The ongoing battle between the UCI and Roman Kreuziger continues. Yesterday saw a fresh round with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) holding an expedited hearing from Kreuziger over the provisional suspension issued by the UCI. The result is that he’s banned from racing and won’t do the Vuelta a Espana.
Strangely the UCI has yet to announce whether it will actually prosecute Roman Kreuziger. We’ve had the news earlier this month of the provisional suspension. But all other bio-passport cases – with the exception of Denis Menchov – have seen a short statement from the UCI announcing a prosecution. Yesterday the UCI added “the hearing to decide on whether or not the rider has committed a doping offence will follow” which begs the question of why it hasn’t happened already.
Not in the rules, but in the spirit
Chapter 8 of the UCI’s anti-doping rulebook says the following:
235 If analysis of an A Sample has resulted in an Adverse Analytical Finding for a Prohibited Substance that is not a Specified Substance or for a Prohibited Method… …the Rider shall be Provisionally Suspended pending the hearing panel’s determination of whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation.
Note the “analysis of an A Sample” wording as this is part of the standard toxicology approach to anti-doping where a lab is searching for banned molecules. With the passport there are no A and B samples. So in the literal sense the rules simply don’t mention what happens in the event of a passport case, this is uncharted territory. The UCI’s response though has been to suspend Kreuziger presumably arguing that the suspicion generated from the statistical evidence of the bio passport is equal to the suspicion of an adverse A sample. WADA and other sports federations do this, for example the IAAF, governing body for athletics, changed its rules to allow athletes to be suspended if the athlete passport panel unanimously agrees it’s highly likely there’s doping. The UCI needs to follow suit with updated rules: a copy/paste task.
Why this matters
Whether you’re a fan or not of Kreuziger isn’t important, the governing body went beyond the text of its own rules to stop a rider from racing. It ought to make us uncomfortable when a governing body tasked with setting and upholding the rules starts bending them. It can argued it’s right to bend them for the right reasons but it’s risky when the UCI starts acting like a Sheriff in a frontier town.
You can see the logic if a rider is under suspicion then they should be suspended. Indeed this had been an unofficial procedure with riders stopped from racing during the investigation. Think Carlos Barredo or Jonathan Tiernan-Locke stopped by Rabobank and Sky respectively. Tinkoff-Saxo did the same with Kreuziger taking him out of their Tour de France squad but now want to race him and say the allegations of dodgy data date back to his time with Astana. But it’s this precedent that makes you wonder why the UCI didn’t update its rules, relying on teams to uphold a soft version of the rule is why we’ve got the mess.
The second point is the legitimacy of the bio passport itself. It’s a great tool but justice needs to swift. The reasons for some of the delays are well set out at cyclingtips but there have been delays. Kreuziger needs to be “charged” for an anti-doping matter and formal disciplinary procedure started otherwise some risk losing patience with the passport.
One advantage here though is that provisional suspensions relating to the passport are now a formal matter, there won’t be any suspicion should a rider take a long break from racing. From now if there’s a suspension the UCI is bound to announce it.
@Roman86_K stay cool! We lost the battle but not the war. Remember, we had to let Moscow to Napoleon once, before we kick him out of Russia
— Oleg Tinkov (@olegtinkov) August 20, 2014
As an aside one interesting observation is Oleg Tinkov’s support for Roman Kreuziger. Many team owners would be horrified to find a rider linked to a bio passport case. There’d be all sorts of cautious language. Rabobank team managers couldn’t afford to side with Carlos Barredo while their sponsor was deciding whether to stay in the sport. Team Sky talked of “due process” and didn’t comment much more on Tiernan-Locke. Katusha opted for total silence over Denis Menchov’s phoney injury and retirement story. It’ll be interesting to see what Tinkov does next.
A small win for the UCI and reinforcement for the bio passport. In the past the UCI didn’t suspend riders on a provisional basis, relying on teams to bend. Now the CAS ruling allows the UCI to stop anyone from racing if the expert panel wants to open a case. But we would not have had this appeal if the rules were clearer and Chapter 8’s scope was broader than the reference to A sample findings. This part of the UCI rulebook needs to be redrafted and suggests the anti-doping rules among WADA members is still variable among governing bodies.
Kreuziger can’t ride the Vuelta nor plan for much else either. Since June the UCI has promised to start disciplinary proceedings. The “new” power of provisional suspension could see riders suspended for long periods prior to hearings because of the complex nature of passport cases. Will the case turn into a lawyer-fest with Oleg Tinkov laying siege to the UCI?