Monday, 15 July 2013
Mustafa Sayar And The Positive Test
Remember this 'unbelievable' ride by Turkish national Mustafa Sayar to take victory in the 2013 Tour of Turkey? At the time it was hard to watch knowing that a year before, race winner Ivailo Gabrovski went on to test positive for EPO after performing a similar feat. This year Sayar was eventually given the benefit of the doubt, having looked into the eyes of Matt Rendall and told him: I am a clean and credible winner. We all knew deep down this 'probably' wasn't true with even Eurosport commentators making their feelings known as the stage progressed and now Sayar has tested positive for a banned substance during the Tour of Algeria in March. So what effect will this have on a race already tarnished?...
Well there is minor relief for the Tour of Turkey organisers - the positive test wasn't from their race (this year anyway) but of course a positive test for what is rumoured (but not confirmed) to be EPO prior to this race in the Tour of Algeria is sure to arouse suspicion surrounding his performance in Turkey a little later in the calendar. This would also raise the question: Why wasn't Sayar tested positive at the Tour of Turkey? A cover up perhaps in desperation for a race which needed a cleaner reputation? Maybe - but until these question get asked we shouldn't assume.
The Tour of Turkey is a good race - it's an entertaining race with a pretty varied route in some stunning surroundings and regardless of Sayar, the racing was exciting and aggressive this year. The race, I believe, deserves it's place in cycling and I hope this will not change - however two positive tested winners in as many years does cast a certain shadow over the event.
So, what now for Turkish cycling? Well it's a damning statement when the home riders are prepared to risk the reputation of their nation and cycling and show a total disregard for what is a relatively successful advertisement for the country and it's tourism. Perhaps race organisers should consider not inviting the local teams - it would send a solid message that doping will not be tolerated and would at least eliminate a large possibility of another positive test in the race. On the flip side of course banishing your home team from their home Tour is hardly a good advertisement for Turkish cycling. It's a tough call to make and each has it's downsides but the race is in a need of overhaul and they should consider all options.
As for the riders? Well, something has certainly gone awry here on the Turkish based squads - is a desperation to put themselves on the map driving certain riders to doping? Maybe - but perhaps an ignorance of the punishments is more a problem, both on the side of the riders and the relative authority. Is it systemic? It's difficult to say without delving further and finding all of the facts - though rumour is another three riders have tested positive for a banned substance at the Tour of Algeria - and they could well be Turkish...