Mathias Flückiger Claims Innocence in Doping Case, Sample Should Have Been Reported 'Atypical' Not 'Positive'

Sep 7, 2022 at 8:56
by Alicia Leggett  
Mathias Flueckiger was showing teeth today and pulled through good enough for third.

Mathias Flückiger has spoken out about his doping case for the first time since an A-sample doping test detected Zeranol in his system and claims that he has not knowingly ingested the substance, a chemical compound sometimes used to encourage rapid growth in cattle.

"I have not knowingly ingested Zeranol," Flückiger said, without additional comment.

According to a press release from the Thömus Maxon team's media representation, the amount of Zeranol detected in Flückiger's sample was 0.3 ng/mL, many times lower than the threshold value for possible contaminated meat consumption. WADA has reportedly issued instructions for anti-doping authorities in such cases, advising them that detection of a minimal amount below 5 ng/mL should be reported as an 'atypical result,' rather than 'positive.' Those directions were not followed by Swiss Sport Integrity, who reported the sample.

Zeranol is a metabolite of the mycotoxin zearalenone, which can infect grains eaten by livestock and can be passed into the systems of those who eat that livestock. In cases of zeranol detection in doping samples, it is advised that the samples be tested for zearalenone and its other metabolites, α-zearalenol and β-zearalenol - none of which are produced or found in samples when zeranol is administered on its own as an anabolic agent. Zeranol has been banned for use as an anabolic agent in animals in the EU since 1988, but mycotoxin origin is a possibility.

The press release also states that Flückiger tested negative just a few days before and a few days after his reported positive test June 5, though it's unclear where those tests were analyzed. The Lausanne laboratory that found the zeranol in Flückiger's sample is said to use more sensitive technology than other labs.

Flückiger has requested all documentation regarding his test from Swiss Sport Integrity, and all deadlines surrounding the case have been suspended until the documentation is handed over. No B-sample test has been requested to date, but a hair analysis has been commissioned.

Flückiger has assured the authorities that he's willing to cooperate with the investigation.


160 Comments

  • 262 0
 Tin foil hat engaged: Swiss hit job on him for taking out Nino earlier lol
  • 105 1
 Dots are there. Don't blame a guy for connecting them...
  • 159 0
 turns out the swiss are not neutral.
  • 19 0
 Illuminati strikes again!
  • 10 0
 Ok but isn't Mathias also Swiss?
  • 17 1
 That would be movie material but unfortunately the test was before Lenzerheide.
  • 57 0
 @L0rdTom: Yeah but Nino is the Grandfather of the Swiss MTB mafia. You don't cross him and not face the consequences.
  • 17 0
 @prevail: thats exactly what they want you to think
  • 12 0
 @L0rdTom: yes he is but he crashed their beloved Nino.
  • 14 0
 I meant to say "Godfather". Darn it.
  • 7 0
 @HGAB: always make sure to be "friends" with Don Nino.
  • 10 0
 @adrennan: it might still count as neutral if it's just a Swiss taking out another Swiss.
  • 4 0
 Nino made him an offer he can't refuse. He refused, and now he is all over the news.
  • 3 1
 @HGAB:

Seems kinda fishy that Nino is part owner of the Lausanne laboratory.........just sayin'

But perhaps its nothing
  • 2 0
 @enis: is it a fact?
  • 168 1
 Still waiting for the guy that puts out a press release about how he totally did it, and he can't believe the test didn't show the 87 other drugs that were in his system.
  • 6 1
 You can wait long for that because no one wants to be liable for hundreds of thousand of dollars just like that.
  • 14 0
 Jerome Chiotti
  • 1 1
 @handynzl: Yes, but it was 4 years later.
  • 17 0
 Alexander Vinokourov: “I didn’t think they could test for that” (paraphrased) when caught blood doping. Classic.
  • 6 1
 @Mike-Jay: "I heard that I made a transfusion with my father's blood. That's absurd. I can tell you that, with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka."
  • 2 1
 David Millar.
  • 141 1
 So when Nino said he was not normal at the finish, he SHOULD have said he was "Atypical"
The Swiss sure seem to have a way with insults.
  • 2 2
 Nice
  • 6 9
 underrated comment!
  • 4 0
 @eroc43 ...I imagine Nino at home on his couch, pulling a Constanza and wanting to drive back to the track to unleash the more perfect comeback.
  • 4 0
 @iammarkstewart: I am going with jerk store!
  • 129 4
 0.3 PPT is the lowest detection limit for Zeranol by LC-MS and can easily be a false positive. Considering he tested negative a few days before and after I'm going with a not guilty.
  • 62 1
 Agreed. If you are going to ruin someones reputation for life, please be damn sure he did something wrong. 0.3 isn't even supposed to be a positive.
  • 9 4
 @shorttravelmag: But hang on. The negative tests appear to have been tested at labs that don't use as sensitive of technology, so the Lausanne laboratrory may have been the only one able to detect it.
  • 24 0
 Frequent/repeat testing tends to inflate the type I error rate (false positive) as well, so this does increase the likelihood of an incidental finding. Still, I would wait until the investigation is finalized before I jump to any conclusions.

If this was indeed a false positive a whole lot of media outlets and agencies should do some pretty robust messaging of exoneration.
  • 2 0
 @ppp9911: It looks like we're just going to have to wait until the plot thickens again to figure out what's going on.
  • 3 2
 @HGAB: Not sure where you got your information of where the tests were done, but the story states they do not know where the tests were done.
  • 5 0
 Agree, so that throws the 5ng/mL number issued by WADA out the window. WADA they know anyway? Anything below LOQ (limit of quantitation) isn't accurate. Anything below LOD should be considered background noise. I wonder how much later the sample was taken after the event? What's the clearance / half-life of that stuff?
  • 2 2
 @JoeHelvoigt: Sorry. I meant that there is a chance the other labs did not use as sensitive of equipment, not that it is a fact.
  • 12 3
 @JoeHelvoigt: It was done in a lab in Lausanne who is picked by the WADA, Swiss Sports Integrity is the local arm that should make sure those labs follow the given WADA protocol. Which in this case should have been an atypical and not positive sample.

Just read about the Zeranol and where it can be found. I am almost sure that a lot of people who eat meat would test at least "atypical".
  • 2 1
 Alex Zulle admitted it when the Festina team got raided at the Tour in 1998. Most everyone accused was weeping and proclaiming innocence. Alex Zulle, swiss dude, came clean right off the bat.
  • 1 0
 @fourcross: he took down his original post. The post stated that the other tests had been done at a lab with less accurate testings and he said that was why they came back clean. so I asked how he knew where they had been done since the story says they did not know where the other tests were done.
  • 5 0
 @HGAB @shorttravelmag this is a media release from Mathias' lawyer. The "Lausanne lab is more sensitive" media byte could just as likely be part of the spin.
  • 2 0
 @dr-airtime: good point. We have to keep an eye out for those types of self-serving narratives
  • 1 0
 @shorttravelmag: Hope you've never voted for policies or politicians who push for increased drug sentencing
  • 6 0
 As @WestwardHo pointed out in a different comment, this is a PR release and other athletes who tested positive for a banned substance have flat out lied about the lab results in their PR releases. We shouldn't be too quick to drag Flueckinger's name thru the mud, but by no means is this conclusively a false positive.
  • 1 0
 @ol-sidewinder: *After he was held in prison...
  • 2 0
 @ol-sidewinder: Not exactly:

“In the beginning the officials were friendly, but then the horror show began,” Festina rider Alex Zülle said after his arrest. “I was put in an isolation cell and had to strip naked. They inspected every body cavity. The next morning they confronted me with compromising documents they had found. They said they were used to seeing hardened criminals in the chair I
was sitting on. I wanted out of that hellhole, so I confessed.”
  • 3 5
 .3 is more than zero.
If it’s a zero tolerance policy….
  • 7 0
 Tests can be overly sensitive. I once tested positive to Hep C after donating blood. The reading was 0.0000009 units/whatever (I don't remember, but I do remember the six zeros and a nine). There were three other tests, all came back negative. A true positive reading should have had a concentration several million times stronger i.e. 6.2 units/whatever. I didn't have Hep C, but that was technically a positive reading and I can never donate blood again. Sure, not the same as having my career ruined, but a nice everyday example of tests being sensitive outside the realms of efficiency/positivity etc.

I'm sure there's been more than one athlete's life ruined by the sensitivity of tests e.g. IMHO Shayna Jack and Laurence Vincent Lapointe (happy to learn otherwise).
  • 3 1
 @NorCalNomad: drug sentencing is not something I care about at all. I’ve never taken any, it’s not part of my world in the slightest. Not sure what that means though in this case? Flueck isn’t exactly getting arrested here, right?

I’m in Chicagoland, I’d be happy if someone actually gets arrested for anything and not released an hour later.
  • 1 0
 @bikerbarrett: fair play. I do remember at the time he seemed to be to the only one who fessed up publicly, and what seemed quickly, which seemed totally unusual. The other members of his team, like Virenque, were adamantly denying everything, which seemed pathetic after Zulle’s public confession.
I think David Millar had a similar situation. Got popped, admitted his mistake, and came back to the sport without being vilified.
  • 88 1
 The thought of him under a cow, suckling his breakfast, on a cold dark morning is all I need.
  • 35 1
 I do not know, and I don't want to know, why that is the thought that came to you after reading this article.
  • 3 2
 This needs more up votes
  • 12 0
 @HGAB: @DBone95 is actually Homelander...
  • 7 0
 You’re pretty sick Chubbs.
  • 2 1
 Yummmmm
  • 12 0
 I'm glad you clarified it was cow, not a bull.
  • 2 0
 @Brasher:

Wellllllllll if it’s marginal gains these guys are after there may be a bit more protein in the bull’s milk than the cow’s
  • 33 1
 I would be very careful about trusting any info from the PR firm. Shelby Houlihan (US distance runner) had a similar press release when it came to her positive test for nandrolone and her "tainted" burrito. They got out in front of the lab info and claimed a much lower percentage than was actually found. Most people only remember that and never looked at the actual lab report. Turns out her concentration of nand was much higher than her PR people stated.
  • 9 0
 Exactly. This whole article is spin. Trouble is you really need a case to get protested by the athlete all the way up to CAS (Court for Arbitration in Sport) so the CAS full proceedings, decision, and evidence are released for everyone to read. This rarely happens and is often months-to-years after the initial positive. You can read Burritohan's CAS decision and make up your own mind.

www.athleticsintegrity.org/downloads/pdfs/disciplinary-process/en/7977-Award-Reasoned-FINAL.pdf
  • 1 0
 I actually don't remember that part of burritogate (the PR team claiming lower tested levels)... do you happen to have a link? Not doubting you, just interested. I skimmed over @dr-airtime 's link but I didn't see it mentioned (might be in there but it's a long document lol).
  • 3 0
 @dr-airtime: holy shit.

...so she's saying she ordered beef one time, but got secret undropped boarballs instead?

imagine sticking with that! Even at your dream job, if there's this much circumstantial evidence up against you, don't you just kinda throw up your hands and bail? Find another town? Isn't that better than being BoarBallBurritoBoy the rest of your days?

thank you for that link, it's a slow burn but builds so well!

one thing...can you please explain this:
"37. During the hearing, two expert hot tubs were held..."

whwhwhwhat?
  • 1 0
 @bkm303: that is a typical excuse...."the levels were sooooooo low". Often athletes are microdosing so of course the level is going to be low. This excuse sounds way better for Mathias though as there is the potential for beef contamination. The excuse also works really well for the 99% who just listen to the athlete's story.
  • 2 0
 @owl-X: Shelby's sob video is the such a sham. Totally supported by Nike. If you find her video on Youtube near the start she says "I have never hear of Nandralone". You can tell she is lying since she sticks out her tongue after which is atypical. Kenyan middle distance athletes are all over Nandralone since it is actually the drug they have busted for the most in the last decade! Like a world class middle distance athlete had never heard of Nandralone! (a bit off topic..apologies)

See page 7 (worth 60 seconds):

www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/Kenya_%20final_public_print%20%28003%29.pdf
  • 1 0
 @dr-airtime: why is sticking our your tongue atypical? Also it's a video of her, if she did anything atypical, they would just re-do the shot.
  • 28 1
 If the ng/mL doesn’t fit, you must acquit!
  • 20 1
 Sad to see that his reputation is now tarnished forever. He got a lot of hate comments all over social media which cannot really help him psychologically. I do hope that he is indeed not guilty and can come back to racing. The last couple of seasons have been really interesting and he's one of the rare riders that sometimes has the edge over Nino. Only time will tell
  • 22 0
 I did not inhale!!!!
  • 14 0
 Why do they announce these findings without first some investigation and certainly sharing the details of the results with the accused? The whole process in these cases seems very unfair to the rider in question. I certainly support outing drug cheats, but I'd rather see a guilty rider get away with it than run an innocent riders name and career through the mud over what what may be a false finding.
  • 2 0
 People would want to know why Mathias wasn't attending Euro's and World's
  • 19 6
 Does it count as "knowingly ingested" if you close your eyes when gulping from your water bottle?
  • 35 0
 Schrodinger's PEDs
  • 13 3
 My Richie Rude theory is that his supplement sponsor f*cked up his preworkout, but it could not be proven and accusing them would be a breach of contract / libel cause there was no evidence.
  • 2 0
 @4thflowkage: Does he still have that sponsor?
  • 8 2
 @4thflowkage: Is his supplement sponsor a freaking beef distributor? I don't think you find Zeranol in your average run-of-the-mill electrolyte mix.
  • 2 0
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: RynoPower was the sponsor and it’s still listed on his IG so I’m assuming so.
  • 3 0
 @HGAB: RR wasn't Zeranol, it was oxilofrine, chemical that CAN be in preworkouts but is banned in competition.
  • 6 0
 @HGAB: No kidding, around 2009 there was a pre workout called from DS Sports called "craze" it had the usual 1,3 dimethylamylamine in it like many did back then, but also traces of meth lol. To it's credit it was absolutely epic but literally not sleeping for 48 hours and the fact I would fail a workplace drug test was enough for me. In Australia, old full tubs would sell for $400, what a time to be alive!
  • 1 3
 @Brasher: I'll admit that I don't know precisely what I am talking about. I am just exasperated and amused by this situation and commentating on those feelings at a whim.
  • 2 0
 @HGAB: Me neither, but I’m glad you are so forthcoming with your reflections on your emotional state
  • 3 0
 @HGAB: Welcome to Pinkbike, you'll fit right in here.
  • 11 0
 Who was the guy who called the "tainted beef" defense? Give that man a prize
  • 7 0
 Alberto Contador
  • 2 0
 @westeast: also Michael Rogers, who actually got away with it.
  • 4 0
 There was actually a study performed to see how good an excuse "tainted beef was". They found that in a lot of cases eating meat would cause you to test positive. So, it's a valid excuse. And I guess a reason not to eat meat in the US if you are an athlete subject to doping control.
  • 5 0
 @Ososmash: IIRC Contador didn't get off because he claimed he ate beef in Spain tainted with a hormone that is banned in Spain. Rogers got off because he ate beef in China where the hormone isn't banned. At the time of Contador's suspension the Spanish beef farmers were very offended by his argument.
  • 4 0
 @Mike-Jay: why does everyone seem to trust farmers? Just because it's 'banned' ...
  • 8 3
 Quite a lot of snarky remarks about MF based on an infinitesimal amount of this substance, but nobody seems particularly bothered that the meat industry injects this sh*t into animals for greater profits.
If it's beneficial to humans, why is it banned? If it's harmful, why is it tolerated in foodstuff?
  • 3 0
 @tigerfish50 It's not tolerated in foodstuff. It's banned for humans and animals in many places like the EU that actively regulate their agriculture and food industries.
  • 3 0
 They don't inject it into beef in the EU.
  • 5 1
 There's some smart people within our Comment Universe so maybe one of them can explain why the fluck they even test for this and what it does, in practical terms, to the human body in the context of performance sport. I found this and I couldn't quite make out what the fluck it was talking about exactly:

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0041010119300650
  • 5 0
 It looks like it mimics estrogen or inhibits estrogen from testosterone conversion. Much like Aromatase inhibitors
  • 4 0
 as far as I understand it's used to make the cattle fattening process more effective. Means more muscle, less fat in less time. Its use is prohibited in the EU and was banned quite a while ago. But we can still buy meat from other no EU countries over here, so you never know what you get. And Zeranol is kind of a fungi, which means it can also grow in some food by itself. That's how I understand it, hope that's about right
  • 2 0
 @fourcross: Interesting. In the US they recently changed the meet labeling laws so beef can be grown and slaughtered out of country, but so long as it's packaged in the US it can be labeled "product of USA".
  • 2 0
 @westeast: same in Switzerland. Most of the famous dried meet from Graubünden comes in fact from Brazil and is dried with herbs in Switzerland. You really have to eat ones from relatives who actually bought the beef locally to dried it in their basement to get the real deal.
  • 3 1
 If there's anything positive to come from this whole saga it's that What The Flück has permanently entered the Pinkbike Lexicon of accepted comments terminology.
  • 3 0
 Good question, and I can't answer it. But when athletes test positive (or "atypical") for obscure substances like this, it just makes me wonder what else they DIDN'T get busted for.
  • 1 0
 @fourcross: So then I'm guessing that if it filters through to the human via ingesting the meat then it could hypothetically increase muscle construction? Or, as @dytrdr6 mentions, could increase either directly or proportionally the amount of testosterone available to the athlete? Either way, sounds like a long, long way to get to a performance gain with little return, except getting caught for using Zeranol.

Unless I'm misunderstanding and Zeranol is the synthetic for direct intake by the athlete. Then maybe I see the problem. Either way, inhibiting one thing (estrogen) to find a gain in another (testosterone) sounds like an inefficient way to go. But what do I know, I don't race WC XC.
  • 2 0
 @chakaping: Exactly. And who else didn't get caught?
  • 6 2
 I don't do any drugs, but I also NEVER submit to a drug test because of the reality of false positives and the reality that very few of you knuckledraggers comprehend the principles of conditional probability and how they relate to "test results" before covering yourselves in cow dung and going all witch hunt medieval style to feed your broken psychological needs for outrage and cruelty.
  • 4 1
 well.. clearly Flückiger and Thömus Maxon are right, this is not a positive test.. it's an abnormal result. No big deal - it's part of racing - let's be positive here!

Even Nino said so in Lenzerheide: «Du bist ja nicht normal!»!
Right!? Nino didn't scream "Mati you're my sunshine - positive!?" Mati: "Alles Klar!" Wink
  • 5 0
 "It must have been that double cheeseburger I ate over at my friend Alberto Contador's house"
  • 5 1
 The thing that seems suspicious to me is, why did he wait until after World Champs and the final XC race to come out with his statement?
  • 5 0
 I wonder what is the general average level of Zeranol in us mere mortals is
  • 6 1
 If he believed in his innocence, a B-test would have been asked for… and it hasn’t.
Humm
  • 5 0
 Test the B sample and that's it, if you are telling that there is nothing to fear, do the B sample's test.
  • 6 0
 News flash, doper denies doping! More at 11:00!
  • 2 0
 Surely the tests done by all laboratories must have the same sensitivity otherwise it just makes the whole process a laughing stock? Admittedly there is always the chance of small discrepancies between samples taken on the same equipment on the same day but different sensitivities between machines and or techniques - that is plainly wrong.
  • 6 1
 So much for Swiss neutrality...
  • 7 1
 Leeeeevyyyyyyyy!!!!
  • 1 0
 Shades of Alberto Contador. He was found with very small amounts of a drug used to lose weight IIRC. Also used in the cattle industry in some countries. I think Contador was specifically targeted with a more sensitive test and he was busted. Is that what happened here?
  • 7 2
 Let 'em all take drugs, I wanna see records tumble and cranks flex.
  • 7 0
 I'll take a tumble and my chainstay will flex, close enough.
  • 4 0
 Sure, all the recent dopers they've caught were all innocent. Fucking dopers
  • 5 0
 A-Typical cheater's response.
  • 2 1
 If the scenario is true about the actual concentration detected vs WADA limits, then I wonder what legal case Flueckiger has for Swiss Sport Integrity not following protocol. Spending an entire year targeting worlds every waking hour to have that opportunity taken away by gross oversight or incompetence, seems like a pretty good argument for Flueckiger.
  • 4 0
 I hope it all works out for him.
  • 1 1
 this f*cker mr könig from swiss cycling integrity
is a f*ck up!! talking shit about a positiv test!
now he is disapointed about flückigers accusation
of not follow the wada protocol!
damn mate: you just f*cked up mathias career!
hope he burns in hell!!
  • 1 0
 This is just a PR article from his team. THEY claim it has this amount, there is no actual proof of anything here except that his PR group felt the need to jump out in front of this.
  • 5 1
 Flück yeah!
  • 4 2
 Fluckin'-A-typical as usual!
  • 2 1
 @CSharp: Not Normal
  • 3 4
 So everybody on his team that eat pretty much the same things that he does are clean but somehow only he ate something contaminated with something that happens to enhances his performance. There's only two options here, either he ingested that shit on purpose or someone sabotaged him, which is still his responsibility.
  • 3 2
 Or, it was a false reading.
  • 2 1
 the majority of professional roadies are full to the brim with performance-enhancing drugs. Why should xc pros be any different?
  • 4 5
 I believe him. At this point in time, would anybody already at the top levels really jeopardize their careers and sponsors by doping especially when there is so much media exposure to it.
  • 3 1
 Either that or everyone's doping in ways that aren't as detectable or publicized yet. In endurance sports people have to do everything they can to get a competitive advantage, or even just keep up with a field comprised mostly of people who are doping.
  • 3 1
 Think of how long pro- road cyclists were finding ways to dope before it really became a huge and public issue. It may never have been highly reported on if it hadn't caused the number of preventable deaths that it did.
  • 2 0
 Those Mondo burgers will get you every time!
  • 2 0
 And Jon Jones accidentally took turinabol from gas station dick pills
  • 4 5
 Atypical that they screwed up the doping program and got caught. Hard to be positive you are one step ahead of the newest analytical testing. Doping doctor fail!
  • 4 2
 Yep not negative........
  • 3 1
 Should of gone vegan...
  • 1 0
 So where the beef started?
  • 1 0
 10 oz sirloin in the morning and lets hit some climbs
  • 1 0
 "Yes, I smoked the ganja, but I never inhaled."
  • 1 0
 Man, that issss a taaaaasty burger!
  • 3 3
 this one likely will be reversed
  • 9 2
 Looks that way... why would the lab report the way they did when he had only 5% of the minimum "positive" concentration (and probably within error bars of zero)?? Why would they not request a B-sample after reporting it positive?? Crazy.

WOW did he get screwed over if all this is accurate.
  • 5 8
 @bkm303: Further evidence that this was orchestrated by a very salty Nino. Just enough press and evidence to taint Mathias's career regardless of what he accomplishes. It's bloody brilliant.
  • 4 1
 @HGAB: As much as I hate to agree, this is not out of the question.
  • 2 0
 @hellanorcal: Thank you! I've never been much for tin foil hats but this time I'm going to indulge myself, 'cause why the heck not!
  • 1 1
 @HGAB: My thoughts from the beginning. Mess with Nino, get taken out.
  • 2 0
 @spaceofades: The race that produced the positive, ooops 'atypical' result was months way before that incident.
  • 2 1
 My comment is being downvoted by Nino's trolls who are trying to censor this well-founded theory on his behalf!
  • 3 0
 @iamamodel: Uhhh yeah bro obviously Nino sent one of his Swiss XC mafia ninja henchmen into the lab through the air ducts to swap Fluckiger's months-old clean sample with a dirty one before it was tested. Or he sent a big burly Swiss XC mafia enforcer to break kneecaps at the lab until they agreed to release a positive test report.

Upon further reflection though... either that lab (and Swiss Sport Integrity) is wildly incompetent or Fluck's PR guys are doing some very ballsy spin control and claiming utter BS. Not really sure which is more likely.

But the ninja theory is pretty good too.
  • 2 1
 Flüked Again!!!
  • 2 1
 Not this FLUKER again...
  • 1 0
 damn hamburger meat.
  • 1 0
 Dope!
  • 1 0
 Go go Mother Fluck.
  • 1 1
 Test is "positive"... What the Flückiger? lol
  • 1 0
 Atypical spanner...
  • 3 3
 Dude got done wrong!
  • 1 1
 Guilty by the mob.
  • 2 0
 Rome is the Mob!
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