligence on my part.

“It has been definitely the hardest two months of my life, it has been a huge financial loss and has been tough on my whole family. But I was determined to show that I am clean and that I would never cheat to try get an advantage over my competitors. I am so relieved that this has now been proven.”

Thanking his family, friends, team and fans for their support as well as his legal advisors, he added: “I am hoping to return back to racing now, and hopefully compete before the World Championships in September. I re-iterate my stance against doping and I will continue to race clean throughout my career. Right now, I am just really happy that I can be a bike rider again and do what I love the most.”

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.