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'Tis the season to be... Dopey?

I'm not so sure doping cases go with Egg Nog, but really, there's only one way to find out. Certainly, this round of updates is not exactly the stuff of holiday cheer. There's always the cookies.

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We begin with the increasingly bizarre case of Stefan Schumacher. Schumacher told the press last week that he wants to race next season. He still holds a license, so why not?

Well, there remains the small problem of those two positive test results for CERA from the 2008 Tour de France. Remember those, Stefan? Schumacher has filed a defamation suit in French court against the AFLD, claiming the tests are illegitimate and that he is innocent. Schumacher's lawyer told the press that the ALFD's test results were "uncertain" and raised questions about chain of custody, contamination, yadda yadda yadda. Just re-read your notes from the Landis case, and you'll see where the Schumacher defense is headed.

So why hasn't the German Federation acted? It seems like ages ago already that Riccò and Kohl received their two year vacations. But neither Riccò nor Kohl mounted any kind of challenge against the French authorities, or their own federations. In both cases, the riders confessed and gave information in the hope of returning as quickly as possible to racing.

Not so for Stefan Schumacher, who is proclaiming his innocence and clearly prepared to go the legal distance. Schumacher has a hearing scheduled for early January in France, where the two sides will fight their opening skirmishes in what seems likely to be a lengthy legal battle. According to a recent press statement, the German Federation awaits the outcome of the hearing in France, before taking action of its own. The Germans are placing the onus on the AFLD to defend the results of the test, before opening their own case. This is a prudent approach, since it's doubtful that the German Federation has unlimited resources. At the same time, because the Federation has neither opened a case nor handed down a suspension, Schumacher still holds a license and can claim not quite falsely that he is legal to ride. Stranger than fiction. — Source, Radsport-news.com.

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Friday, the UCI issued a communiqué clarifying the case of U23 World Champion Fabio Duarte. At the time of Duarte's victory in Varese, the press raised questions about a 2007 positive doping control at the Clasica de Girardot. The Colombian Federation dismissed the case on the grounds that Duarte had a naturally high testosterone level. The ruling prompted skepticism in the press and in response, the UCI agreed to review the test results and the Colombian ruling.

According to the statement issued Friday, the UCI has confirmed that Duarte has naturally high levels. The WADA-accredited lab in Cologne re-tested the sample from the 2007 race, and found the results consistent with naturally occuring high levels of the hormone. The UCI statement did not detail the nature of the tests performed. The UCI also reviewed Duarte's other test results, including the samples he gave at Worlds, and found no grounds for suspicion. "At no stage has Mr. Duarte been under investigation by the UCI for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation," reads the statement, and Duarte is free to race. — Sources, UCI, Tuttobiciweb.it.

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Duarte is in the clear, but not so for Alexandre Vinokourov, who wishes to un-retire for next season. Back in 2007, Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping at the Tour de France. Cue massive scandal, in a Tour filled with scandal. The Kazakh Federation suspended Vinokourov for one year, half the required two years for a doping positive. The UCI filed an appeal of the Kazakh decision with the Court of Arbitration of Sport, but abandoned the case when Vinokourov announced his decision to retire from the sport.

Now, Vinokourov wants to return to racing. All the cool people are doing it. Vinokourov's ban ended on 24 July 2008, and he is legal to ride, according to his home federation. Not so fast, says the UCI. Monday, Pat McQuaid told L'Équipe that the UCI had decided to relaunch the appeal to CAS. Insisted McQuaid, "We do not accept a one year sanction. For us, it must be two years." The arbitration court received the formal appeal on Monday. The UCI now looks set to do everything necessary to prevent Vinokourov from returning to racing. Vinokourov had intended to ride a mountain bike race in the Basque Country earlier this month, but the organizers removed him from the start list, perhaps under pressure from the UCI. — Sources, L'Équipe.fr, Radsport-news.com.