Sayar’s Tour of Turkey title at risk after positive doping test
Mustafa Sayar has beaten the odds to claim the Tour of Turkey victory, to mark a historic milestone for Turkish cycling. DHA photoTour of Turkey winner Mustafa Sayar was provisionally suspended July 15 and faces being stripped of his victory after testing positive for the blood-boosting hormone EPO at an earlier race.
The International Cycling Union said Sayar had traces of EPO in a urine sample given at the Tour of Algeria on March 11. He finished second there.
The 24-year-old Turkish rider won his home country’s signature event, an eight-day stage race, in April. He became the first Turk to claim the trophy after the tour reached a higher profile in the last six years, attracting more Pro and Pro Continental teams.
The UCI said Sayar will remain suspended while the Turkish Cycling Federation pursues a disciplinary case.
This is the second year in a row that the Tour of Turkey has been hit by doping woes. Last year’s winner, Bulgaria’s Ivailo Gabrovski, was stripped of his title after testing positive for doping. As a relatively unknown athlete, Sayar’s win raised eyebrows within the tour.
After the daunting sixth stage, where Sayar effectively won the tour, German sprinter Marcel Kittel wrote a dubious comment on Twitter.
“[It is] not often in my life [that I am] so angry about a result of someone else. And I see many people around me feeling the same,” the German wrote on the microblogging site.
Danish cycling club Team Saxo-Tinkoff also raised the issue with a tweet that said: “A VERY surprising stage win by Mustafa Sayar.” The tweet was later deleted from the account.
Sayar brushed off the claims, saying, “I am a clean and credible winner.” He had also distanced himself from Gabrovski, a former Konya Torku Şeker teammate.
“Cycling is a very difficult sport and every cyclist sometimes has these kinds of difficulties in their careers,” he said at the post-race press conference April 26. “Gabrovski was a very good sportsman, but he was too ambitious in doing such a thing. I don’t think I will have the same situation.”
African road race champion Natnael Berhane of Eritrea is in line for the Tour of Turkey victory if Sayar’s doping offense is confirmed.
The suspicions about Sayar have added to a growing list of doping scandals in Turkish sports recently.
In May, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) launched a doping investigation into two of Turkey’s top track and field stars, Olympic 1,500m gold medalist Aslı Çakır Alptekin and two-time defending European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanıt. Both athletes have been provisionally suspended from all international competitions and face being stripped of their gold medals. Eight weightlifters and 13 track and field athletes also tested positive for banned substances in last month’s competitions.
OPPOSITION ISSUES DOPING WARNING
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) vice president Erdoğan Toprak requested a parliamentary inquiry into Turkish athletes’ “doping scandals,” a statement from the party said.
He noted that 30 of Turkey’s athletes were excluded from the Mediterranean Games while eight weightlifters and eight track and field athletes tested positive for banned substances.
Last month, the CHP requested a parliamentary inquiry into the reasons behind a rising number of doping cases. The request was then rejected.