Concerning his one-off visit to a disgraced doping doctor, now banned for life, in the European summer of 2000, Cadel Evans has refuted speculation that anything untoward transpired between he and Dr Michele Ferrari, explicitly saying there was “never any discussion of doping”.
Innuendo surfaced as early as last July, when Evans was en route to winning that year’s Tour de France. It manifested itself mainly because of an online posting on Dr Ferrari’s website, 53x12.com, during the 2011 Tour.
Dated July 23, 2011, Dr Ferrari wrote:
In the summer of 2000, I got a phone call from Tony Rominger (Evans’ manager at the time): ‘There is this twice MTB World (Cup) champion, Cadel Evans, who would like to pass onto road racing. Since he’s earning already quite well from his MTB activity, I’d like to know whether he has the skills to consider dedicating to road cycling full time and risk such a jump.' It is always difficult and chancy to answer similar questions, but I eventually agreed on testing him on the road in St. Moritz (in Switzerland). After a 1-hour warm-up, we met on the Albula Pass at 1800m of altitude: Evans rode a stretch of 100m of total difference in height several times, at increasing intensities, checking the times, the heart rates and the lactic acid concentrations. “His VAM (Italian for velocità ascensionale media, or average climbing speed) at 4 mM (millimoles; a measure of blood lactate concentration) was 1780 m/h (metres per hour), an excellent value considering the oxygen deficit due to altitude.
“I had him repeat the same test after 4 additional hours of riding, climbing the Albula and Julier Pass, with the purpose of checking his performance over distance: the result was a VAM = 1820 m/h, even better than the first test, probably because of the slight weight loss from the ride.
“I therefore called Tony, who was Cadel’s manager, and told him that in my opinion they could make an attempt and jump to road racing.”
On July 10 this year, as part of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) three-year investigation into alleged doping malpractice at the United States Postal Service (USPS) Pro Cycling Team, of which Lance Armstrong has been unambiguously labelled the ringleader, Dr Ferrari, by virtue of not contesting the charges levelled against him, was banned for life for multiple anti-doping violations including possession, trafficking, administration, and assisting doping.
Part of the USADA ‘Reasoned Decision’ dossier, totalling more than 1,000 pages, detailed “banking and accounting records from a Swiss company controlled by Dr Ferrari, reflecting more than one million dollars in payments by Mr Armstrong (and) extensive email communications between Dr Ferrari and his son and Mr Armstrong, during a time period in which Mr Armstrong claimed to not have a professional relationship with Dr Ferrari”.
In light of the astonishing breadth of revelations contained in the USADA dossier and closure of the Padua investigation imminent, Cycling Central asked Evans – who name does not appear in USADA’s case file – to qualify the duration of his consultation/s with the 59-year-old Italian, and the extent of his involvement with the now infamous physician, including what advice was offered and whether the subject of doping was ever discussed.
"I once completed a test of 2 x 20-30min supervised hill repetitions. Separated by a 4-hour ride which I completed solo. I have never seen or had contact before or after this test,” Evans wrote in an email to Cycling Central.
“I was recommended to take a test by my manager Tony Rominger to understand if I had the capabilities to race on the road. I took the test as Mr Ferrari described on his website. Mr Ferrari briefly explained the results to me and the meeting was over.
“There was never any discussion of doping (with Dr Ferrari) or any sign of anything illegal,” he said.
Asked whether, in light of Dr Ferrari’s chequered history with athletes, he thought it appropriate at the time to receive consultation/advice from such a person, Evans replied: “My only motive at the time – 2001 as I recall – was to understand my capabilities as a road rider. At that time, Mr Ferrari’s opinion was very highly regarded by teams and team managers, and therefore helpful for me to gain opportunities with road teams.”
In 2001, following Dr Ferrari’s advice, the 35-year-old from Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory switched full-time to the professional road racing milieu in Europe, riding for Italian-based team Saeco (2001), followed by Mapei-Quick Step (2002), Team Telekom (2003-2004), Davitamon-Lotto (2005-2009) and BMC Racing (2010-present), reaching his career apotheosis at the 2011 Tour de France, where he became the first Australian to win the event.
Today in Geneva the UCI is scheduled to make an announcement concerning its position on USADA’s ‘Reasoned Decision’ documents and recommendations, delivered to cycling’s governing body, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) on Wednesday 10 October, with a 21-day window of reply attached regarding any sort of appeal.
At 1:00pm Central European Time (10:00pm AEDT), UCI president Pat McQuaid will be informing the attending media of their position. The Irishman is expected to either ratify or contest the lifetime ban imposed by USADA on Armstrong in recognised sporting events, which includes disqualification of all competitive results from 1998 onwards.