UCI to appeal verdict over Alex Rasmussen

Friday, 23 December 2011

The UCI is to appeal the Danish verdict that cleared Alex Rasmussen of a doping ban after three no shows. I groaned when I heard the news as it appears Rasmussen has a solid case. But thinking about it, perhaps some good can come of this appeal?

Background
The Dane had a strong season for HTC-Highroad only he missed an out of competition doping control in April, his third “no-show” in 18 months and was promptly fired from his team in September when the news emerged. By this time he’d already signed for the Garmin-Cervélo team.

Normally three missed out of competition tests means a ban but as this blog was first to point out, the UCI mishandled the procedure. In summary they should have sent Rasmussen written notification to confirm the no-show within a fixed time frame of weeks but instead took months to send the letter. Here’s the rule:

[where the UCI] does not bring proceedings against a Rider under article 21.4 within 30 (thirty) days of WADA receiving notice of that Rider’s third alleged Whereabouts Failure in any 18-month period, then it shall be deemed that the UCI has decided that no anti-doping rule violation was committed.

Put simply no letter within 30 days means the no-show doesn’t count and Rasmussen was cleared to ride by the Danish. Now the UCI is appealing and I’m very interested to learn more about the appeal. Because the rules are black and white and the verdict by the Danish federation left little doubt over the timing of the communications sent by the UCI. It is hard to dispute a dated letter.

At first glance it looks like an appeal will only confirm this, whilst adding expense and adverse publicity. But all the same, the appeal is probably a good thing. Rasmussen can ride, this will simmer in the background. I can understand those who say “Rasmussen is disorganised, he’s no doper” but thankfully the anti-doping movement is more than a character test and instead relies on procedure and rules. If an appeal tests these rules and procedures then this is good and it creates precedent and case law for future events.

Paper chase indeed

One matter resulting from this case is that Rasmussen’s employers apparently did not know of the missed tests. Whether at Saxo Bank, Highroad or when signing a contract with Garmin-Cervélo, it seems Rasmussen kept news of the missed tests to himself. You can see the incentive to do this but it just made matters worse. A team knowing he was close to being banned probably would have helped ensure he didn’t mess things up a third time. As the Velocast says perhaps it is time to share news of a missed test with employers so that everyone is aware?

Summary
At first glance taking Rasmussen’s case to the CAS looks risky for the UCI. If the Danish authorities already pointed out embarrassing procedural flaws within the UCI, having the CAS broadcast this will only multiply the humiliation in Aigle. Yet the “sloppy rider meets sloppy governing body” aspect is unsatisfactory, after all three no shows means a ban. Having this reviewed at the highest level can only help clarify things and the CAS verdict should make things clearer. As much as we might prefer to forget this case, a quick check can’t do any harm. Plus it won’t take long to rule on this, this is miles from Contador’s saga.

Talk to riders and updating their whereabouts is one of the worst parts of the job, an invasive and administrative burden. But if athletes are to go through with this then they have to sense it is worth it. If they have to log on all the time, they don’t want to see rivals making a mess of the system nor discover that UCI struggles with the requirements. Hopefully this appeal can improve the system for everyone.

Pin It

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronan December 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I think a few of the athletes have already been on twitter complaining about issues with the latest version of the ADAMS system.

I understand it’s necessary, but it should also be incumbent on the authorities to make the process as streamlined and hassle free for athletes as possible. This in no way exonerates Rasmussen, forgetfulness is no defence, but you have to feel that there’s an inappropriate balance between forgetful and doper.

Reply

Touriste-Routier December 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Since the rules are quite clear, it seems quite unfair for Rasmussen to have to pay to defend himself again, both in terms of money for his attorneys, arbitration fees, and in time/distraction. Does CAS operate under a loser pays basis? Are attorney fees reimbursable from the losing party?

Reply

Chris December 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I bet this has ruined his Christmas!!

Reply

Shawn December 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I disagree with your conclusion. Lessons should ALREADY be learned without going through the appeal process. If anything of value is to be found in the appeal, I imagine that it sends a ‘message’ of intolerance towards missing tests. (This is much the point of all punishment.) In other words, the UCI will probably lose the appeal but they will make the rider’s life as difficult as possible even after messing up the procedures for notification.

Reply

Simon Fielder December 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I agree with many of the points here. You would hope that the UCI get their house in order after this case. It’s simply embarrassing to find yourself in a position where your internal processes and rules are not adhered to.
I think the decision to go to CAS is odd as this only goes to extenuate the UCI’s failings. Potentially this will become clearer over time. Perhaps it’s simply internal politics within the UCI, though I’m just speculating with that one.
With regards to the ADAMs system I don’t have much sympathy with the athletes to be honest. They’re professionals are this is just part of their job, much like I have to do a timesheet each friday.

Reply

The Inner Ring December 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Shawn: well Ideally ther would be noissed tests. My view is more that if the UCI is appealing then hopefully this can settle the matter for good. Like you say though it shouldn’t take an appeal to learn to apply your own rules and procedures.

Reply

Touriste-Routier December 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

To anyone who thinks the whereabouts system is easy, universal, and just for pros, please read the following simple view point from a young athlete:

http://www.pavepavepave.com/2011/01/20/letters-from-abroad-badgood-news-for-valentin/

It isn’t the same as recording a time sheet for work for the past week; it is a statement of your whereabouts 7 x 24 for the next 3 months, with harsh consequences for non compliance. Sure, one might get fired for multiple errors or omissions in time cards, but you generally are not prevented from finding similar work for the next 2 years.

In full disclosure, I was one of the manager’s of the author’s team. Valentin went on to finish 7th at Worlds in the U23 race, and is currently enrolled in medical school.

Reply

Larry T. December 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm

With GPS technology used to keep track of folks sentenced to home confinement by the courts, one would think someone like Garmin would happily come up with a gizmo the UCI could issue to a rider who could simply strap it on (or to be really efficient have it surgically implanted under the skin?) with a coded transmission so the dope testers could find them 24/7/365 without them having to complete all the detailed information on whereabouts.
I agree with you on the Rasmussen case, even if UCI ends up getting slapped down for screwing up their own paperwork, do we really want this guy to get off on a technicality ala Longo? The details of how he managed to miss 3 tests strain credibility a bit to me.

Reply

Darren December 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I agree with Simon Fielder! They are pro athletes! With the stressed importance of the Bio Passport over the past few yrs you would think that the riders could take it seriously without it having to lead to this legal circus act! I guess the UCI had to ‘get medieval’ on somebody’s ass! Real funny (and sad) to see the ‘gimps’ at UCI screwing up on their own clear-cut procedures! When you think about it in a broader sense it seems like the pro bike racing world is like a symbolic representation of Pulp Fiction!!! Are we cool, Vincent!!!

Reply

channel_zero December 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Pat and Hein are okay with dopers and doping. Doping makes a great show. Al l the rules are great for appearance sake, but really they just don’t want anyone else dying. So if they screw up an enforcement effort, it all works out well for the UCI.

How tough is the UCI on doping? I believe the UCI is still sitting on some 5 secret cases. Am I wrong?

Reply

OJT December 25, 2011 at 12:50 am

Please let us know once the appeal dates are set. I’m keen to understand the UCI’s rationale for pursuing the case this far. Hopefully there is more information available to them than has come to light so far, otherwise they’re seemingly wasting time and money.

Reply

nick December 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I don’t understand why cycling needs to have a system of keeping track of riders at all times when every other professional sport, to my knowledge, doesn’t require such sophisticated and intrusive procedures. The UCI is a governing body that dictates the rules of RACING, and when the riders aren’t racing, they are regular people who deserve their right to privacy. You don’t see the UCI doing random checks on their bikes to see if they’re training on “legal” bikes.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: