Top Algerian cyclist Hichem Chaabane has tested positive to two undisclosed prohibited substances and has been handed a life ban by the Algerian Cycling Federation.
The 26-year-old Chaabane, who rides for UCI team Velo Club Sovac won three of the 10 races at last month’s Grand Tour d’Algerie and walked away with the mountains jersey.
A frustrated Team Rwanda head coach Jonathan ‘Jock’ Boyer said, “I am infuriated with the news that Hichem tested positive. I suspected it from the very beginning and I told our riders.
“When you follow riders and are with them on the team you see their progress and when a rider improves by 20 per cent in a very short period of time then you know that metabolically, there is no way this can happen without some sort of doping.”
“Boyer explained that, “Last year, the way Hichem won races was questionable. I suspected because of how fast he was bridging gaps of four minutes. I would stop the car to just watch him and I said either he is cheating, or is using the help of a motor bike or in front of the car, it is just not possible.”
The Algerian riders would hold onto the vehicles, pushing other riders and because all the commissaries were from Algeria, they just let them continue the race yet essentially when riders hold onto cars or the motorcycles, they should be disqualified. It was an incredibly frustrating month because the organisers did not have all the details, no proper commissaries and no proper photo finish which affected the entire competition.
“This is tragic for our riders. They took three races from us! I remember he beat Bosco (Nsengimana) on top of the climb, Janvier (Hadi) was away on a breakaway and he caught up with him but, thankfully, Janvier won the sprint. It is tragic. We would have come home with four wins.”
Hadi, who won the Grand Prix de la Ville d’Oran, finished second to Chaabane in the mountains classification at the Tour International d’Annaba as well as at stage 1 of the Tour International d’Oraine from Alger to Ain Defla where Chaabane beat Hadi to the finish line by 15 seconds.
At stage 3 of the Tour International de Blida from Zeralda to Chrea, a total distance of 114.4km, Team Rwanda cyclist Jean Bosco Nsengimana broke away from the leading peloton to lead for most part of the race only to be caught by Chaabane who eventually won the stage.
Chaabane’s victory in stage 3 of the Tour International d’Oraine from Oran to Santa Cruz denied Bonaventure Uwizeyimana a podium finish as he came in fourth, 53 seconds behind the Algerian.
Results like the above mentioned cost Team Rwanda about 30 points on the UCI table standings with the top two teams at the end of the UCI Africa Tour in November expected to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
However, there is a financial impact, too, of about €300 (about Rwf 0.3m).
Boyer said, “At Team Rwanda, we are very strict about this. It is easy to ride clean because you do not worry about setbacks. We have been making big advances every year, look at our history, we have been incremental.
For example, last year, winning the Tour du Rwanda, you can see the results of our training programmes, the time and effort our riders put in to gain a natural spectrum.”
In November 2014, Valens Ndayisenga became the first Rwandan rider to win the Tour du Rwanda since its inclusion on the UCI Africa Tour in 2009.