Toon Aerts sends ‘big and heartfelt middle finger’ to UCI after doping suspension

29-year-old handed two-year ban last week after failing to prove innocence

Toon Aerts in a cyclo-cross race
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cyclo-cross rider Toon Aerts has expressed his disdain for the UCI, sending the governing body a “big and heartfelt middle finger”, after he was suspended for two years following a positive anti-doping test. 

The Belgian returned a positive result for the testosterone-boosting drug Letrozole in an out-of-competition test in January 2022. After a one and a half year investigation, the UCI found Aerts guilty of an anti-doping rule violation, and served him a two-year suspension, backdated to February 2022. 

In a “final statement” shared on social media on Monday, Aerts maintained his innocence and took aim at the UCI. 

“1.5 years I had to wait for this final verdict,” he wrote. “I may have typed in the word Letrozole on Google 5,000 times during this period… hoping to find the missing piece of the puzzle. But we didn’t find it. Now where on earth did it come from? I still don’t know exactly how this got into my body. But I can’t blame myself. I threw thousands of euros at it, visited several universities, had several reports written by experts.

“Never was I invited by the UCI or given the chance to speak to anyone physically. Everything was via email or registered mail. We were always bound by tight deadlines to reply within a few days, which often included holidays. But on the other hand, we always had to wait weeks, sometimes months, before we could receive anything back.”

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Aerts's defence claimed the substance was ingested involuntarily in a contaminated food supplement. However, the UCI deemed that he "had failed to establish how the prohibited substance entered his body". 

Earlier this year, the Belgian took up a job as a physical education teacher in a school. He wrote in his statement that his character has changed since his provisional suspension, becoming “unlovable” and “los[ing] a bit of faith in humanity”. 

“After a year and a half in a legal tug-of-war, now portrayed as a chaeter. Along with my entire family and surrounds suddenly labelled losers. It hurts and it doesn’t feel right,” Aerts said. 

“Well here UCI, a bit and heartfelt middle finger! You could have made us the happiest people on earth… But who is Toon Aerts in the big circus of cycling?” 

The Belgian’s compatriot Shari Bossuyt, with whom he shares an agent, is also at the centre of an investigation surrounding Letrozole, having tested positive for the drug in March. 

“I only hope my case rings a bell with everyone,” Aerts said, “because I am holding my heart for riders and athletes who may go through exactly the same thing. My heart is bleeding for Shari who is in the same situation.” 

Aerts closed the statement by saying he will “definitely” return to racing once his suspension comes to an end in February 2024. “Hopefully one day we will also receive the appropriate apology,” he added. 

The UCI has said its decision may be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within a month, and that it will not comment further on the matter.

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