Shari Bossuyt responds to AFLD verdict amidst doping allegations

Shari Bossuyt gives a press conference after doping positive

Shari Bossuyt has expressed her frustration and disappointment following the AFLD’s (French Anti-Doping Agency) recent decision. Despite acknowledging that the contamination of letrozole, a substance found in Bossuyt’s system, was unintentional, the AFLD has proposed a two-year suspension for the athlete. Bossuyt, disheartened by the lack of concrete evidence to pinpoint the exact source of contamination, compares her situation to the Clenbuterol case with Alberto Contador, highlighting the complexities athletes face in proving innocence in such scenarios.

The Belgian cyclist, renowned for her outstanding performances, including a stage win at the Tour de Normandie Féminin in March 2023, has been grappling with the impact of these allegations on both her professional career and mental well-being. Bossuyt’s case brings to light the intricate nature of proving food contamination as a source of prohibited substances, especially with substances like letrozole, which is not commonly tested for in food safety checks due to its ban in Europe.

In her defence, Bossuyt’s team has conducted extensive research, yet the lack of official reports from bodies like the Food Safety Agency leaves them without concrete evidence to counter the charges. The AFLD’s report acknowledges the possibility of dairy product contamination, yet their reliance on official reports to validate such claims leaves Bossuyt’s argument unsupported.

Shari Bossuyt
Shari Bossuyt

Professor Saugy, an expert consulted by the AFLD, dismissed Bossuyt’s explanation citing the absence of official reports on contamination. Additionally, the AFLD’s report suggests that even a minimal amount of letrozole in contaminated milk could lead to a positive urine test, aligning with the concentration found in Bossuyt’s sample.

Adding to the complexity, letrozole is not known to enhance performance in women, yet in Bossuyt’s response, she says the AFLD speculates on its potential impact based on mere suspicions. Bossuyt, feeling unsupported and isolated, highlights the lack of organised support from federations and cycling bodies. The financial and mental strain of pursuing an appeal, coupled with the fear of a losing battle, has led her to accept the verdict, albeit reluctantly.

Bossuyt’s situation mirrors the case of fellow Belgian cyclist Toon Aerts, who also faced letrozole doping allegations. Both cases, occurring in Normandy, raise questions about local environmental factors, such as dairy farming practices, potentially leading to contamination. Although the Flammanville cyclocross race organiser hit back on these claims recently, due to the lack of Normandy-based cyclists testing positive for the same contamination. This theory harks back to Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol case, where local livestock farming practices were suspected.

Currently, Bossuyt is on a non-active status with her team, Canyon SRAM, pending the investigation’s outcome. The potential implications of a two-year ban, mirroring Aerts’ punishment, will significantly impact her Olympic aspirations and her partnership with Lotte Kopecky in track cycling events. It also potentially brings to a close to her time at Canyon SRAM.