His fight continues. The fact that he can finally talk about it makes that battle visibly more bearable for cyclocross rider Toon Aerts. “I’ve started to look at many things differently.”
A contrast could hardly be greater. Just before the turn of the year, Toon Aerts (29) held a press conference about the two-year ban that the UCI wants to impose on him. With long hair and in tears, he gave text and explanation.
The new year has just started, or the same Toon Aerts has a short shave and can smile again. A huge burden has been lifted from his shoulders now that he no longer has to put up a smoke screen.
In recent months, Aerts would have preferred to explain each step of his search for the possible cause of his positive doping test.
When a clue emerged as to where the letrozole metabolite in his body might have come from, “I wanted to put up banners all over Rijkevorsel proving my innocence,” Aerts says on the Play Sports podcast Cross.
Six months less punishment would make a big difference
However, the procedure is so complex – due to the small quantities, the legal procedures that must be correct and the various parties involved – that completely open communication is still not possible.
For example, without conclusive evidence, an accusing finger pointing at a particular product or its previous shift could lead to claims for damages.
Importantly for Toon Aerts, the UCI has acknowledged that it concerns the “inadvertent use” of a banned product. “Although two years is still a harsh sentence for that, I think.”
So his quest continues. If he and his entourage can demonstrate exactly where the banned product came from, a further reduction in the sentence may follow. Six months less punishment would make a big difference.
2.5 years would be a very long time without competition and make it difficult to find a new team.
“At the moment I have already lost a road racing summer and a cross winter. If the suspension lasts two years, I will lose another summer and a winter. Then it will be 2.5 years after my last cross in Brussels in February 2022 I’ll race again .”
“It’s a very long time not to have competition and not to experience the routine of a match day.”
“Besides, it would also be more difficult to find a new team if I wasn’t allowed to race again until mid-February (when the cross winter is coming to an end).
“I would like to have more contact with the management of the former team”
Toon Aerts’ contract with his former team, Baloise – Trek Lions, actually ran until the end of 2022, but was terminated at the beginning of September.
A decision that Aerts could live with, although he also admits in the Cross podcast that he was hoping for a little more support on a human level.
“I still don’t drive so I understand their proposal to terminate my contract, although it was difficult at the time.”
“The team also continued to help me. For example, when I went on an internship to Mallorca to keep myself busy, but my bike broke in the plane. The team immediately prepared a new bike for me.”
“In addition, I would have liked to have had a little more contact with the management of the team. It could have been a little more. Visit me at home and ask how I was doing. In the end, it has been 9 good years.”
My test scores last summer were the best ever.
Show Aerts 2.0
When Toon Aerts will return to the pitch is still uncertain. Yes, the day that happens, he will be a different rider.
“I have started to look at many things differently. In part 2 of my career I want to be a different rider. I have come to realize that not every race is as important as the World Cup. I think I have put in a lot of pressure on myself.”
“Now that I have also watched the cross as a regular fan, I realize that a match in Kruibeke or Meulebeke is not as important as in Koppenberg.”
“I have cycled a good 25,000 kilometers in 2022. That is more than in other years. My test results in the summer were my best ever. At the same time, I could think a lot while cycling.”
“I am convinced that I will be able to pick up the thread again as a cruiser.”