HTC-Highroad’s Alex Rasmussen was said to be “wild with delight” after yesterday’s news that he was cleared to resume racing after a hearing by the Danish cycling authorities.
Rasmussen missed three out of competition anti-doping tests and in normal circumstances this means a two year ban. But as I set out back in September, something seemed to have gone wrong with the UCI’s paperwork and procedures.
Skip a post-race doping control and you’re banned on the spot. But a missed out-of-competition doping control sets off a timetable where written notices have to be sent within a specified period of time. If this doesn’t happen it means there’s no anti-doping violation, the “no show” becomes “no problem”. The missed test is forgotten and does not count. The system allows for two misses but on the third violation, the rider gets a two year ban. With Rasmussen it turns out his third notice was sent some ten weeks after the missed test, instead of within the specified 14 day period.
At the time I wrote with a surprised tone because it seemed implausible that the UCI could announce Rasmussen had missed three tests and was suspended for competition when in fact – on a technicality at least – he hadn’t actually missed three tests. But nevertheless I wrote the piece because it emerged his no-show happened in late April and yet he was still racing right until mid-September, a clear sign something went wrong and the more I investigated, the more it seemed he would able to ride.
Lazy cyclist saved by lazier governing body?
The irony is that we have a sloppy rider being excused because the UCI has been even more sloppy… with the rules. Rasmussen was fired from his team, he was suspended from racing and got plenty of negative headlines. All for nothing and you wish the UCI had checked its paperwork before suspending Rasmussen.
Ask a rider about the worst aspect of their job and chances are it is not risking injury every day or having to race in foul conditions, many seem to hate the ADAMS system and the burden it imposes. If the UCI is to insist riders follow the rules and update the system the least they expect in return is that the UCI follows the same international rules that apply to the testing procedures.
This isn’t to say the UCI is getting it wrong every day, the organisation has tightened up its anti-doping act in recent years. But once is too much. Alex Rasmussen seems a likeable rider and not many people seem to be pointing fingers in suspicion towards him. But imagine if this was his namesake Michael Rasmussen – no relation – who has already been driven out of the Tour de France for missing controls? The mess would be huge.
Plus it’s not the first time timings have not been respected. Stages of the Contador case saw parties go beyond specified time periods and Kolobnev case saw the UCI suspend its rules twice, once over his ejection from the Tour de France and then because the Russian authorities were not fined for their delays in prosecuting the case.
The story is not over. The UCI will be sent the full ruling from the Danish authorities – hopefully within the required time period – and could insist Rasmussen missed three tests and therefore merits a ban. But the risk is that the Court of Arbitration of Sport turns the case around and judges the UCI harshly for ignoring the agreed international testing standards.
For me the best thing would be for the UCI to learn a lesson or two here and for Alex Rasmussen to join Garmin-Cervélo. He had signed a contract with the team and who better than a provider of GPS devices to help ensure he keeps his whereabouts updated?