The specter of doping has once again cast its shadow over the cycling world as German cyclist Michel Hessmann of the Jumbo-Visma team faces a potential ban and criminal prosecution after his B sample tested positive for a prohibited substance.
The confirmation came following a request by the Badische Zeitung, which led to the National German Anti-Doping Agency (NADA Germany) affirming the initial findings of an anti-doping rule violation. The incident in question dates back to June 14 when Hessmann, outside of competition, was first found to have a diuretic in his system.
Eva Bunthoff, the press officer for NADA Germany, indicated that the consistency between the A and B samples provides "sufficient evidence of a violation of anti-doping rules." The UCI is now expected to suspend Hessmann, and he may also face charges under Germany's stringent anti-doping laws, which were enacted in 2015.
Hessmann Doping Crisis Deepens
In Germany, doping is not just a breach of sports ethics but also a criminal act. Hessmann, a 22-year-old resident of Merzhausen, is now at risk of prosecution by the German Public Prosecution Service.
Earlier probes had led to a search of Hessmann's residence and the seizure of his electronic devices for further examination. With the B sample backing up the initial test results, Hessmann is under scrutiny for using a diuretic — a class of drugs often used to mask other banned substances that could lead to a suspension of up to four years by the UCI.
While Jumbo-Visma has provisionally suspended Hessmann, the team has remained silent post NADA Germany's disclosure. Though doping violations can carry a prison sentence of up to three years in Germany, it's more common for offenders to receive fines instead of incarceration.
However, this development is a significant stain on Jumbo-Visma's otherwise stellar season, where they celebrated victories in all three Grand Tours of 2023. Hessmann's affiliation with the Dutch powerhouse began in 2020, progressing from the Development Team to the WorldTour echelon over three years.
His last appearance for the team before the revelation of his positive test was a support role for Primož Roglič's triumphant Giro d'Italia campaign in May. Subsequent participations in the Czech Tour and the UCI World Championships Road Race in August have now been overshadowed by the ongoing investigation.
This case serves as a reminder of the sport's continuous battle with doping and the importance of stringent testing and consequences to maintain its integrity.