The founder of well-known mountain bike event, the Absa Cape Epic, Kevin Vermaak has expressed shock, sadness and anger at the news of top cyclist David George’s positive test for the banned drug erythropoietin (EPO).
Vermaak also says the immediate suspension will harm the chances of a first all-South African win at the event and that organisers will be reviewing George’s titles and prize money.
The results of George’s out-of-competition test were announced by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) on Tuesday and he now faces the charge of doping at an independent tribunal. George said on Tuesday that he admitted to using the substance and has not asked for a B sample to be tested, as is within his rights.
He faces a two-year ban from all forms of competition.
George and Kevin Evans ended second overall in this year’s Cape Epic while George also won the Absa African Jersey on three occasions (2008, 2009 and this year).
Said Vermaak: ÔÇ£It’s a shock. George is a convert to mountain biking from road cycling. Mountain biking gave him a chance to re-start his cycling career after a European road career that was starting to taper. Many SA mountain bikers might feel that he has let down the sport that gave him a second chance in his cycling career. It’s a sad day for South African mountain biking. Personally,┬áI’m sad and angered that┬áthe sport in which I’ve invested 10 years of my life, and worked so hard at making more professional in South Africa, has now also been tainted by this disease within the sport of cycling.
ÔÇ£The Absa Cape Epic will take consultation with our lawyers,┬áthe UCI, CSA and SAIDS to determine the appropriate steps to take with regards to George’s titles and prize money. The 2012 prize money for his team amounted to R142 500. We’ve always worked very closely with SAIDS and I commend Khalid Galant and his team for┬áthe work┬áthey are doing to eradicate doping in sport.
ÔÇ£Much of┬áthe race’s allure is linked to┬áthe pro-am nature of┬áthe event. We have┬áthe world’s best mountain bikers riding alongside amateurs from every walk of life. George’s suspension has no detrimental effect on this element of┬áthe race, but he has certainly let down the South African mountain biking community that were supporting him for┬áthe all-SA win.
ÔÇ£George and his riding partner since 2008, Kevin Evans, have been┬áthe main contenders to become the first ever all-South African team to win the Absa Cape Epic. Many South Africans were obviously supporting David to achieve┬áthis milestone next year in our 10th anniversary race. Next year’s race will be┬áthe most competitive in┬áthe Absa Cape Epic’s history, with seven of┬áthe top 10 finishers from the London Olympics and┬áthe reigning World Champion and silver and bronze medalists competing. It seems unlikely now that we’ll have an all-South African team on┬áthe podium next year or in the near future, since the next best all-SA team came seventh this year and┬áthe race is only getting more and more internationally competitive.ÔÇØ