Belgian cyclist Shari Bossuyt has pleaded her innocence after testing positive for a banned substance, and being made “non-active” by her Canyon-SRAM team.
The 22-year-old returned a positive test for Letrozole in an anti-doping control during the Tour de Normandie Féminin in March. The substance, a hormone drug used more generally to treat breast cancer, is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List.
In a press conference on Monday, Bossuyt said she has "never consciously used" the drug, and that she believes her sample was contaminated.
"At the moment the procedure is still ongoing and I have to explain to the AFLD [the French Anti-Doping Agency] how the product ended up in my body," the Belgian is quoted in Het Laatste Nieuws. "This is turning out to be extremely difficult today because I have never come into contact with Letrozole and have never consciously used it.
"In fact, this was the first time I had heard of Letrozole. Fortunately, I am currently well supported. I hope we can clarify soon. But above all, that we can prove that we are not cheaters."
In a statement released on Sunday, Bossuyt's Canyon-SRAM team outlined that it holds a "zero-tolerance stance towards any use of prohibited substances" and that it had made the rider "provisionally non-active", effectively suspending her.
Bossuyt, too, confirmed that she will not take part in any events. "In consultation with the team, I have decided not to race in the coming weeks. Mainly because my head isn't in it," she said.
"Everything indicates that we are dealing with a contamination. That is why I would like to appeal to all authorities that we may be dealing with an underlying problem. I will continue to train so that I can compete again soon.”
The news comes over a year after another Belgian cyclist, Toon Aerts, also tested positive for Letrozole. The cyclo-cross rider, who returned an out-of-competition sample containing the banned substance in January 2022, is yet to return to racing, and has said he is facing a two-year suspension.
Aerts issued a statement on Sunday following the announcement of Bossuyt’s Letrozole positive. He said: “We are one year on, I’m still deep in misery, and unfortunately there is another case. I can imagine so well what Shari is going through now. This shouldn't happen. Another athlete, who is also human, who will go through a deep valley with her whole family. Without having done anything wrong, just like me and my family!
He added: “No two without three, as the saying goes, and I fear there will be more victims…”
Bossuyt and her Canyon-SRAM team are currently awaiting the decision from the AFLD, which will come in due course. A suspension would rule the Belgian out of defending her Madison world title, which she holds with Lotte Kopecky, at the UCI Track World Championships this August.