Analysis: New UCI anti doping regulation imposing life bans from team roles raises questions
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Analysis: New UCI anti doping regulation imposing life bans from team roles raises questions

by Shane Stokes at 4:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping, Opinion
New rule is a step forward, but three areas of concern exist

dopingAs reported earlier, the UCI has today announced a new regulation which will come into effect in two weeks’ time, and will prevent those who break anti-doping regulations from that point onwards from working with pro teams.

The governing body has presented the rule change as something which will make a difference in the months and years ahead. “This measure – which will most certainly be very important in the medium term to guarantee an increasingly healthy movement for future generations – will come into effect on July 1st,” the UCI stated.

It added that the new rule won’t be applied retrospectively, so riders who used doping products prior to this date won’t be affected.

The roles include general manager, team manager, coach, doctor, paramedical assistant, mechanic, driver, as well as other functions.

While this regulation number is undoubtedly a step forward from the current situation, an analysis of the details raises some important issues. These questions show why clarification and, quite possibly, further revision may be needed if the new ruling is to be as effective a deterrent as it sets out to be.

VeloNation has identified three areas where it believes that questions can be raised. They are as follows:

1: Reductions allowed for cooperation:

The UCI lists three conditions which will invalidate the new regulation. These are as follows:

(1) the person concerned committed a violation only once,
(2) the said violation was not sanctioned with an ineligibility for two years or more
(3) five years have elapsed between the moment of the violation and the first day of the year for which the licence is granted.

All three must pertain to a case for the rider in question to be allowed work in a team role.

These three conditions still afford a considerable amount of leeway, however, and could in theory enable those using banned substances to continue working as team staff members in the future.

A singular offence for serious doping products or practices has traditionally led to a two year suspension. This has however been negotiated downwards in the event of cooperation from the rider in question; Riccardo RiccoRiccardo Riccò, for example, was finally given a 20 month ban after appealing his two year suspension to CAS. Danilo di Luca served just nine months and seven days after appealing the length of his own ban.

If a similar case arose now, a rider in their situation with one doping offence would slip through the net and be able to work with teams. One consolation is that the UCI has recommended to national federations that four year bans should be applied henceforth. However it is up to those federations to follow this guideline, which is not set out in stone; the UCI would need to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to extend a ban if they do not comply.

In order to keep such riders out of team roles, the UCI will have to pursue each case where a national federation doesn’t apply a ban of at least 24 months, including reductions for cooperation.

The issue arises because a specific time period is set as being the determining factor, rather than the gravity of an offence.

2: Limited definition of those the new rule applies to:

The UCI’s current wording states that ‘no licence to participate in the sport as Staff under clause 1.1.010…shall be granted to a person who has been found by an appropriate body to have violated as an athlete the UCI’s Anti-Doping Rules or the anti-doping rules of any other organisation.’

That sounds well enough, except for the words ‘as an athlete’. With this limitation, the rule doesn’t apply to team owners, general managers, directeurs sportifs, soigneurs or many others; it seems to be a glaring omission that those who can entice or facilitate riders to take doping products don’t face the same sanction of a lifetime ban from working with teams.

For many years the criticism has existed that the riders pay the highest penalty, while others go unpunished; leaving the wording as it is allows this perception to continue and for riders to bear the brunt of any doping cases.

3. Medical doctors subject to the same cutoff point:

The only other group of individuals that the new regulation specifically applies to in terms of sanctions are medical doctors.

To quote the regulation: “Furthermore, no licence to participate in the sport as a staff member under clause 1.1.010 shall be granted to a person who has been found by a court of law or other competent body to have been guilty of facts which can reasonably be considered to be equivalent to a violation of the UCI’s Anti Doping Rules and who was a medical doctor at the time of such facts.”

While it is significant that those who break the medical code are punished, the UCI regulation refers to ‘violations committed as from 1st July 2011.’ This implies that offences before this point in time do not fall under the ruling.

If it is indeed the case that the rule refers to violations rather than guilty verdicts, then it would mean that some of cycling’s most controversial doctors could hold team roles.

As an example, Michele Ferrari and Eufemiano Fuentes are both under investigation for suspected offences committed in the past and relating to numerous individuals. Both currently insist they are innocent; the accuracy of that will be determined in time. However even if they are found guilty, the strict reading of the UCI’s regulation means that they would appear to have a green light to work with teams. 

More clarification needed:

It’s clear that today’s announcement does represent a considerable step forward and the UCI should be applauded for taking measures that many other federations have not considered. When allied with the biological passport and recently-introduced ban on injections, it shows that structures are in place which should help reduce the use of doping products in the future.

That said, questions such as those outlined show that the new regulation needs further clarification – or, possibly, revisions - if it is to have the maximum possible effect as a deterrent to those who would break the rules, and as protection to those trying to abide by them.

VeloNation will seek clarification on each of these points from the UCI, and will report its response.


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