Today or tomorrow, I believe, is one year since Floyd Landis’ lawyers received the lab documentation packages with the “evidence” that “proved” Landis had used artificial testosterone prior to Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Nothing like having rumors and innuendo splashed all over the sports pages and front pages of newspapers and magazines before the evidence has even been collected and put into one nice package, eh? Nothing like jumping the gun. And unfortunately, having done so the story spread like the wildfires threatening Athens over the last few weeks.
There have been a couple of other stories, recently, that show a certain willingness on the part of the UCI and others to strike before all the facts are known: One involves Alejandro Valverde and the other, Michael Rasmussen.
Valverde Barred From World Championships
Yesterday, the UCI announced that they would bar Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde from competing at the World Championships next month because his name appears on a few pages within the 6,000-page dossier of documents related to the Operacion Puerto investigation. From an article on Cyclingnews.com:
“During the meticulous studying of the 6,000-page Puerto dossier, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has concluded that several documents may show the involvement of Alejandro Valverde in the affair,” said a statement from the UCI.
Because of that, the UCI has asked the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) to begin proceedings against Valverde related to Operacion Puerto. The UCI, according to Cyclingnews.com, was careful to say that Valverde has not been found guilty. But if he were to be found guilty, Valverde would be required to pay a year’s salary as required by “The Pledge” all riders were forced to sign in order to participate in this year’s Tour de France.
Barring Valverde from the World Championships is simply punishing him before he’s been found guilty. This is one of the problems with how the UCI and others in the anti-doping world administer their brand of “justice.” Punishment before a conviction is unjust, no matter what the charges or venues, as it all but guarantees that innocent people will be made to suffer because they’ve been alleged to have committed a crime. Once the case has been proved, then it’s a different matter.
No one should be punished before they’ve been found guilty. That is just plain wrong. If it turns out that Valverde wasn’t one of Dr. Fuentes’ “clients,” then yet another injustice will have been committed. Whatever changes come to the anti-doping code and system, one that definitely needs to be implemented is the concept that athletes are only punished after they’ve been proven to have committed a doping offense — not before.
About That Missed Test In June …
An interesting development has occurred in the on-going saga of Michael Rasmussen. The Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende has a copy of a fax Rasmussen sent to the UCI at the end of June informing them that he would be training in the Pyrenees for a few days in preparation for the Tour.
[Note: When I have more time, I’ll provide English translations of the articles I’ve linked to for this part of today’s post.]
The fax, sent to the UCI on June 26, informed cycling’s governing organization that Rasmussen would be training in the Pyrenees from June 27th through the 29th, and that he would be riding the routes of stages 13 and 14 of the upcoming Tour de France.
Why is this important? Because the UCI alleged that Rasmussen had missed an out-of-competition test on June 29th, and the implication was that he missed the test because they didn’t know where Rasmussen was. Apparently, they did. Or they should have.
The day before the article was published, while researching this story, reporters for Berlingske Tidende talked with the UCI’s Anne Gripper. She told them that the UCI had no idea that Rasmussen was training in the Pyrenees at the end of June. Once the newspaper got hold of a copy of Rasmussen’s fax, they tried reaching Gripper again, but they were unable to do so.
So, if the document that the Danish newspaper has is correct, then it appears that the UCI should have known Rasmussen’s whereabouts for that surprise test on June 29th. If the fax was misplaced or mishandled, that is hardly Rasmussen’s fault, and he should not be made to suffer for it.
This still leaves the matter of where he was training in May, and whether the UCI or his team knew where he was. But one of the pieces of “evidence” used to drum Rasmussen out of the Tour now looks like it was wrong. Which leaves the question: What if Rasmussen was telling the truth? If that’s the case, how do you compensate him for what could have (and likely would have) been?
As much as the powers that be want to shut down doping and drive dopers from cycling, before they toss people out, and before they inflict punishment, they need to prove their that the alleged dopers really did violate the rules. Jumping the gun often leads to injustice. As we keep seeing, over and over again.