There's no more bad blood in Genèvieve Jeanson's life.
Cycling's 22-year-old Machine from Lachine, Que., was cleared of drug use suspicions by the International Cycling Union yesterday, after a urine test found no trace of the blood boosting agent EPO (erythropoietin).
At the same time, Canadian teammate Lyne Bessette ,28, of Knowlton, Que., apologized for scathing comments made when Jeanson was pulled out of the world championship road race in Hamilton on Oct. 11 because of a red blood cell count that aroused suspicions of blood doping.
"I never had doubts [this would be the result] Bessette said. "But it's true that maybe I was a little hard. I'm sorry." She said she spoke hastily in the bustle of the race environment when cyclists only had the brief news that Jeanson's red cell count was over the limit. Bessette spoke hotly of how cheats "need to be punished," and added "We were waiting for this to come out. Today, it's out."
Yesterday, she reflected on a more complete picture and said, "things change . . . There is not war between us."
Jeanson celebrated her exoneration on vacation in France. A spokeswoman for her professional cycling team, Rona-Esker, said Jeanson and her personal coach, Andre Aubut, were declining all interviews, but in a statement issued on Jeanson's behalf, the cyclist said she was "neither surprised nor relieved" because she has not used drugs to affect her red blood cell count. She did, however, say she would re-evaluate her use of a (high-altitude) hypoxic tent.
She referred to the tent when she was kicked out of the 124.5-kilometre women's world championship road race. She'd used the tent since 1998 to simulate high-altitude conditions and make her body produce more red blood cells. The 1999 world junior champion in time trial and road race believed the tent "did me good."
The 5-foot-4, 110-pound athlete tried to stay close to the allowable limit of 47 per cent red blood cells (for female athletes) with this technique, but factors such as dehydration or the menstrual cycle can change the volume of fluids in the body and cause a swing of a few percentage points -- enough to put an athlete over the line.
"I'm very glad to have these new test results as an answer to anyone who has suspicions about my integrity, especially those people who were in such a hurry to condemn me," Jeanson's statement said. "On the other hand, I've had many expressions of sympathy and confidence from friends, my sponsors and cycling fans. I want these people to know that their trust is well founded, and I won't betray it.
"I'm probably one of the most frequently tested cyclists in Canada, male or female. Since the start of this season, I've been tested more than 10 times, including two surprise tests. All these tests have come back negative, and there was no reason why this latest test result should have been any different."
Jeanson must retest her hematocrit level to regain her racing licence.
Bessette said the episode shouldn't tarnish Jeanson's career. "She's been punished enough, not being allowed to participate in the championship road race in her own country. That's punishment," Bessette said.
Sean O'Donnell, the high-performance director for the Canadian Cycling Association, said the organization could face an uncomfortable situation next summer with incompatible women on national and Olympic teams together.