ABSA Cape Epic might be the smartest race of them all.


In response to media queries about the Brandon Stewart case, the Absa Cape Epic has reiterated its "zero tolerance" approach to doping: last year it became the first race in world cycling to issue a lifetime ban to any rider found guilty of illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs.


The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) announced today that an appeal by Stewart for recognition of a therapeutic use exemption had been denied (see SAIDS statement below). Stewart can appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration in Switzerland before he is formally charged for doping.

If found guilty of doping, Stewart would therefore not be able to race again in the Absa Cape Epic, an event which he has completed all 10 times to date - one of only nine riders to do so. Stewart won the Absa African Leader jersey in both 2007 and 2012, and finished in the top five in 2005.

Stewart had already withdrawn from the event this year pending the outcome of his case.

The Cape Epic ban also forbids anybody found guilty of doping from participating in the event in a formal capacity, including as a registered team manager.

"We don't know what the outcome of the formal hearing will be and obviously don't want to prejudge the issue, but it is disappointing that this sort of negative publicity is being aired when cycling is doing so much to get its house in order," said Absa Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak.

Besides the Epic's zero tolerance initiative, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has launched an ambitious independent commission to investigate cycling's doping past. This will include allegations of mismanagement of anti-doping cases by the governing body, the UCI.

The commission was a key element in the manifesto of Brian Cookson, the former British Cycling head who was elected UCI president in late September. Within hours of taking office Cookson had sent investigators to the UCI's Swiss offices to secure computers and documents for the commission.

SAIDS and local cycling authorities have in recent years developed "biological passports" for cyclists, which screen blood and urine tests over a period of time to check for unusual activity. This has widely been hailed as an effective way of curbing the use of drugs in sport.


The Absa Cape Epic's policy:


The Absa Cape Epic conforms to the World Anti-Doping Code as laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and works with the UCI and the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) to ensure the Code is properly implemented at the race and amongst cyclists in South Africa. Stringent and comprehensive doping control is conducted at the race by the UCI and SAIDS.

Any athlete (professional or amateur) sanctioned by their federation or national anti-doping authority (NADA) for use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) after 1 January 2013, whether at another event or out of competition, will be banned for life from participating in the Absa Cape Epic. Not only will the person not be allowed to participate (as an amateur rider or UCI- licensed elite), but the individual will also be banned from being involved on any level including as a team manager.

As is stipulated in the race rules, the organisers reserve the right to test all participants and therefore, per the WADA Code, the onus is on the athlete to check that any substances or methods used do not appear on WADA's current List of Prohibited Substances and Methods.