Katusha avoids suspension, Paolini’s case deemed recreational

The UCI says Luca Paolini was taking cocaine last year for recreational use, not to gain a competitive advantage.

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The UCI will not suspend Katusha following the team’s second doping case in a year, citing the recreational nature of one of the cases.

Luca Paolini tested positive for cocaine at the Tour de France last summer and Eduard Vorganov tested positive for meldonium last week. As of the 2015 season, UCI regulations stipulate that a team suffering two doping cases in a single year is subject to a minimum suspension of 15 days.

However, the UCI’s disciplinary commission has opted against a strict reading of the regulations and will not suspend the team because Paolini’s “taking of cocaine was not related to an intention to influence sporting performance but was rather taken on a ‘recreational’ basis,” according to a UCI statement.

Therefore, the commission’s logic dictates, banning the entire team for recreational drug use would constitute inappropriate and disproportionate consequences.

Paolini admitted in December to using cocaine and sleeping pills.

“It is understood that the intention of the article is to impose negative consequences on teams that lack control of doping for sporting purposes by their athletes, or if even worse scenarios exist, and/or if teams are not doing enough to fight such doping,” the commission notes.

UCI president Brian Cookson spoke to the media hours before the decision was released at the Tour of Qatar, where Katusha rider Alexander Kristoff won Tuesday’s second stage over Mark Cavendish. Cookson did not give away the final decision, but he did note that the disciplinary commission would evaluate the “legalities of the case and the proportionality,” the latter of which appears to be the determining factor.

“The rules are what the rules are. I understand the riders are worried about it, it interrupts their season plans,” Cookson said.

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