Dutch cyclocrosser Denise Betsema received a “provisional suspension” from the UCI following an Adverse Analytical Finding for anabolic steroids at the 2019 World Cup Hoogerheide. Betsema’s B sample also came back positive, but her suspension from competition remained at the provisional level.
With other top women riders skipping the U.S. World Cups and Betsema still showing up on the early-season UCI rankings, observers were waiting for the inevitability of the suspended rider topping the rankings.
With last year’s U.S. World Cup points shuffling out of the 12-month period the rankings are based on, today was the day it happened.
Betsema tops the October 1 UCI rankings with a total of 1860 points, and she continues to be listed as a member of the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal team despite her provisional suspension.
If you scroll down far enough on the rankings page, the yellow color for her name indicates she is “provisionally suspended.”
We contacted the UCI for comment on the status of Betsema’s case and suspension. Below is our understanding of Betsema’s case based on the organization’s response and available information. [You can also read the UCI rulebook Anti-Doping chapter]
After an Adverse Analytical Finding of an A sample, athletes are put under provisional suspension. Those athletes then have the option of having their B samples tested, which Betsema did. In her case, the B sample also showed a positive result for a banned substance.
After a positive B sample test, athletes can accept a sanction from the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal or appeal the decision. We asked about the timeline for her case, and the UCI stated, “Her results still stand, to date, since her case is still ongoing.” The UCI did not comment directly on the appeal process, but its response suggests Betsema is currently appealing her Adverse Analytical Finding.
The UCI rulebook provides reasons for which athletes can appeal positive tests. Two options include “No Fault or Negligence” and use of a “Contaminated Product,” and each has rules about what an athlete’s ultimate sanction can be under those findings.
In a recent interview with Sporza, Betsema maintained her innocence and described the basis on which she is appealing her positive test. (translated from Dutch)
“We don’t know exactly what substance was found. The UCI also does not know. I really want to prove my innocence, but I don’t even know what I would have taken. Was it a contaminated supplement or was it my diet?”
“We don’t know what we are looking for. It is enormously complex. This is the body’s own steroids that differ from other body’s own steroids. I don’t know what the reason is, but I never deliberately used prohibited drugs.”
According to the article, Betsema has hired scientific experts to help present her case, and she is receiving financial assistance from parties that include her Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal team.
Guilty riders’ results are vacated once an official ruling is made and sanction is placed upon them. Since Betsema is currently under “provisional suspension,” her results for the 2019 World Cup Hoogerheide and all subsequent races following the AAF have not yet been vacated.
Said the UCI, “Similar to her ranking, points and results stand at this point in time since the procedure is in progress.”
For now, it appears Betsema will remain near or at the top of the UCI rankings until a final decision is made about her doping case. Results that count toward her current point total will start phasing out beginning next week, and she continues to be suspended from competition.
Stay tuned for more on the status of Betsema’s provisional suspension and its effect on the women’s UCI rankings.
Featured image: Bart Hazen