Denise Betsema says positive doping test caused by contaminated supplement

The cyclocross rider served a reduced and back-dated sentence during the off-season

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Denise Betsema says her positive doping test was caused by a contaminated supplement

The UCI issued Betsema a six-month ban during the off-season after she tested positive for a steroid twice in January and February last year.

But the 26-year-old is now eligible to race again and will be rejoining her old team, Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, when she returns to racing in Zonnebeke, Belgium on Saturday (January 25).

Betsema addressed her ban and her return to racing at a press conference held on Tuesday (January 21), where she said that she had received a contaminated substance from a Belgian pharmacist that contained the anabolic androgenic steroid.

The UCI accepted Betsema’s explanation, so handed her a reduced six-month suspension rather than the usual four-year ban for performance enhancing drugs.

Betsema was provisionally suspended in April last year after she tested positive at the UCI World Cup in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands on January 27, 2019 and then again during the Middelkeker Superprestige race in Belgium on February 16, 2019, which she won.

Her ban was back-dated to the day she was provisionally suspended, so the sanction officially ended on October 4 last year, but she was still not able to race because the UCI didn’t make its decision until this week.

According to Dutch cycling website Wielerflits, Betsema said: “You are constantly waiting news. Everything just took an incredibly long time. Sometimes there was a bright moment, but when I received the letter from the UCI on Friday or Saturday, only relief followed.

“In retrospect, you still think ‘why couldn’t it have gone any faster?’”

“I never tested positive in the end, but now I am concentrating again on the fact that I can race again.”

When asked why she had used a Belgian pharmacist to order the supplement, she said it was because Belgian guidelines are more strict so the risk of contamination is reduced. She added that she hadn’t received an explanation from the pharmacist but that she “can’t say anything else about that.”

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In a statement announcing Betsema’s punishment, released on Monday (January 20), the UCI said: “A statement from the UCI said: “Denise Betsema was sanctioned with a six-month ineligibility period following an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), for the presence of an anabolic androgenic steroid in samples collected during the Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round in Hoogerheide (the Netherlands), on 27 January 2019, and the Telenet Superprestige Noordzeecross Middelkeker (Belgium), on 16 February 2019.

“The athlete was provisionally suspended on April 5, 2019, and her period of ineligibility ended on October 4, 2019.”

Betsema still has the right to appeal the ban to the Dutch anti-doping organisation and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The UCI said it will not make any further comment on the case.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.