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Anti-doping chiefs have been given the green light to follow up on footage of Deceuinck-Quick-Step staffers removing a mystery object from Remco Evenepoel‘s pocket in the moments after his horror Il Lombardia crash.
The 20-year-old phenom crashed over a low wall and plummeted into a ravine at the Italian monument earlier this month, fracturing his pelvis and ending his season. While Belgium’s newest superstar is making a rapid recovery from his injuries, the story around the crash is far from over.
The past week has seen the circulation of video footage of sport director David Bramati removing a white object from the stricken rider’s pocket in the moments before Evenepoel was stretchered out of the ravine.
With questions and rumors spinning, cycling’s chiefs are stepping in.
“We have passed the images and dossier to the CADF [Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation] so they can interview those concerned and understand a little more about an object that was taken from Remco Evenpoel’s back pocket,” UCI president David Lappartient said as he attended pre-Tour de France ceremonies in Nice on Friday.
When asked about the incident by La Gazzetta dello Sport this week, Bramati insisted the item taken from Evenepoel was “nothing illegal.”
“I remember well that these were very tense moments and that there was a need to remove the things that were in the area of Remco’s back because shortly after he would have to be lying on a stretcher,” Bramati said. “So I took away the radio, gel, bar, the ‘jar’ of sugars, and in order not to leave them on the ground I put them in my pocket.”
Team boss Patrick Lefevere weighed in Friday night after news that his star rider was to be subjected to investigation.
“Davide Bramati descended into the ravine after Remco’s fall and has removed all hard objects to protect him from additional injury: his helmet, his radio and also a water bottle – in this case a holder only a few centimeters in size,” Lefevere wrote in a column on Het Nieuwsblad. “The images only show that water bottle – because that naturally appeals the most to the imagination.”
“We are not going to be silly: in cycling, riders often use a water bottle in the final,” Lefevere wrote. “That so-called ‘final bottle’ has meanwhile gotten a very bad name as a kind of magic potion from the old cycling, but largely unjustified. The reality is that in the final, water bottles are simply more convenient and much less sticky than gels. What is in such a bottle? Cola, Red Bull or a little caffeine. Nothing that is prohibited. Our team certainly doesn’t contain painkillers, we have never ever used tramadol.”
Along with probing into the unknown white object in Evenepoel’s pocket, Lappartient is seeking clarity on potentially forbidden data transmission following allusions to rider tracking by Deceuninck-Quick-Step staffers.
“The sports director said they were first alerted to the crash because they stopped receiving data from Evenepoel,” Lappartient said. “What data are they talking about here? It is banned to transmit certain information. If it’s just about his location then that’s okay, but there can be no other data transmissions.”
Evenepoel returned to Belgium from hospital in Italy earlier this week and has been pictured walking on crutches.