Bassons’ sanction drops from one year to one month but Frenchman fights on
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Bassons’ sanction drops from one year to one month but Frenchman fights on

by Shane Stokes at 3:45 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
“This sanction remains completely absurd…I will appeal”

Although his one year ban for missing a post-race doping control has been reduced on appeal to just one month, Christophe Bassons has said he will fight on and seek to have the sanction overturned on a point of principle.

The 38 year old rider fell foul of the rules on September 1st when he missed a post-race control in the French mountain bike marathon championships.

"At 25 kilometers from the finish, I was hypoglycemic, I missed the last refuelling point and had nothing to eat,” the 38 year old told LeMonde today. “As I had ridden the last twenty kilometers the previous day, I remembered that my car was not parked far from there, so I decided to leave.”

He said that two hours later he received a phone call to say that he had been selected for a post-race doping control and that he had half an hour to return for the test. “I was already too far away,” he said. “The communication was going badly and the person on the phone never heard my answer. I stopped on the highway, and I called back with my professional phone because my personal one didn’t have any battery left. However I was never able to reach him.”

As a result, he was handed a one year ban. He protested that at the time, saying that the organisers should have contacted him much earlier than they did. He also objected to the severity of the punishment, something which today’s news redresses.

However while his sanction has been reduced to one twelfth of the original punishment, he’s determined to fight on. Although he accepts that he made a mistake, he said that today’s reduction by the French cycling federation (FFC) is an admission of sorts that he was not guilty of an offence.

He’s also fixed on clearing his name for another reason. Thirteen years ago he spoke out against doping in the 1999 Tour de France and was bullied off the race by Lance Armstrong and others. He had a reputation as being a clean rider but because of his stance on the subject, he was marginalised and his career eventually petered out.

He has therefore been regarded as an example of how difficult it was to stand up in that era and to lobby for a cleaner sport. Being now sanctioned for a missed control dents that reputation, and he’s determined to clear his name. “I'm disappointed, this is a blow,” he said. “For 15 years, people said to me ‘well done’ [in relation to his stance against drugs] but neither the sports ministry nor the AFLD [the French Agency for the Fight against Doping] have lifted a finger in this case.

“The federation may have reduced the sentence from one year to one month, but on principle this sanction remains completely absurd,” he continued. “I will make an appeal to the administrative court and will counter attack.”

Bassons raced as a pro between 1996 and 2001. He was part of the Festina team between 1996 and 1998, and was named by many on the team as being the one rider who never took banned substances.

In November that stance was recognised by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff, who said that in the light of the Armstrong affair, that Bassons’ stance had assumed a new and important significance. He added that he wasn’t deterred in making that choice by the random control issue.

“Who is The Unknown Rider, the most deserving cyclist who stuck it out clean?,” he wrote, in naming Bassons as his own nomination for SI Sportsman of the Year.

“There's no way of determining how far down those results tables we'd have to go to find him. But we do have the example of a Frenchman named Christophe Bassons. And for his courage, principle and symbolism, he's my Sportsman of the Year -- the year we'll remember as the one in which we finally lanced, as it were, cycling's boil.”

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