Rasmussen and the rules (is he free to ride?)


My first thought is that Alex Rasmussen looks like a lazy idiot, he could throw away a career and a decent contract with a top team simply because he didn’t think about updating his Whereabouts. It’s annoying but it is the duty of a pro .

But as ever, there are rules and after taking a look at them, my thoughts are a bit more confused. You see, there’s a chance that Rasmussen is free to ride.

Let’s start at the beginning. Many riders form part of the UCI’s Registered Testing Pool. Here are the Danes on the list for 2011:

Danish Registered Testing Pool

Note Alex Rasmussen on the list. The pool contains most of the top riders and all riders with a Bio Passport are included, plus other criteria for inclusion include rankings, results and past disciplinary hearings. Normally these riders are tested more frequently than others and above all they must take part in the UCI’s Whereabouts scheme. This means that four times a year a rider must say where they will be for the upcoming three months so that anti-doping officers can track them down for out-of-competition tests. Now it’s tricky to know where you’ll be for three months given races around the world, but luckily it can be updated by email or even SMS. Anyway, the point to note is that Rasmussen is part of the UCI’s Registered Testing Pool, remember that.

Next, it’s time to look at the UCI’s anti-doping rules:

110. Where it is alleged that a Rider has committed 3 (three) Whereabouts Failures within any 18-month period and two or more of those Whereabouts Failures were alleged by an Anti-Doping Organisation that had the Rider in its Registered Testing Pool at the time of those failures, then that Anti-Doping Organization (whether the UCI or a National Anti-Doping Organisation) shall be the responsible Anti-Doping Organization for purposes of bringing proceedings against the Rider under article 21.4. If not (for example, if the Whereabouts Failures were alleged by UCI and two National Anti-Doping Organizations respectively), then the responsible Anti-Doping Organisation for these purposes will be the Anti-Doping Organization whose Registered Testing Pool the Rider was in as of the date of the third Whereabouts Failure. If the Rider was in both UCI’s and a national Registered Testing Pool as of that date, the responsible Anti-Doping Organization for these purposes shall be the UCI.

The bold text is mine. It says that because Rasmussen is in the UCI’s pool then it’s up to the UCI to bring proceedings. Only the media are reporting that it is the Danmarks Cykle Union that is going to prosecute Rasmussen and not the UCI. This appears to fall outside of the rules.

More interesting is the timing. Interviews say Rasmussen had his third and final warning in April. This means today’s news of the potential anti-doping violation is actually more than four months old. There is a timetable involved where the anti-doping authorities, in this case the UCI, have to let the rider know of the offence within 14 days of the missed test and then the rider has 14 days to respond. In all 28 days. If the rider does not contest then within a month the UCI must record an alleged missed test against the athlete and shall notify the athlete and WADA. So the UCI should have informed WADA soon after the 28 period expired, presumably in May.

Now we return to the UCI rules:

111. Where the UCI is the responsible Anti-Doping Organization and 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, for purposes of triggering the appeal rights set out at article 329.

In other words if the UCI did not bring proceedings against Rasmussen after notifying WADA then there’s no anti-doping violation. Rasmussen would be free to ride.

Now it all hinges on the timing of when the UCI informed WADA. Given the 28 day window of appeal for the UCI and Rasmussen closed in May, it was from this moment onwards that the UCI needed to tell WADA. Did the UCI not inform WADA promptly?

Reading blocks of text quoting the rules aren’t fun. If Rasmussen missed a test in April, the simple question is what’s been happening behind the scenes during the last four and half months?

It seems the UCI’s own rules state it’s up to the UCI to bring action against Rasmussen and that they should have notified WADA of the third and final Whereabouts error from April. So I’m confused when I hear the Danish authorities are to prosecute Rasmussen. More so when it seems nothing happened over the summer.

Either the UCI did notify WADA, in which case the 30 day window to prosecute has lapsed and he’s free to ride; or the UCI knew of the error but has only recently informed WADA, yet all the time Rasmussen was allowed to race and even win when arguably he should have been suspended.

But all this seems too far-fetched. We have three Whereabouts errors and usually that’s game over and goodnight. Only the UCI’s own rules do say otherwise, that if they don’t get on the case within 30 days then there’s no anti-doping violation. This doesn’t save Rasmussen from apparently not informing his team about missed tests but it could make a difference when we’re talking about a two year ban.

If you’re confused, so am I. My worry is that the governing body might be as well.

UPDATE: Alex Rasmussen was cleared on 17 November and on the exact basis set out above. Whilst he missed three out of competition tests, the Danish authorities ruled that UCI did not follow the correct procedures and consequently any missed tests were not considered anti-doping violations. Rasmussen is now free to resume his career and should ride with Garmin-Cervélo in 2012.

26 thoughts on “Rasmussen and the rules (is he free to ride?)”

  1. Couldn’t they just insert a GPS receiver-transponder in some appropriate location. Would do away with the need for reporting where abouts. Hell, with any luck it could even take samples 😉

  2. marek: I’m all in favour of technology but actually it wouldn’t work. Anti-doping staff would have to chase the person around, tracking their GPS like a fugitive until they got them.

    Duncan: we’ll see, it is confusing. I’d take a beer anytime though.

    Lise: but the UCI rules seem to say it’s up to the UCI to bring the action, not the DCU. (Rule 110). Note a Whereabouts fault involves different procedures than, say, a positive test.

  3. 2 missed test were from his national fed,right? Including the last one? What are the danish rules for reporting missed tests to the uci? Is there a time limit?

  4. Interesting post. I’m hoping Rasmussen does not get the full 2 years, as it seems that nobody is under the impression that any of this mess is due to doping or other shady activities. There is also a short interview here that sheds a bit more light on the matter: http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/9795/Alex-Rasmussen-Interview-Dane-speaks-after-HTC-dismissal-over-missed-doping-tests.aspx

    Seems it was two missed tests and one late whereabouts submission. Seems particularly boneheaded, as one of the tests was missed during the Six Days of Berlin- not exactly something that Rasmussen wouldn’t have known about well ahead of time.

    Not that I have a particular love for Rasmussen (though he seems like a nice enough guy and a good rider), but all this speaks to me to a bit of the ridiculousness of the anti-doping rules as they are. Two years for missing tests, when nobody suspects it was for an illicit purpose? The same as the penalty for, say EPO or any other substance? And one of the missed tests was not even a test but a whereabouts submission (equivalent “legally” or not…)?

    Yes, it seems pretty dumb of Rasmussen to be in this mess in the first place, but the real possibility of such a harsh penalty (along with the actuality of now voided contracts) seems a bit much. The “rules are rules” reasoning does little to convince me, given how indiscriminate the rules seem to be and how little they seem to correspond to the much finer distinctions that any government’s criminal code makes.

  5. James: we’ll see, athletes don’t always get two year bans for Whereabouts failures

    andrewp: either way, what about the apparent delay since April. Just what has been happening during this period of time? That is what I am more interested in right now.

  6. Good post, but I think your interpretation of the rules is a bit off. Under rule 110, it is the Danes that are responsible here since they logged two of the violations. With the Danes in control, the question becomes what are their rules, since UCI rule 111 doesn’t apply.

    That said, your point on the delay is well taken and raises some interesting questions about (1) communiation between the UCI and the Danes and (2) the true level of knowledge HTC had between the April missed test and the release. Ultimately, however, your closing point hits the nail on the head: this system is so complicated, so convoluted, that none of the governing bodies seem to be able to comply with their own rules. For doping controls to work, the system needs to be reliable and functional. If the system can’t achieve these two benchmarks, it is doomed to failure as procedural loopholes, inequitable enforcement and rider distrust will steal the headlines and erode confidence.

    Frankly, I find the entire doping enforcement scenario disheartening and wish the governing bodies could simply pass the entire process to a single independent entity overseeing all athletes world-wide in any sport at any level. With one set of rules and one (unbiased?) chain of review bodies intimately familiar with doping cases, perhaps there coul at least be measure of trust in the system.

  7. Cyclemaine: are you sure? When we read “if the Rider was in both UCI’s and a national Registered Testing Pool as of that date, the responsible Anti-Doping Organization for these purposes shall be the UCI” and I think that means the UCI, no?

    But as I said above to andrewp, what is really confusing me is the timing. And yes, if we are confused then many riders will be too. A good system needs to be clear and transparent.

  8. Would argue the date thing is part of clause 2, and only applies in an “if not” scenario (where three or more bodies are involved then the UCI is to take responsibility for results management).

    Here seems only two bodies involved. ADD for first test at Berlin. UCI (presumably, could be ADD but unlikely) for the form filling miss. Seems it was a UCI test (according to Rasmussen) that was missed in late April. If so then UCI takes responsibility for results management, under clause 1

    April to now seems to be taken up with a “UCI review” (HTC press release). Process = they notify the athlete, he gives a response, decision made, athlete has the right to an administrative review of that decision, written submissions, “hearing”, final formal decision.

    Int Standards for Testing give various model deadlines for all these steps
    14 days for Doping control officer to tell ADO, 14 days for ADO to tell athlete, 14 days for athlete to respond, 14 days for ADO to deliberate and make decision, ?? days for athlete to request review (not specified), 14 days to have review, 7 days for review body to tell athlete, WADA and ADO final decision, 30 days (rule 111) for ADO (UCI) to act on the final decision kicks in.

    If Rasmussen has taken advantage of his review rights, timescale ends roundabout nowish – especially allowing for the time the Danish would take reviewing the file before launching a case against their Copenhagen poster boy

  9. The thing that seems odd to me is that HTC are saying he’s been fired for not informing them, and Rasmussen is saying the first he knew about it was when the team pulled him from the ToB.

  10. If I read the Rasmussen interview correctly (VeloNation link from James comment above), the third violation actually occurred in 2010. For the UCI to flag an infraction in April would require the entire quarter to pass, plus presumably more administrative time, before being flagged. And that’s assuming the quarter started at the end of the year. If their quarters run similar to most other places, and the last one started in October, the infraction would be 7 months old in April.

    What’s strange to me is why the teams seem to have no knowledge of any of this. HTC had no idea of the first two missed tests, they only found out about the third recently, and Garmin also seems to have no knowledge. Do teams not pursue that kind of information when doing due diligence on a new rider? Or is the UCI not willing to release that info? The teams are taking a big risk when solely relying on that info to be relayed by a rider with a vested interest in not informing them.

  11. Riddle me this, rabbits. When Contador is busted for a miniscule amount of a substance that he obviously does not need, he should be banned b/c he has broken the rules. Despite him being freed to ride after being cleared by his national federation, it is an outrage. Ok, fair enough – I see the logic there, even though I dont agree with it.

    But when Rasmussen breaks the rules (2 missed tests is not insignificant – one miss caused the other Rasmussen a potential TdF win), how come everyone is looking for an excuse to find a way for him to keep riding?

  12. I should clarify that I dont particularly care one way or the other (I have my opinion and people can have different opinions and ultimately, nothing we say/do here makes a difference to either Contador or Rasmussen), but I just find the lack of consistency amusing.

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