Toon Aerts facing two-year ban for letrozole positive

Belgian cyclocross star vows to fight two-year ban and hopes to race again in 2024

Toon Aerts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Belgian cyclocross star Toon Aerts has revealed he is facing a two-year ban from competition, although he still insists he is innocent and hopes to compete in 2024.

Aerts returned a positive test result for letrozole during an out-of-competition doping control earlier this year, but still hopes to prove his innocence in the coming months. Letrozole Metabolite is used by people who use anabolic steroids and wish to block feminising effects or boost testosterone production. It is strictly prohibited in and out of competition and is considered a “specified substance” that does not require a mandatory provisional suspension. 

The out-of-competition test took place just before the UCI cyclocross world championships in Fayetteville, USA where Aerts finished in sixth behind the winner Tom Pidcock.

The Belgian could have raced on in 2022, although opted to stay away from competition while cooperating with the UCI to work through the case. 

In a press-conference in Belgium, Aerts explained that he had received a letter detailing the suspension as he broke down in tears. 

"I have to tell the world something that I actually don't want to. Unfortunately this week I received a letter from the UCI that no one wants to receive. It says that the UCI is proposing a 2-year suspension," he said. 

"That means that I can start a cyclocross race again on February 16, 2024 at the latest. But I want to keep proving my innocence. This is a very severe punishment. A much too severe punishment for someone who can say with a clear conscience that he is not a doping sinner.”

“I have never had the intention to use doping and I have never voluntarily taken doping products to improve my performance,” Aerts added. 

Lawyers for the Belgian rider believe that he tested positive due to contamination from a dietary supplement. Positive tests for a substance such as letrozole are typically punished with a two-year ban from competition but can be reduced if the rider is able to prove that the substance entered their body unintentionally. 

Aerts, who has not cut his hair since January, insists that the levels of letrozole detected in his system were so low that they could not equate to any kind of performance boost. 

"We can say with 100 percent certainty that that product ended up in Toon's body due to contamination," Yannick Prévost said, sitting alongside Aerts in the press conference. 

"We suspect the source of contamination, but that has not yet been confirmed. We will continue to analyse supplements and any potential issues that Toon may have taken during that time. Hopefully we will find a track on which we can continue working."

"Hair samples often provide a breakthrough in murder cases," Aerts added. "Now we will use it in a doping case, because the evidence is in my hair."

There was no official comment from the UCI on Thursday.

“I will continue to do everything I can to prove my innocence,” Aerts added. “I am convinced that I will take my place in cyclocross again. I have a lot of uncertainties, but one thing is certain: my second career will start on February 16, 2024 at the latest.”

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