Rasmussen cleared

Rasmussen in Danish national colours... sponsored by the national postal service

HTC-Highroad’s Alex Rasmussen was said to be “wild with delight” after yesterday’s news that he was cleared to resume racing after a hearing by the Danish cycling authorities.

Rasmussen missed three out of competition anti-doping tests and in normal circumstances this means a two year ban. But as I set out back in September, something seemed to have gone wrong with the UCI’s paperwork and procedures.

Skip a post-race doping control and you’re banned on the spot. But a missed out-of-competition doping control sets off a timetable where written notices have to be sent within a specified period of time. If this doesn’t happen it means there’s no anti-doping violation, the “no show” becomes “no problem”. The missed test is forgotten and does not count. The system allows for two misses but on the third violation, the rider gets a two year ban. With Rasmussen it turns out his third notice was sent some ten weeks after the missed test, instead of within the specified 14 day period.

At the time I wrote with a surprised tone because it seemed implausible that the UCI could announce Rasmussen had missed three tests and was suspended for competition when in fact – on a technicality at least – he hadn’t actually missed three tests. But nevertheless I wrote the piece because it emerged his no-show happened in late April and yet he was still racing right until mid-September, a clear sign something went wrong and the more I investigated, the more it seemed he would able to ride.

Lazy cyclist saved by lazier governing body?
The irony is that we have a sloppy rider being excused because the UCI has been even more sloppy… with the rules. Rasmussen was fired from his team, he was suspended from racing and got plenty of negative headlines. All for nothing and you wish the UCI had checked its paperwork before suspending Rasmussen.

Ask a rider about the worst aspect of their job and chances are it is not risking injury every day or having to race in foul conditions, many seem to hate the ADAMS system and the burden it imposes. If the UCI is to insist riders follow the rules and update the system the least they expect in return is that the UCI follows the same international rules that apply to the testing procedures.

This isn’t to say the UCI is getting it wrong every day, the organisation has tightened up its anti-doping act in recent years. But once is too much. Alex Rasmussen seems a likeable rider and not many people seem to be pointing fingers in suspicion towards him. But imagine if this was his namesake Michael Rasmussen – no relation – who has already been driven out of the Tour de France for missing controls? The mess would be huge.

Plus it’s not the first time timings have not been respected. Stages of the Contador case saw parties go beyond specified time periods and Kolobnev case saw the UCI suspend its rules twice, once over his ejection from the Tour de France and then because the Russian authorities were not fined for their delays in prosecuting the case.

What next?
The story is not over. The UCI will be sent the full ruling from the Danish authorities – hopefully within the required time period – and could insist Rasmussen missed three tests and therefore merits a ban. But the risk is that the Court of Arbitration of Sport turns the case around and judges the UCI harshly for ignoring the agreed international testing standards.

For me the best thing would be for the UCI to learn a lesson or two here and for Alex Rasmussen to join Garmin-Cervélo. He had signed a contract with the team and who better than a provider of GPS devices to help ensure he keeps his whereabouts updated?

17 thoughts on “Rasmussen cleared”

  1. I’ve nothing against Alex Rasmussen but once again it shows that UCI doesn’t care if a less accomplished rider is found in violation of the rules. I think UCI only has till the end of this month to appeal against the decision of Russian Federation regarding Kolobnev. I’m sure they will forget about that too.

  2. I don’t know if you have addressed this previously but what is the cause of such bureaucratic bungling? These doping and whereabouts cases are the biggest things the UCI deals with from a PR perspective. One would think any hint of a doping case would cause the UCI to have late night meetings to get everything sorted to the last detail before going forward. Is only organizational culture to blame? Baffled in Bonn.

  3. I am pretty sure that in this case justice was done as one of Rasmussen’s missed tests was because he forgot to inform them that he was away racing, where he was tested. I am sure I can be accused of naïveté when it comes to wanting to believe riders are clean but this does seem to be more a case of disorganisation that systematic cheating. It is a shame that Rasmussen and Highroad have had to deal with this and very much agree that it would have been better if the UCI had said nothing if they did not have a water tight case.

  4. As I pointed out yesterday, all three notices were sent too late:

    1st warning: 01/02/10, received 16 days later.
    2nd warning: 01/10/10, received 26 days later.
    3rd warning: 28/04/11, received 10 weeks later

  5. I am pleased to see him riding. But I am worried that we celebrate his win but would be angry if someone else escaped the ban only because of missed paperwork. This is a double standard. But it falls on the UCI to stop this, they should treat each case with total seriousness.

  6. As an aside, Michael Rasmussen was ejected from the Tour by his team for lying about his whereabouts. He had also missed 4 random tests.

    I hope Alex will have learnt from this episode. It should also be a reminder to riders, federations and the UCI of the need to be consistent and organised, and for the system to be straightforward and practical to administer.

  7. It is nice to see that the UCI occasionally is found accountable to rules as well. For any jurisprudence system to be valid, due process must be respected, and all parties held appropriately accountable.

  8. If the UCI had not pressed the case they would be admitting their own incompetence and inviting accusation of cover-up or inaction. As for Alex, didn’t one of his team mates characterize him as disorganized and forgetful, loosing cell phones, etc?

  9. one of the whereabouts violoations / missed tests came during a 6-day where he actually received an in-competition test. Although according to the letter of the law that’s a missed test, it doesn’t seem like it should count. Sure he was stupid for not updating his location but what’s the point in penalizing him for a supposed doping rules violation if he demonstrably wasn’t doping?

    and the fact that the UCI can’t ever meet deadlines makes me wonder what their actual purpose is.

  10. I’m going to try and run my job to the same sort of timelines the UCI roll with and see how long my boss keeps me around for.

    If it was a one off I would be more understanding, but this bungling seems commonplace – which is a real worry.

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