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Dec 28, 2007

Belize’s best cyclists banned for doping; team denies charge

Story PictureWhen we last left cycling, the sport was steeped in controversy as allegations of doping were being hurled against the country’s most successful team. However, investigations would later reveal that there was no evidence to substantiate the claims, so in the face of legal action the accusers had to apologize for their public condemnations. That should have been the end of the story, but as News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports, the latest developments in the case could dramatically change the face of cycling in Belize.

Santino Castillo, Sponsor, Team Santino’s
“As far as I know, this whole thing is wrong and concocted and totally out of line, unfair, unjust you could use any word, any adjective. But I will have my day, Janelle, I will rebound from this and I will rebound big.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Tonight Team Santino’s sponsor Santino Castillo is still reeling from an official notice that four of his best riders have been suspended by the Belize Cycling Association. In a letter dated Thursday, B.C.A. President Gerald Garbutt maintained that because they failed to show up for drug tests, Mateo Cruz, Marlon Castillo, Gregory Lovell, and Geovanni Leslie have been banned from the sport.

Gerald Garbutt, President, Belize Cycling Association
“That latitude is within my situation as President. I have that right to do that. I’m not going out of the way and it’s not a matter about who like who.”

According to Garbutt, he instructed the Santino riders to show up at Universal Health Services for drug tests but their absence forced him to take drastic measures.

Gerald Garbutt
“When you noh go Janelle, it’s harder penalty than you go and you are proven positive. When you are proven positive and you go, the latitude is two years. When you don’t go, it ranges from one to four years. And I decided to take it for younger riders, one year, and the older rider, two years.”

In his team’s defence Castillo says even though the B.C.A. didn’t follow proper procedures under anti-doping guidelines, he went against his attorney’s advice and sent the athletes to the U.H.S. for tests. However, the cyclists contend that they couldn’t find the doctor chosen by the B.C.A.

Santino Castillo
“We’ve done everything that we needed to do and Janelle gial, to jeopardise the lives … I mean lets face it, all of Belize knows Marlon Castillo and Greg Lovell are the two best talents this country has ever produced in a decade, maybe two decades, maybe since Jermaine days. And to just cut them down at the knees like that for a year, I mean their cycling career will be done and over with. It’s so unfair and I have said, we live in infamy where cycling is concerned in Belize.”

Janelle Chanona
“Knowing that this situation was so sensitive and ticklish with everything, when you couldn’t find Dr. Hidalgo, was an attempt made to contact Gerald Garbutt informally just to say look we showed up but your doctor isn’t here, what do you want us to do?”

Santino Castillo
“No, I didn’t feel that was necessary because my attorney had sent him a letter telling him that if the proper procedures were met we would show up and he, Gerald doesn’t respond to anything. He didn’t respond to that letter, he doesn’t respond to anything. So I didn’t think it necessary to call him and tell him listen, well we showed up because I had proof that we showed up.”

Gerald Garbutt
“So Santino select his doctor who he wants. And he decide that, dah no me decide that. And based on that I had to do what I got to do.”

And while reputations are at stake, there’s also money; approximately fourteen thousand dollars, involved in this dispute as Garbutt’s letter demands the return of all the prizes won by Team Santino’s in the Pine Classic.

Gerald Garbutt
“Based on when you noh show up, you’ve been proven positive because yoh nuh show up and there’s a penalty for that. If you are proven positive, it’s only right that you hand back the prizes that you win. The sponsor of the race was very concerned from day one. He kept calling me up until yesterday and I tell him what position I will take and what I expect to happen. And what will happen is that all riders who came fourth and down the line have to move up. Where the station prize concerned, cause they win all the station prize, it’s another case how we will deal with that.”

Santino Castillo
“I won’t do anything without consulting my attorney and if he advises me to give it back I will, but giving it back would mean that I am guilty, Janelle, and I am guilty of nothing. We won that race fair and square and won those prizes. I mean, let them come test us and bring something positive then I will return that and more. They could sue me for everything I own then if they have proof we positive. But we won that fair and square and giving it back would show that I am guilty and we are not guilty of anything.”

Accusation of the use of performance drugs in local races are not new, but as the cycling community prepares for one of the biggest events on the calendar, the New Year’s Day Cycling Classic, Garbutt says there will be new rules at the line.

Gerald Garbutt
“You’ll find out now that wah lot ah these riders that used to come here wah back off because suspicion is out there, like you seh, that they are dope up. From different teams bring them, all different teams. But we are putting something in place and we are working very fast with it, with the Olympic people to join us and assist us and the U.C.I. people are also working with us to take care of that.”

“Clearly it’s not good for the sport, not good for the image, but we can’t watch what is good or what is bad in the sense that we need to take our position as the Cycling Association, as the President of Association.”

Team Santino’s has initiated a formal protest against the President’s ruling. According to Garbutt, the protest committee is now scheduled to convene technical meetings tonight and over the weekend in an attempt to settle this matter before the next week’s race. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

In an email sent to us this afternoon, Santino Castillo maintained that if the four suspensions are not rescinded, he will permanently withdraw as a cycling sponsor and seek restitution in court.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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