Longo’s escape loophole

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Code du Sport

Out of date

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.

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{ 18 comments }

Andy R November 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

This and the Rasmussen case don’t suggest that teh authorities are keen to clamp down on doping. Will the FFC come under scrutiny now?

The Inner Ring November 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Andy R: I think the FFC wanted to ban her for this but it missed the update to the French law in April. It needs to talk to its lawyers about how this happened. Like I say above, sporting bodies need to be watertight on procedure and law because they hold so much power.

The Whereabouts system imposes a duty on athletes to name where they will be every day of the year and to update this the moment plans change, it is only fair to expect a federation to be equally energetic in following national laws.

jonny November 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I have a big problem with this. How can any organisation responsible for promoting a sport also be responsible for sanctioning its stars in that given sport? There seems a huge conflict of interest here.
Is it not about time that all drug testing/monitoring/sanctioning was carried out by one organisation with no affiliation to the cycling federations?
It just makes you have even less faith in the whole circus that is pro cycling these days.

Skippy November 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Congrats to Jeannie for giving the ” Petty minded a black Eye”!

So many have tried to belittle her reputation and make her retire without success !

Jeannie will retire when she feels that there is no longer any sport in tweaking their noses !

Viva LA FEMME !

Big Mikey November 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Not saying we know all the facts here, but I’m hearing about faxes between Jeannie’s coach, Papp, and a Chinese PED supplier. That sounds fairly damning, if not for Longo, for her coach/husband. But he was cleared recently.

Maybe the French are no better than the Spanish when it comes to protecting their riders from prosecution. F-ing Euros.

The Inner Ring November 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Big Mikey: that’s ongoing and concerns her husband/coach. Today was only about the whereabouts information and missed tests.

Larry T. November 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Longo, who was sanctioned for doping back in 1987 I think, got away with one here. She knew full well she was subject to testing but also knew French law required the yearly notices. To cover her a__ she files the whereabouts stuff and crosses her fingers the vampires won’t come knocking while she’s using the stuff hubby bought from Papp. When they DO come knocking, she’s not around (3 times! What a coincidence!) then claims she’s not subject to the out-of-competition tests since she didn’t get the yearly notices. Pretty slick…for now. Somehow I think when/if she’s back in the testing pool the dope squad will make special efforts to catch up with her for some extra testing. She’s never been anyone I admired, with a nasty personality and little regard for her competitors over the years. Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll decide to hang up her wheels before she gets caught (again).

runrider November 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Surely if you hold a racing licence from your National Federation you then accept that you are to be tested as part of that system & the UCI requirements? There is too much grey area here with these Federations all having their own rules & systems, Rasmussen got off for this reason as well. Perhaps the UCI need to take this admin function away from the National Federations so that there is one clear system for all & no little ‘twists’ to allow people to walk away from their actions.

Four year bans for doping should also be introduced, with a 12 month period racing at the level below the one you were at when you left the sport. That would stop the freaks coming back next year in Spain & Italy, the ones that damage the reputation of the sport just by showing up.

Chuffy November 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Larry T – “She knew full well she was subject to testing but also knew French law required the yearly notices. ”

I’d put £5 down that she didn’t know either, until her lawyers sniffed it out. I agree that she’s dodged one hell of a bullet though.

This seems like a dismal lack of professionalism from the FFC – is there an issue with lack of funding and sufficiently experienced staff? I prefer cock-up to conspiracy 9 times out of 10.

Davido November 23, 2011 at 4:31 am

Don’t know if she’s guilty-guilty or just guilty or completely innocent, but regardless of how you feel about the outcome, it sure happened a hell of a lot faster than the Contador case.

Alex November 23, 2011 at 5:41 am

To me this highlights a short-coming common to sports administration bodies at all levels and sports – that they are run on an ad hoc, ill-funded or incompetent basis, often by people without the requisite legal and task-specific training. The phrase “dad’s army” springs to mind! Put that up against vested commercial interests in dopers and their suppliers, and it is no wonder that some slip through the net.

Feargal November 23, 2011 at 9:47 am

An athlete who knows all the rules and can then play the system is a very smart person, or has smart advisors, which highlights the human nature of getting ahead, but does not help our sport.
At the end of the day the sport looks bad, which brings me back to my never ending rant.

The sport must not only be clean and professional, it must present as clean and professional, otherwise even the sugar daddies will pull their sponsorship, then where will the sport be?

Simon E November 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

“I prefer cock-up to conspiracy 9 times out of 10.”

I agree, the chance of an error – particularly an error of omission – is much higher than collusion. Working for a food certification organisation, I’m conscious that, even with many checks in places, an inadvertent oversight is all too easy. Constant vigilance is critical, but we are all human. Let’s hope the organisations concerned tighten their procedures to prevent such errors happening again.

Joe 90 November 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

@Larry T. About 15 years ago I had the pleasure of racing against Longo and her husband as a Cat 3 in Colorado. I never spoke a word to her husband but Longo was gracious and would direct the group in pack skills without being pedantic (We needed them). She also graciously congratulated the winner and offered a lot of praise. She MAY be a doper, and that’s awful, but unlike a lot of people, I wouldn’t mind having a beer with her.

Skippy November 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Great to see @larry t ‘s comment , Jeannie and her husband have always been friendly towards ALL that i have seen her with since when i met her at the Sydney 2000 Olympics .

Those reading my Blogs will know that i think in the same way as Runrider , that 4 year disqualifications , locked and tagged in the house rather than the clink ( let them support themselves rather than the community ) and return to a lower racing grade for several years would be the deterrent to ” get rich quick doping ” !

UCIless is demonstratably unable to control races and the Anti Doping required to beat the Pharmacists that profit from those losers seeking shortcuts to fame !

Larry T. November 24, 2011 at 8:32 am

I didn’t want to go into the reasons for my dislike of Longo beyond what I posted but I have a close, personal relationship with someone who would counter all those “she’s so nice” arguments from direct experience. But since we like to keep things civil here (unlike on other places where comments are posted) I’ll leave it at that.

Dave H November 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

@Larry T
Great champions usually have little regard for their competitors, that is part of what makes them great champions

Respect Cycles April 15, 2013 at 7:25 am

I think they should all be allowed to dope- the more the merrier- then we can really see what humans are capable of: it’s there bodies why not?..

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