The UCI is to appeal the Danish verdict that cleared Alex Rasmussen of a doping ban after three no shows. I groaned when I heard the news as it appears Rasmussen has a solid case. But thinking about it, perhaps some good can come of this appeal?
The Dane had a strong season for HTC-Highroad only he missed an out of competition doping control in April, his third “no-show” in 18 months and was promptly fired from his team in September when the news emerged. By this time he’d already signed for the Garmin-Cervélo team.
Normally three missed out of competition tests means a ban but as this blog was first to point out, the UCI mishandled the procedure. In summary they should have sent Rasmussen written notification to confirm the no-show within a fixed time frame of weeks but instead took months to send the letter. Here’s the rule:
[where the UCI] 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.
Put simply no letter within 30 days means the no-show doesn’t count and Rasmussen was cleared to ride by the Danish. Now the UCI is appealing and I’m very interested to learn more about the appeal. Because the rules are black and white and the verdict by the Danish federation left little doubt over the timing of the communications sent by the UCI. It is hard to dispute a dated letter.
At first glance it looks like an appeal will only confirm this, whilst adding expense and adverse publicity. But all the same, the appeal is probably a good thing. Rasmussen can ride, this will simmer in the background. I can understand those who say “Rasmussen is disorganised, he’s no doper” but thankfully the anti-doping movement is more than a character test and instead relies on procedure and rules. If an appeal tests these rules and procedures then this is good and it creates precedent and case law for future events.
One matter resulting from this case is that Rasmussen’s employers apparently did not know of the missed tests. Whether at Saxo Bank, Highroad or when signing a contract with Garmin-Cervélo, it seems Rasmussen kept news of the missed tests to himself. You can see the incentive to do this but it just made matters worse. A team knowing he was close to being banned probably would have helped ensure he didn’t mess things up a third time. As the Velocast says perhaps it is time to share news of a missed test with employers so that everyone is aware?
At first glance taking Rasmussen’s case to the CAS looks risky for the UCI. If the Danish authorities already pointed out embarrassing procedural flaws within the UCI, having the CAS broadcast this will only multiply the humiliation in Aigle. Yet the “sloppy rider meets sloppy governing body” aspect is unsatisfactory, after all three no shows means a ban. Having this reviewed at the highest level can only help clarify things and the CAS verdict should make things clearer. As much as we might prefer to forget this case, a quick check can’t do any harm. Plus it won’t take long to rule on this, this is miles from Contador’s saga.
Talk to riders and updating their whereabouts is one of the worst parts of the job, an invasive and administrative burden. But if athletes are to go through with this then they have to sense it is worth it. If they have to log on all the time, they don’t want to see rivals making a mess of the system nor discover that UCI struggles with the requirements. Hopefully this appeal can improve the system for everyone.