Yesterday Jeannie Longo’s husband Patrice Ciprelli was buried alive under newsprint allegations from L’Equipe but strictly speaking, Jeannie Longo is not named. For the time being, I’ll put that aside and want to revisit the first allegation, of three no shows for anti-doping controls. I’m concerned about favouritism.
Three missed tests is a serious fault. When a rider misses a test, they are notified and they are put on strict notice following the second “no show”. To skip town with two missed tests is asking for trouble.
Up to Longo to explain
If she was not available for three tests then she gets a ban unless she can prove force majeure. Let’s hear any mitigating evidence, for example if she sent an update that never got through; if a flight to the US was delayed or other factors beyond her control.
Too much Jaja
Only rather than Longo giving explanations, I’m concerned others are rushing to her defence. French selector Laurent Jalabert (pictured, left) gave his opinion to radio station RTL (my translation):
“I’m surprised by the news, because Jeannie Longo is surely the most controlled athlete on the plant and for many years. She therefore knows all about the system here… …Above all I tell myself that Madame Longo who won multiple world titles, French titles, Olympic titles, what would she have to prove today by cheating. No I don’t believe it for a second.”
Only the selector of the Fédération Française de Cyclisme should not be giving personal views in public. He’s got an official role and should seek to support the FFC, the UCI and the WADA code, rather than talk about his beliefs and speculate on the identity of the “most tested athlete”.
Worse, the President of the FFC, David Lappartient, (pictured, right) has been giving views too:
“I think it’s more negligence on her part. Maybe it’s not her thing to put her whereabouts online when she changes her hotel… This story is embarrassing. For Jeannie Longo herself, because it can tarnish her image which she doesn’t warrant at all, and embarrassing for the FFC too.“
I’m not happy with the boss of the FFC supplying potential excuses, to speculate in public. It’s not his role to hypothesise with favourable explanations, he is supposed to uphold the rules and ethics of the FFC. In a later interview he stated “we’re not here to support or damn Madame Longo, we’re here to bring out the facts“…yet he’s done the opposite, volunteering suggestions of “negligence” on her part.
Like a sports team playing in their home stadium, national federations can give favourable support to their riders. The FFC’s top figures are providing excuses for Longo. Yet when Alberto Contador was in the anti-doping hotseat Lappartient said he was “disappointed” by the Spanish decision to absolve Contador:
“Given the state cycling is in, we can’t have any doubt… In doping cases are coming one after the other and we need to be extremely severe and intransigent. I’m surprised that people have given their opinions without knowing all the facts. Before the disciplinary heading had even opened, I heard certain members of the Spanish Federation say that if it was up to them, Contador would be cleared.”
In other words the French boss of cycling deplored those who spoke out on the Contador case and demanded “intransigence”. Yet he’s making public pronouncements that demonstrate support for Longo before the French anti-doping agency has sent him all the facts. You don’t need sharp eyesight to spot the double standards.
The Longo case highlights an example but this isn’t a French problem, it is endemic. The UCI is appealing the Contador verdict precisely because it feared interference in the RFEC’s ruling. To this day there’s been no hearing on the Kolobnev case, indeed rumours abound about him being cleared. But the Russian federation is in breach of the rules by delaying the hearing. And so on.
The whole point of anti-doping rules is to create a fair sport. We might all have our views but speculation is awkward and those who occupy official roles are paid not to have views but to carry out a job. The UCI would do well to remind national federations of this.