This is an incident that has flown under the radar somewhat – towards the end of July, two riders from the Russian ProContinental team Rusvelo flew over to the United States to participate in the Prairie State Cycling Series (part of the National Criterium Calendar). A few days ago, a photo of what they left in the bins of their host family was posted to the internet.
The photo was posted on Twitter by TheRealPSIMET, but taken down after he was asked to remove it. It should be noted that the Tweet mistakenly referred to the Tour of America’s Dairyland rather than the race series the two Russians took part in. A version of the tweet still exists thanks to Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis rider Adam Myerson.
“So I’m getting DMs me telling me it’s real, and from Prairie State Cycling
Series, not ToAD, but that the host family doesn’t want to talk about it
and threw away the drugs. Of course, no one wants to speak publicly
about, name names, etc. Silence doesn’t promote clean sport.”
The riders in question are two brothers – Ivan and Evgeny Kovalev. Ivan is the elder at 27, while his brother is 24. Both are track riders too, and both have a somewhat empty palmares, though Ivan has a 2nd at the 2011 Tour of China to his name as well as a win at the GP of Moscow this year. Kovalev the younger was part of the team that lost to New Zealand for the Team Pursuit bronze medal at the London Olympics.
Now, before we get to the photo, there is another issue to consider – as you may or may not know, RusVelo were prevented from racing for eight days in late July. Three of the team’s riders (Artem Ovechkin, Andrey Solomennikov and Roman Maikin) tested positive for the long-acting asthma drug fenoterol at the Russian National Championships in late June. The team is a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), whose rules call for any team to suspend racing for four weeks if they have three positive tests within a 24-month period. In April, Valery Kaykov was suspended and sacked after testing positive for GW1516.
The team doctor was blamed for the ‘mistake’, which saw RusVelo treated more leniently and prevented from racing from 13st-21st of July. However, the Kovalev brothers raced in the Beverly Criterium (July 18th), finishing towards the back of the pack, albeit as part of ‘Team Russia’. It is unclear whether this constitutes a violation of the MPCC rules, given that they weren’t technically racing for RusVelo. The races do form part of the UCI Road Criterium Calendar though, meaning that it is unlikely that riders on a suspended team would be allowed to race by the organisation.
Thanks to USA Cycling’s National Criterium Calendar results page we can see exactly what the brothers Kovalev did at the races in Illinois, with the results for the Prairie State Cycling Series (which also shows which team name they registered to race under) available here.
- 12th July – Kenosha criterium: Ivan 1st, Evgeny 11th (listed as ‘Team Russia’)
- 18th July – Beverley criterium: Ivan 21st, Evgeny 22nd (listed as ‘Team Russia’)
- 20th July – Lake Bluff criterium: Ivan DNS, Evgeny DNS (listed as RusVelo)
- 21st July – St Charles criterium: Ivan DNS, Evgeny DNS (listed as RusVelo)
As you can see, they technically didn’t race for their banned team, but it at best debatable as to whether they should be riding at all in such circumstances. We will just have to wait for the MPCC or the team to make a statement clarifying this matter. Adam Myerson has confirmed that they didn’t race in RusVelo kit at the Beverley Criterium, so it looks like they were attempting to fly under the radar.
I guess now that that’s out of the way for the time being we can take a look at the photo. If you click on it you can view the large version.
Now, I have only been able to identify (and painstakingly translate) a few of the labels, with the photo being too low quality to read everything. As far as I can work out, everything I have identified is legal and nothing is prohibited by WADA’s 2013 list.
- МУМИЕ (Shilajit/Mumie): A traditional Indian medicine, with no clinical evidence to support any health benefits. It is used largely in Russia and India, as an anti-inflammatory/pain relief, but there are claims that it can treat many more ailments.
- КУДЕСАН (Qudesan): This is a source of Coenzyme Q10, which plays a part in generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP – a compound which breaks down to provide almost all of our energy). Q10 reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure. The Russians seems to have chosen the chewy tablets for kids.
- Foli-Doce (Folic Acid): Otherwise known as Vitamin B9. This aids erythropoesis (the production of red blood cells). Folate deficiency can cause anaemia.
- КАПИЛАР (Kapilar): A herbal supplement. Kapilar contains taxifolin, which is taken from Siberian Larch trees. It reduces blood viscosity, improves blood flow in the capillaries and regulates blood pressure. Inhibits growth of some cancer cells.
- ЦИТОФЛABИН (Cytoflavin): Improves blood oxygenisation and reduces the risk of strokes. This drug contains multiple components, including vitamin B2 and inosine, which simulates the synthesis of ATP.
- РИБОКСИН (Riboksin): Also contains inosine, so read above. This is an antiplatelet drug, which decreases platelet adhesion/aggregation as well as inhibiting the formation of blood clots. Both this and cytoflavin activate a number of enzymes in the Krebs’ Cycle (basically a series of chemical reactions which create energy for us).
- ТРОМБО АСС (Thrombus ACC): This reduces blood plasma concentration. Also another antiplatelet drug.
- L-Carnitine (Carnitine): Another supplement, this supposedly aids weight loss and ‘improves athletic performance’, though this hasn’t been proven by any studies.
- АСМАНЕКС (Asmanex): Put simply, an inhaler. It seems RusVelo have quite a few asthmatics on their books. The active compound is mometasone furoate which reduces inflammation of the airways. It is more potent than hydrocortisone and has a half-life three times that of salbutamol, meaning it acts for over five hours.
Edit: It seems that the clear bag on the bottom right is a IV giving set that can be used for vitamin/enzyme/saline infusions or even blood transfusions. The UCI’s no needle policy prohibits any form of injection or drip, so even if they were intended to infuse an innocent substance such as a vitamin, this would still be considered illegal.
Nothing illegal then, but note all the effects on the circulatory system, blood cells and the like. Some of the effects noted (such as reducing blood pressure, viscosity) are notable in combating some of the negative effects of blood doping – overly thickened blood, for example. Of course, we can’t indict a rider based on effects of these drugs alone.
The presence of the unused IV set is the most worrying thing about the photo, as usage of such equipment violates UCI rules. Hopefully we will hear some clarification on the matter from someone at the team or the MPCC soon.
While keeping in optimum health is obviously of utmost importance to professional cyclists, seeing so many drugs and supplements laid out after two men had used them during a short trip to participate in some minor American criteriums is worrying. You have to wonder what is happening towards the top of the food chain if two relatively minor riders, albeit on Katusha’s development team, are carrying all this around.
Finally, the fact that the pair weren’t wearing their team kit and seemingly rode at the back of the peloton on the 18th does make it seem like they were trying to avoid detection. Maybe RusVelo noticed what they were doing and recalled them, or somebody figured out who they were? Only time will tell, but another question that remains unanswered is what were two Russians doing racing near Chicago?