In shaming 90-year-old rider, anti-doping earns black eye

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With each pedal-stroke of his 80- and now 90-year-old legs, Carl Grove sought to show his fellow Americans that old age can be rich and rewarding.

His bike is his soapbox. As time caught up with many of his peers, the former United States Navy Band saxophonist , who played for U.S. presidents and visiting VIPs and who was born on his parents’ kitchen table in an Indiana thunderstorm the year before the Great Depression, is still riding to escape its clutches.

He has set age-group cycling records in the 80- and 90-year-old categories and accumulated 18 national championships. But what has mattered most to Grove is setting a healthy, don’t-give-up example in a country increasingly sickened by obesity and the inactivity of modern life.

Through his exploits, his hope was to share the simple maxim he lives by: “Do not sit down.”

“I see all kinds of people that, man, they go up two or three or four steps and I hear them kind of pant and what have you. This country is not like it used to be. I didn’t see that when I was younger,” says Grove, who will celebrate his 91st birthday on July 13.

“I try to show them that with just a little care and a little exercise and a proper attitude that, maybe, they can live the last eight, 10 years of their life with quality and not have aches and pains.”

But at the end of last year, the stay-fit mission he calls his “life’s work” suffered a mighty and, in hindsight, completely unfair and unnecessary blow.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency informed Grove that traces of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by U.S. cattle farmers to bulk up livestock, were detected in a urine sample he gave at the U.S. Masters Track National Championships in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, last July, where the field’s oldest competitor again added to his collection of titles, setting times faster than men in their 80s, 70s and even 60s. He was stripped of his gold medal in the pursuit – the day he tested positive – but kept two others.

Grove’s conscience was clear.

As USADA’s own investigators eventually determined, he knew he hadn’t doped. Instead, Grove had been inadvertently contaminated, probably by a dinner of cow’s liver he ate at a local diner on the evening of July 10 – his way of celebrating his gold medal in the time trial that day, where he was the only competitor in the 90-94 age-group.

Still, the failed test was tough on Grove. He knew how it would look, how short attention spans would put the words “cycling,” “doping,” “steroids,” “disqualified” together and imagine the worst, perhaps picturing a 90-year-old version of Lance Armstrong, cycling’s most infamous dope-cheat.

Sure enough, and despite USADA slipping its public announcement out on a Friday, news that an athlete so old had tested positive generated worldwide headlines this week and a mix of incredulity, mirth, sympathy and cruelty online.

“I was really kind of down for a while. But I’m over it,” Grove now says, making his first and only public comments about the case in a telephone interview this week with The Associated Press. “I wanted to be an inspiration, if possible. I worked like a real horse to do it.”

“They struck me from the records . I don’t really care about that too much. The thing that I really, really care about is that I wanted to be a sterling, totally clean person in front of people that knew about me,” he said. “It looked like I had not been an honest person to a lot of people. I guess I was kind of worried about what did other people think, you know? Then, I began to think, `Well, some of them will believe me and some of them won’t.’ I guess that’s just the way it is.”

For the anti-doping system, this is another black eye. Taxpayer dollars should, within reason, continue to be spent on policing amateur sport, not least to combat the increasing use of steroids by body-conscious young men. But the naming and shaming of a well-intentioned great-grandfather smacks of vindictiveness, not justice. There are so many bigger battles, like cleaning up Russian sport , for the anti-doping system to fight. Rules that cannot give a complete pass to inadvertent victims like Grove clearly aren’t fit for purpose and should be changed.

USADA boss Travis Tygart says that even though the agency determined Grove wasn’t at fault, it had no choice but to issue him with a public warning for the failed test, the lowest-level step it could take in such a case.

He “ate meat and had a test that you then can’t just sweep under the carpet as much as you might otherwise want to,” Tygart said. “Cases like this make us bang our head against the wall. The outcome is not right and it’s a system gone awry.”

Grove thinks taxpayer dollars that fund anti-doping could be better spent on catching cheats, not bystanders.

“Us old guys are kind of like peanuts. I think that they’re wasting their time,” he said. “What can I gain at 90 years old doing drugs? Tell me, I just don’t know. So I think that somewhere there ought to be a cutoff and they ought to zero in on the stuff that is done for money reasons or whatever it may be. But I think after 65 or 70, you know, they ought to just give up.”

Fortunately, Grove has a resilient attitude to go with his good genes (his mother lived to 105 and his father, a barber, was still cutting hair in his retirement home until a few years before his death at 97). He’s already launched into a new challenge: Breaking the age 90-95 record for distance ridden in an hour, set by Frenchman Rene Gaillard in 2017 , who covered 29.278 kilometers (18 miles).

Grove said he’d start training immediately after getting off the phone with the AP.

“Sometimes, I ride in the morning and it’s a beautiful sunrise. I’m alive. I’m looking. I’m looking around. I’m feeling good. I’m so happy,” he said. “I’ve got so many gold medals and ribbons and stuff, and that doesn’t count. What counts is getting out there and doing the best I can do and show people what they can do.”

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

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MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.