Jeannie Longo has been acquitted of doping by the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC). Her case relates to three missed out of competition doping controls which you might know by now equates to a doping violation.
Several people have been asking how missing three tests means an athlete can escape a ban. Here’s the explanation…
First let’s return to the case of Danish rider Alex Rasmussen. He escaped a ban after the UCI didn’t follow up his “no shows” with paperwork and the rules state that if these missed tests aren’t written up within a set period of time then they lapse.
Now Longo seems to have escaped a ban thanks to a loophole over jurisdiction. The FFC and the French anti-doping agency the AFLD followed guidelines set by the UCI and WADA over naming Longo in their “testing pool” of athletes who are subject to regular monitoring and surprise controls. Under the rules once an athlete is named, they are in this pool until further notice. It could mean a decade if they have a long career and in the case of Longo, the most evergreen of athletes, even longer.
But those are the rules and French law is different. An amendment to Article L.232-15 of the Code du Sport, 2010-379 on 14 April 2010, requires a sports body in France to inform the athlete concerned that they are in the testing pool every year, to send a letter confirming their status. It seems the AFLD did not do this, thus under the law Longo was not notified that she was in the pool. Legally-speaking, Longo was no longer subject to the testing. She could not miss a test since she was no longer considered to be in the pool.
However, even if she did not get the letter, Longo behaved as if she was in the testing pool. Why? Because she continued to provide WADA with her whereabouts information, updating the system from time to time.
In short it seems she has escaped on a technicality because the FFC and AFLD followed UCI and WADA rules but failed to comply with the new French law from April. Unsatisfactory, no?
Note that just like Rasmussen’s escape last week, this is not the end of the matter. The French anti-doping authority the AFLD can appeal the verdict. But from an initial glance, the French Code du Sport trumps the AFLD’s rulebook any day.
Finally this is another reminder that sporting agencies must ensure the highest standards of administration and legal compliance since they rule on people’s careers and reputations.