Longo and French bias

Jalabert + Lappartient

Yesterday Jeannie Longo’s husband Patrice Ciprelli was buried alive under newsprint allegations from L’Equipe but strictly speaking, Jeannie Longo is not named. For the time being, I’ll put that aside and want to revisit the first allegation, of three no shows for anti-doping controls. I’m concerned about favouritism.

Three missed tests is a serious fault. When a rider misses a test, they are notified and they are put on strict notice following the second “no show”. To skip town with two missed tests is asking for trouble.

Up to Longo to explain
If she was not available for three tests then she gets a ban unless she can prove force majeure. Let’s hear any mitigating evidence, for example if she sent an update that never got through; if a flight to the US was delayed or other factors beyond her control.

Too much Jaja
Only rather than Longo giving explanations, I’m concerned others are rushing to her defence. French selector Laurent Jalabert (pictured, left) gave his opinion to radio station RTL (my translation):

“I’m surprised by the news, because Jeannie Longo is surely the most controlled athlete on the plant and for many years. She therefore knows all about the system here… …Above all I tell myself that Madame Longo who won multiple world titles, French titles, Olympic titles, what would she have to prove today by cheating. No I don’t believe it for a second.”

Only the selector of the Fédération Française de Cyclisme should not be giving personal views in public. He’s got an official role and should seek to support the FFC, the UCI and the WADA code, rather than talk about his beliefs and speculate on the identity of the “most tested athlete”.

Worse, the President of the FFC, David Lappartient, (pictured, right) has been giving views too:

“I think it’s more negligence on her part. Maybe it’s not her thing to put her whereabouts online when she changes her hotel… This story is embarrassing. For Jeannie Longo herself, because it can tarnish her image which she doesn’t warrant at all, and embarrassing for the FFC too.

I’m not happy with the boss of the FFC supplying potential excuses, to speculate in public. It’s not his role to hypothesise with favourable explanations, he is supposed to uphold the rules and ethics of the FFC. In a later interview he stated “we’re not here to support or damn Madame Longo, we’re here to bring out the facts“…yet he’s done the opposite, volunteering suggestions of “negligence” on her part.

Coq au vin, a better alternative

Home advantage
Like a sports team playing in their home stadium, national federations can give favourable support to their riders. The FFC’s top figures are providing excuses for Longo. Yet when Alberto Contador was in the anti-doping hotseat Lappartient said he was “disappointed” by the Spanish decision to absolve Contador:

Given the state cycling is in, we can’t have any doubt… In doping cases are coming one after the other and we need to be extremely severe and intransigent. I’m surprised that people have given their opinions without knowing all the facts. Before the disciplinary heading had even opened, I heard certain members of the Spanish Federation say that if it was up to them, Contador would be cleared.”

In other words the French boss of cycling deplored those who spoke out on the Contador case and demanded “intransigence”. Yet he’s making public pronouncements that demonstrate support for Longo before the French anti-doping agency has sent him all the facts. You don’t need sharp eyesight to spot the double standards.

The Longo case highlights an example but this isn’t a French problem, it is endemic. The UCI is appealing the Contador verdict precisely because it feared interference in the RFEC’s ruling. To this day there’s been no hearing on the Kolobnev case, indeed rumours abound about him being cleared. But the Russian federation is in breach of the rules by delaying the hearing. And so on.

The whole point of anti-doping rules is to create a fair sport. We might all have our views but speculation is awkward and those who occupy official roles are paid not to have views but to carry out a job. The UCI would do well to remind national federations of this.

25 thoughts on “Longo and French bias”

  1. hear hear

    Recently, in The Netherlands a Dutch sprinter has been suspended for a year after three missed controls. Even though he had a good excuse for his third missed control.

    The third missed control was on the day he was competing at the Grand Prix of Zurich (or Berlin). He was a reserve for this Grand Prix and called upon late in the evening before the event that another athlete wouldn’t show up. He rushed in the middle of the night by car to be on time, but forgot to let the doping-agency know of his where-abouts. Because of this he missed a control at home while he was sprinting in Zurich. This excuse wasn’t good enough.

  2. The French are saying “Nooo, not Jeannie. She’s a national hero. We don’t turn our backs to heroes!” Just like they still believe DSK is a saint… If it would have been Van Moorsel the reaction would have been a lot different.

  3. Rooie: that’s very tough but given he was on two warnings, everyone knew the risks. Sadly examples like that serve to remind the others that they can never forget to update.

    Timo: ah, but if it had been Van Moorsel, would the Dutch authorities offer public support? My point isn’t just the example of French bias but the way this happens in many countries.

  4. French bias in the Longo case in the first few days immediately after incriminating evidence has come to light ? Absolutely.
    American bias in the Armstrong case for years, despite loads of incriminating evidence has come to light? Absolutely.
    Spanish bias in the Contador case? You know the answer!
    Repeat this for just about every country with perhaps the exception of Germany which has basically rejected cyclism as a whole.
    The moral of the story: criticize patriotism which leads just about every federation to cover “their” cheaters, yes. But don’t address the issue in terms of individual cases (as this fuels the problem especially when the focus of outrage is on Spanish, French, Italian lapses on an english-speaking web site…).
    Ultimately, the problem with leaving national federations to enforce anti-doping rules is that it doesn’t work. It’s as tough Army generals were expected to punish their own troops for war crimes. It won’t happen. Another failure of the UCI on the “anti-doping” front.

    And this is of course a reminder that if you win major races in cycling, you dope period — no matter where you were born!

  5. Martin: yes, there is a risk of “trial by media” but mayeb this would be reduced if people had more faith in the institutions to act?

    Oliver: I deleted your duplicate comment. I agree on the issue that it is endemic, but the French case gives me an example to hold up. Also are you saying David Moncoutié doped his way to stage wins and mountains jersey in the Vuelta.

  6. Were there three missed tests? The first two were reported as “whereabouts violations.” Does this mean that officials were dispatched to obtain test samples and were unable to locate her, or similar to the Michael Rasmussen case, her location was not reported accurately? The third instance that occurred in the US was reported as officials that intended to obtain test samples could not find her at the reported location.

  7. Luc: interesting, thanks.

    Qwerty: well this case is being led by the AFLD, the French anti-doping agency and they are not making supportive noises. But like I said above, the UCI needs to remind national federations of their duty.

    Rich: I think Rasmussen’s case was more complicated than that!

    Jim: the first two instances are less clear but seem to involve incomplete or erroneous whereabouts data, the third was as you say, a no show at the stated address.

  8. @ Flashing Pedals: yes she did, and served a one-year ban. You might be thinking of her lifetime ban by the British Olympic Association from competing for Britain in the Olympics (see also: David Millar), which they did overturn.

  9. Interesting how they do it for national pride but basically ensure the complete opposite for anybody who really cares…

    If I was spanish i’d be furious about the contador case right now, destroying a national image for the sake of a good athlete is nothing short of insanity, not patriotism.

    Jeannie is guilty of what she is accused of, period, there should be no issue, ban placed, move on. It won’t hurt france…

    And the russian fed should be pushed on their verdict or fined, i know nobody wants to see wars in sport, but the uci needs a firm foothold, there should be legislation to hurt national federations that pull this kind of BS to stop them from pushing their luck and covering up athletes, vanishing paperwork and fabricating lies.

    and chicken got kicked because he said he was in mexico when he was “in italy according to a journalist”, that quote killed me at the time, so funny. but the whole problem was him lying to testers and jumping around the world to extend time before his next test because he was obviously doping.

  10. Surely the state of the sport in Germany currently should be sending huge signals to the UCI and national federations? It vexes me enormously to have to defend the sport to my fellow Australians who routinely counter my stories of exciting achievements with phrases like “ah, they’re all cheaters”. No fans equals no money for fat cat salaries. It is straightforward; how many more chances has the sport got before it suffers terminal hits?

  11. According to the French language website http://www.cyclisme-dopage.com/index.html, Longo tested positive for ephedrine in 1988, when she was in Colorado Springs attempting to break the 3km record on the track. The website publishes her own account of the story, extracted from her book “Du miel dans mon cartable”: http://www.cyclisme-dopage.com/actualite/1988-xx-xx-dumieldansmoncartable.htm
    It also appears from this anonymous list of doping cases on the same website http://www.cyclisme-dopage.com/annuaire.htm#Femmes, that Longo had a doping case in 1993 in addition to her 1987 ephedrine case. The riders on the list are identified by number, but the female rider on the list, identified as number 703, who tested positive for ephedrine in 1987 while doing the world record for 3kms, is clearly Longo (based on her own telling of the story), and the same rider number 703 is identified as having a case in 1993 with a sanction “NSP,” which I think means not specified. The list purports to identify three categories of riders: (1) those who tested positive, (2) those who sought to evade a control, and (3) those who later admitted to having doped. The list does not provide further information about the 1993 case, i.e., no “substance” is identified so perhaps it was a case of avoiding a doping control?

  12. The sooner that one global body is tasked with determining cases and handing down sanctions, the better. Cycling cannot take hit after hit like this and remain attaractive to sponsors.

    One body can provide consistancy and be free (relatively) of bias. It would save all this Contador- CAS/Kolobnev/’insert dodgy rider name here’ rubbish that we presently have .

  13. There wouldn’t be a problem with national federations being responsible for sanctioning their own athletes if the governing body took effective action against federations that didn’t act in a timely way. However, because of all the vested interests involved, they don’t. Rather than setting up a massively expensive international agency, for which there is no funding (WADA is already not very well funded), maybe WADA should refer governing bodies to CAS for failing to ensure their federations acted according to protocol?

    As for French bias, as long as their agencies act in accordance with the rules and apply the appropriate sanction if a case is found to be proven, then I don’t really care what various people say about the athlete in their defence (the point about people in official positions commenting is well made, but of course we’ve seen all of that before, especially in AC’s case).

    Finally on Ohorougou (and the triathlete, Tim Don) both were handed bans by their sporting federations for missed tests. Lots of people came out and expressed surprise and support at the time, although I don’t recall any officials doing so. Your point is?

    Oliver, you’re talking crap!

  14. Good quotes…It’s only a serious problem when the person in trouble is not a national cycling treasure.

    Second comment: This is her job, no matter how tedious or tiring the system is. I can’t wait for the Danish response to Alex Rasmussen too. If these people are clean, the tests are a nuisance, but a way to keep their reputation clean. If they are cheats or miss tests, why would they think their reputation wouldn’t take a hit? Do they not follow their own sport’s history and realize that missing a test is construed as having a reason to miss a test? Instead of waiting for the third offense the riders themselves should freely provide the reasons for the missed tests and teams need to be more proactive about helping them address the convenience issues – or, they’re doping and trying to hide it…

  15. I don’t care what Jalabert believes or not about Longo, or what Jeff Bernard believes or not about Cobo, or what any blogger believes or not about Armstrong. Belief is not a legal concept. What we need, beyond improving the codes in terms of enforceability, is more journalistic scrutiny of the WADA, UCI and national bodies oversights and overlooks. There is obvious politicking going on, if not corruption.

  16. Not a single French person I know thinks DSK is innocent. Dating and flirting with all that still breathes (above the age of consent) is an accepted part of French politics (and is not limited to the men…), but it better be with said consent. DSK seems to have lost it and is forcing himself believing to be god’s (or Marx’s in his case) gift to women. He is now dead man politically.

    As for Longo, I love he as an athlete, but I think she jumped the shark. The evidence is all too damning.

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