Robert Stannard had been named as one of the eight starters for Australia in the men’s road race at the world championships in Glasgow (6 August 2023) but the Australian Cycling Team has announced that the 24-year-old Alpecin-Deceuninck rider won’t be part of the line-up after being provisionally suspended by the UCI.
World championship news (by Rob Arnold)
Only a few days before he was due to line up for the world championship road race in Scotland, Robert Stannard has been removed from the start list because of a provisional suspension for a doping violation. It is enough for a headline but little else has been explained by the UCI, the national team, his trade team, or the rider himself.
A post on Stannard’s Instagram account explains the action by the UCI but nothing about the reasons for the provisional suspension.
“I look forward to filing my defence and I am confident of being exonerated and continuing my career.”
The statement is also quoted on the site of his management company, Signature Sport, and it concludes that no further comment will be issued.
Stannard races for the Alpecin-Deceuninck team which has emphasised that the matter relates to an “anti-doping rule violation back in 2018 and 2019” when he was part of the Mitchelton-Scott team.
Yesterday the UCI published a notification of six provisional suspensions relating to anti-doping violations with Stannard’s name at the top of the list, but without mention of a “sample collection date”. The PDF on the UCI site also highlights that those named still have a right of reply.
“The UCI wishes to emphasize that the decisions in this table are not necessarily final and there may be appeal rights for the License-Holder and/or other parties in certain cases.”
The news broke a day after Peter Bol successfully cleared his name after a protracted saga in which the Australian middle-distance runner was accused of a doping violation, a situation that highlights how easily an athlete’s reputation can be damaged even when there are errors in the testing and reporting protocols.
Stannard was meant to be one of the eight Australian riders lining up for the elite men’s world championship road race on Sunday in Scotland but the provisional suspension means his place on the national team has been revoked.
“AusCycling was informed of the UCI’s provisional suspension of cyclist Rob Stannard earlier today,” reads a statement from the national federation. “Regrettably, the provisional suspension for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation means that Mr Stannard will be unable to compete in the world championships in Glasgow.”
It remains to be seen if a replacement for Stannard will be found in time for the 271km race.
The Australian Cycling Team now has a total of 120 riders confirmed for competition in the innovative new world championship program that features many disciplines of cycling: road, track, BMX racing, freestyle BMX, MTB, trials, and indoor/artistic cycling.
AusCycling concludes its statement by explaining that no further comment will be made about Stannard’s case, but it also says that the federation “rigorously rejects the stated reasons for the provisional suspension and has signalled his intention to appeal”.
The situation is bizarre for many reasons, including the omission of a date for the violation from the UCI, the lack of details about what the violation relates to, and the timing of the provisional suspension.
We wait for news on a possible replacement for Stannard in the team for the world championships which features a strong line-up despite the late changes.
Australia is ninth in the UCI’s national ranking system and, with Stannard’s late omission, the nine names now listed in the Australian Cycling Team’s elite men’s selection are:
- Simon Clarke (VIC) road race
- Rohan Dennis (SA) time trial
- Luke Durbridge (WA) road race
- Caleb Ewan (NSW) road race
- Kaden Groves (QLD) road race
- Michael Matthews (ACT) road race
- Robert Stannard (NSW)
- Lucas Plapp (VIC) road race
- Harry Sweeny (QLD) road race
- Jay Vine (ACT) time trial
Logic would suggest that either one of the starters for the time trial, Rohan Dennis and Jay Vine, will fill the spot vacated by Stannard but we wait to see if that is possible and what the national selectors will decide to do before the race on Sunday.
If it is possible for an additional rider to be called into the team at such late notice, the Australian Cycling Team will surely be paying attention to results by Michael Storer in France this week. The former King of the Mountains at the Vuelta a España, who races with the Groupama-FDJ team until the end of the season, was second in stage two of the Tour de l’Ain, and winner of the final stage overnight to claim the GC title of the French race.
Based on past performances in the world championships, Michael Matthews is the obvious leader of the Australian team. The under-23 world champion from 2010 finished third when the road events were contested in Wollongong last September.
The course in Scotland doesn’t feature as much climbing as the road race in Wollongong (25 September 2022) so the Australian team has options for leadership with Matthews a proven performer – having finished second in 2015, fourth in 2016, third in 2017, seventh in 2020, and third last year.
– By Rob Arnold