Variable rules for Contador and Kolobnev?

At least his saddle is horizontal

Alexsandr Kolobnev has “suspended himself” from competition but I suspect the decision wasn’t taken that freely. After all, here’s the UCI’s press release on the matter:

The UCI Anti-Doping Rules do not provide for a provisional suspension given the nature of the substance, which is a specified substance. However the UCI is confident that his team will take the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity

You don’t need to be Nico Machiavelli to realise the first sentence contradicts the second, that Kolobnev is free to continue under the rules yet the UCI is waiting for his team to take the “necessary steps”. Or more poetically, to throw Kolobnev down the staircase.

It’s a funny old situation where the governing body’s rules say one thing but the governing body itself hints at another. Forget the angle of your saddle, the sport could be in a real mess if fundamental parts of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Code get cast aside when embarassing news pops up.

Worse, it sees the rules vary according to who you are. We are told to respect the rules and “due process” when it comes to the Alberto Contador, here an excerpt from their special statement on the Contador case from four weeks ago:

The UCI Management Committee asks that every sportsman and woman set aside their personal opinions, however valid they may be, and accept this framework, which is the result of a long and rigorous procedure… … the UCI Management Committee asks that we respect Alberto Contador’s right to be treated like every other rider who takes the start of the Tour de France. The prestige of the event warrants it, and the dignity of all athletes demands it.

So there you see the UCI calling for opinions to be set aside and for us to respect the rules and procedures…. apparently because the prestige of the Tour de France and the dignity of athletes. But whether via ambiguous press releases or the failure to insist on due process, overnight the UCI has cast aside the standard “results management” procedure for Kolobnev. It stinks.

If a rider gets busted in the middle of a stage race then the pressure on them to leave is huge, the news of the positive A sample is probably an unbearable burden. But all the more reason for the UCI to stick to its rules to ensure consistency. And cynically even if staff within the governing body want to see Kolobnev ejected he’d probably have gone anyway thanks to ASO leaning on the Katusha team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Kolobnev’s defence lawyer, I’m not really a fan either and even some riders are muttering “no surprise there” about the guy. But rules are different, they are meant to stand above the gossip, prejudice and to withstand media storms. Riders need to believe the rules ensure fair and equal treatment but they’ll look at Contador and Kolobnev and ask questions. Plus it’s not just these two riders, they make an obvious contrast but other riders have seen variable treatment too.

Finally, this isn’t UCI bashing. Instead I’m trying to say the UCI has rules and needs to insist on them, it needs to believe in itself a bit more. Yesterday’s press release undermines the UCI and WADA.

29 thoughts on “Variable rules for Contador and Kolobnev?”

  1. The UCI ask us to reserve judgement on Contador for almost a year, and now after a few hours they seem to have made up their minds on Kolobnev.

    They’re consistent anyway, I’ll give them that. Consistently inconsistent that is.

  2. Brilliant seen. A pure nine dart finish from THE INRNG! Better watch out you don´t end up beeing selected for running the new professional cycling league as is is never funny when the rabits starts shooting back at the hunter..

  3. And let us not forget how rock solid the labs, WADA, and the UCI are on rider confidentiality. News of a positive test is always best delivered by the media rather than official communique! Where are the sanctions for these consistent leaks and rules violations? The relevant officials must be too busy trolling hardware stores for bubble levels.

  4. I think this is a good, useful, and timely post. Inner Ring, as Contador-neutral as usual, points out at the lack of standard procedures when riders test positive during races, and similar cases. The issue becomes public-opinion-driven, and there’s no legal consistency about it. Lessons should have been learnt from Rasmussen’s case and the like…
    The WADA code probably needs some improvements with regard to procedure.

  5. Although, I am of the opinion that CAS should conclude that Contador has taken doping, there is more than one difference between Kolobnev and Contador.

    1 – Kolobnev has been caught during this Tour (so during the race itself and not an earlier one);
    2 – In the case of Contador the authorities (yes, I know the Spanish not the UCI) have already looked upon the case and concluded Conatdor was not guilty. The UCI have appealed, but in the meantime Contador must looked upon as not guilty. I.c. in the case of Kolobnev no authority thusfar has concluded anything.

    And one imporantant similarity, Contador quitted racing after it was told Clenbuterol had been found. Only after the ruling of the Spanish authorities he started racing again.

  6. Rooie: that’s my point, the UCI has stood by the rules. If if it doesn’t like them and has to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport it has said we must respect “due process”. But their rules state Kolobnev has the right to ride until his B sample is reviewed and the outcome of this is known.

  7. The UCI is losing all its credibility like this (that is whatever is left). I completely agree with inrng. – What I love about your blog is the independent thinking, as too often I find the media/people in general opportunistically repeating news and opinions others have stated a thousand times over (so they will never stand alone with what they say) which counts for nothing however. You should think about a career in politics ;).

  8. When you have read all there is to read on the Armstrong situation including all the rlelvant books and articles dealing with his career in cycling (and how he lost a testicle) then you will understand how inconsistent the UCI really is. This is an organisation that needs to be scrapped and the cyclists need to manage their affairs in a more representative way.

  9. @LeonG. Kolobnev was twice 2nd in the world championship and 3dr in the Olympics 2008. He has a stage win in Paris-Nice. Not a small and uimportant rider. Your comment is the kind that makes European cyclingfans roll their eyes. Sorry 🙂

  10. Touriste-Routier I’m with you. It has become standard fare for the first ANYONE hears about a doping infraction is in the media. Clearly someone in the lab has L’Equipe on speed dial. The lab in question should lose its accreditation over this.

  11. One of the key qualities of a governing body, commissaire, or referee (in any sport) should always be consistency of rulings. You may disagree with a rule or a decision – but so long as its consistently applied, at least its ‘predictable’ and you can lobby seperately for change…

    But for ‘selective application’ of rules to occur, that’s a fundamental failure of teh governing body. Completely unacceptable. Quetsion in my mind is – as a racing cyclist and club member, what exactly can someone like me do to effect change at the top…?? Or am I too far from the process??

  12. Wal: we don’t know where the leak came from, the Katusha hotel was visited by police in the afternoon and media were visiting the hotel, in fact some were staying there. The UCI had its press release all ready so my hunch – just that – is that L’Equipe got the news from ASO at the last minute. If it had leaked from the lab then the news would have emerged earlier and not minutes before the UCI announced it and after the police had gone in.

  13. Rabobank took ‘the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity’ by removing the Chicken, so at least there’s a modicum of prior form for this one.

  14. @inrng My point was that that the rules dictate the rider/team be informed before the media. If we are to believe the riders who test positive/non-negative, this often seems to not be the case. If for no purpose other than security, the UCI shouldn’t have a press release prepared prior to informing the rider/team. It doesn’t take a significant amount of time to prepare these press releases; plugging holes and building integrity need to be a higher priority than a 1 hour delay in informing the press in such matters.

  15. Isn’t is just a byproduct of the current climate that it was immediately assumed by all sides (UCI, ASO, Team, everyone in the media, practically all cycling fans) that Kolobnev would leave the race, and subsequently a default position was taken that his “guilt” was proved by assumption. The Russian decision was mocked. His receipt of the Russian version of a Legion D’Honneur type award was pilloried and linked.
    After the decision was issued in Russia there was little criticism of the UCI going to CAS, indeed the UCI would have been hung drawn and quartered by public opinion if they hadn’t been appealed to CAS.

    Yep all the rules all say he could have raced on. The current climate of comment would have been relentless against him doing so though. This can be all be laid at a lot more doors than just the UCI’s. A google search looking for support for Kolobnev prior to today would have been all but a googlewhack. The UCI ultimately had the matter taken out their hands with his sacking and noone else hiring him.
    But if the UCI should be up to the challenge to respect its rules then so should the other sectors of the cycling world be up to the challenge to respect it for so doing. Both are probably equally pass the test.

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