“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.”  Heywood Hale Broun 1971

Middle aged Slovenian gran fondo racer Igor Kopse is the 2021 UCI Gran Fondo World Champion in the Men’s 45-49 age category, but he is also a controversial self confessed doper who just served a 4 year ban. 

Kopse was banned by the Slovenian Anti Doping Organisation (SLOVADO) in 2016 after he knowingly used an illegal substance while winning the King of The Lake race in Austria and then purposely evaded, avoided and refused to take a required drug test that he knew would come back positive. 

Kopse claimed he had taken cold medication on the day before the race containing the banned stimulant pseudoephedrine (also know as Speed within the sports world) to fend off a cold. After winning the race and being summoned to doping control, his dope logic went something like, “Shit, the test will be positive. My God, you will be tested positive … You will be tested 100% positive,” he wrote in his blog. 

Kopse offered no evidence, test results or documentation supporting his claim.  It is unclear what substance was in his body.  It could have been anything.

Instead of submitting a test sample as required, he just ran away, confessed to evading a doping test and started serving a 4 year competitive ban.

But Kopse ignored the ban. 

In June 2017, 9 months after the start of his ban, Kopse entered the UCI Maraton Franja Gran Fondo World Championship qualifying race in Slovenia, where he finished sixth overall out of 1300 racers and won his age category with a time of 3:47:24.  Afterwards, due to protests from other participants, Kopse was disqualified from the race, but SLOVADO did not penalize him for ignoring the ban and participating in a UCI sanctioned event. 

A normal response from the World Anti Doping Agency, national anti doping organisations or the UCI would be to significantly extend a ban or make it a lifetime ban when an athlete purposely and knowingly violates anti doping orders and rules for a second time. 

Instead of being penalized further, Kopse served out the remainder of his ban and started once again racing UCI gran fondos this year.  He qualified for the 2021 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships at Gran Fondo Istocno Sarajevo in August, where he won his age category race by almost 10 minutes.  

At the Gran Fondo World Championships in Sarajevo last month, the Slovenian dominated the competition once again, winning a World Championship gold medal and rainbow jersey in 3:10:16, almost 4 minutes ahead of Frenchman  David De Vecchi and over 5 minutes in front of Latvian Girts Vevers.

It is standard procedure to test the winners of all age categories at the World Championships – if an athlete complies. At press time, the UCI has not commented on any adverse analytical findings (AAF) as the result of testing at the Sarajevo Gran Fondo World Championships. 

With amateur cyclists now doping more than their professional counterparts, controversial athletes like Kopse, who have been convicted, suspended, banned and then allowed back into the sport at the highest level, will forever cast a dark shadow across the World Championship rainbow jersey.           

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