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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.

20 comments

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Anyone who claims doping is a victimless crime take heed.
Dopers have created this situation, where endless testing, with wafer thin tolerances, mean that an innocent mans livelihood and reputation can potentially be jeopardised.

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notfastenough [3708 posts] 2 years ago
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When your career might last only 10-15 years, you can certainly understand why he would be aggrieved at missing a TdF due to this.

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themartincox [514 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sorry, but this sounds every bit as tenuous as JTL's explanation - if not more so!

but, if it's true then well done in investigating it.

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Sam1 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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themartincox wrote:

I'm sorry, but this sounds every bit as tenuous as JTL's explanation - if not more so!

but, if it's true then well done in investigating it.

Hmmm. I'm not convinced either.

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Bigcog [21 posts] 2 years ago
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unfortunately we are so suspicious now, one's first reaction is to assume that there's something to hide. But of course it could be just as likely true that there was a contamination issue. But surely the amount in his system would determine whether the contamination argument is a valid one?

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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themartincox wrote:

I'm sorry, but this sounds every bit as tenuous as JTL's explanation - if not more so!

but, if it's true then well done in investigating it.

Is it? It's far more plausible than 'I got wasted' and that's why my bio data was all over the place.
There's a paper trail, unless Impney has gone the way of USPS & Pharmstrong to cover this up...

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notfastenough [3708 posts] 2 years ago
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themartincox wrote:

I'm sorry, but this sounds every bit as tenuous as JTL's explanation - if not more so!

but, if it's true then well done in investigating it.

And this is why the cases should be dealt with more quickly and in confidence - mud sticks.

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Gasman Jim [163 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmm. Chinny reckon!

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Paul J [901 posts] 2 years ago
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Why did he need gelatine capsules for sodium bicarbonate? Couldn't he have just mixed sodium bicarbonate into his drinks? (Sodium citrate in energy drinks is sodium bicarbonate that has reacted with citric acid).

Sodium bicarbonate in sports use to help buffer against lactic acid is taken in teaspoonful sized amounts, potentially multiples of, so that's a lot of capsules to take. Capsules are best suited to small amounts. With teaspoonfuls to take for a race, that's a lot of time fiddling with filling capsules. This seems a strange, tediously impractical practice, compared to just tipping a tea-spoon of sodium bicarb into a drinks bottle.

I'd not have any qualms at all for a little bit of mud to stick to Daryl after this.

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

Why did he need gelatine capsules for sodium bicarbonate? Couldn't he have just mixed sodium bicarbonate into his drinks? (Sodium citrate in energy drinks is sodium bicarbonate that has reacted with citric acid).

Sodium bicarbonate in sports use to help buffer against lactic acid is taken in teaspoonful sized amounts, potentially multiples of, so that's a lot of capsules to take. Capsules are best suited to small amounts. With teaspoonfuls to take for a race, that's a lot of time fiddling with filling capsules. This seems a strange, tediously impractical practice, compared to just tipping a tea-spoon of sodium bicarb into a drinks bottle.

I'd not have any qualms at all for a little bit of mud to stick to Daryl after this.

Quicker and easier to regulate intake.
Make up a the caps with a set amount and it'll be easier to get in your 300mg/kg in the 1.5-2.5 hours before.
Someone Impey's size would need around 21g

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trek7000 [47 posts] 2 years ago
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What's the contamination level you'd get from handling the Probenecid product then handling Impey's capsules? I suspect you are talking in parts per million (ppm).
Would this then be sufficient for him to ingest and then show up on a subsequent drug's test? I suspect not.  39

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Stevemoore [16 posts] 2 years ago
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What nonsense! As a pharmacist myself, I cannot see how cross contamination could have occurred. It is many years since tablets and capsules were hand counted. Probenecid comes pre-packed in foil strips. Even if the pharmacist obtained empty capsules, why would they need to touch them? Surely Impey would have bought a complete box?

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Paul J [901 posts] 2 years ago
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glynr36: So Daryl would have to fill up between 40 to 70 fiddly little capsules, just for one ride?

Also, with those amounts its more accurate to measure out 21 gramme in one go, than measure out 300 mg dozens of times. So he'd have the full 21 gramme amount sitting there. At which point, even if the drinks bottle wasn't suitable, it'd be easier to put it in a little canister or pill bottle than 40 to 70 tiny little capsules!

I find this story quite hard to believe.

Also, look on the Internet. Gelatin capsules aren't hard to buy, and they come in packaged boxes. I'm not a pharmacist, but I'm surprised that a) they didn't have any initially b) they then sold him some apparently literally by the handful, rather than packaged c) that a *pharmacist* was not aware of cross-contamination risks (that's surely a "could kill someone" level of fuck-up for a pharmacist to make?).

There's a certain kind of stench about Daryl's excuse.

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Paul J [901 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh, another possibility, besides the drinks bottle, is to make your own sodium bicarbonate + whatever other electrolyte encriched jellies using gelatine. You can make a big slab of it in one go for many rides. Lot more practical. Much easier to weigh the amounts too.

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hectorhtaylor [68 posts] 2 years ago
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A job for the pharmacist police, I think. The chemist's cross contamination procedures need addressing. I smell a cosy deal with the pharmacist who has total recall when it comes to placing his customers in time but can't remember to wash his hands.
A good ruse and it worked. Once...

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kitkat [383 posts] 2 years ago
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this has all the same hallmarks as the other cases,
T-L; I was on a bender and didn't drink water for two days
Hamilton; I had a vanishing twin in the womb
Some dutch guy: My father in law drugged his racing pigeons and then I ate a pie made from them
etc...

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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If smells of bullsh!t, it probably is bullsh!t. Top level pro sport is doped to the eyeballs!!

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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On a related note, do people think its correct that it is investigated by the national anti doping body, rather than an impartial third party? Seems mad that a country's own national body, corrupt or not, investigate their own rider's infractions at this stage.

This is similar to the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency's perceived blind spots where Fränk Schleck was concerned back in '08. Ends up having to admit paying Dr Fuentes 7000 euros, but apparently still 'clean'.

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Fatbagman [21 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm betting the likes of contador & valverde are wishing they had impeys "team" working for them a few years ago. The masking agent worked a treat as nothing else came up.

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Colin Peyresourde [1749 posts] 2 years ago
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Interesting to read a thread where reams of idiots are not claiming the riders innocence. When you scratch at the surface of these things you usually find holes a mile wide.

It's blatantly a case where a pharmacist has been either bribed or blackmailed into making such a statement (if I'm going down, you're going down), and National bodies have no impetus to destroy the careers of their sporting stars. It's shameful.