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Katusha's Spring Campaign Saved By Cocaine!

Party drug doesn't warrant full team suspension. Oh, and Kristoff won the sprint in Qatar today.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The UCI declined today to remove the entire Katusha Team from competition after Eduard Vorganov's positive test last week for Meldonium. That's a performance-enhancing drug, and under UCI rules a team which incurs two suspensions for banned substances in a year faces an expulsion from racing for 15-45 days.

But on Tuesday the UCI relented, pointing to the initial positive -- Luca Paolini's cocaine positive from last summer's Tour de France -- and reckoning that the "recreational" nature of the infraction did not warrant the heavy team-wide penalty. Last summer Paolini was removed from the Tour for a test taken on July 7, four days into the Tour. But evidence of cocaine use stays in the body for a week or more, and the drug is only banned during competition, creating some ambiguity as to whether Paolini actually committed a violation. He is currently provisionally suspended and has admitted to a drug dependency, though his racing fate remains undecided.

To the UCI, more compelling was the fact that Paolini's cocaine use was determined to be unrelated to performance enhancement, but merely "recreational." The key finding is that while such use is taken seriously, it should be viewed differently with respect to team sanctions. "In this context, applying a suspension under article 7.12.1 when one of the two cases of Adverse Analytical Finding relates to [the use of] a social drug cannot be reconciled with the aim of the article. Even if, strictly speaking, such a case falls within the application of the anti-doping rules for the rider concerned, the imposition of negative consequences for the whole team would be inappropriate and disproportionate."

To cap off the day, Alexander Kristoff outsprinted Mark Cavendish in Doha to secure the Red Rockets' first victory of the season. Not too shabby.