"One man's meat, is another man's poison". "One man's trash is another man's treasure". Or, as Paul simon once sang, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor". There are plenty of variations on this theme but they all come down to the central question of semantics. Semantics is the study of meaning and the relationship between words and what they stand for.
Earlier today, the UCI announced its intention to appeal against the decision made by the Danish Sports Federation to clear Alex Rasmussen of charges of 'whereabouts violation'. The verdict came after it was revealed that the UCI itself failed to notify the rider of his third infringement until 10 weeks after the event. The international standard dictates a deadline of 14 days.
Here is the relevant regulation:
Where the UCI is the responsible Anti-Doping Organisation and 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, for purposes of triggering the appeal rights set out at article 329.
However, speaking to the Ritzau agency today, UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said;
“I certify that the UCI has filed an appeal to CAS in the Rasmussen affair.”
As of this moment it is unclear on what grounds the UCI can appeal this verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as its own rules essentially nullify the third violation. It is entirely possible that the UCI may be arguing for the case to be taken up due its own idiocy.
Rasmussen’s first brush with the UCI rules happened on February 1st 2010, when an unsuccessful attempt at carrying out a doping control led to a warning by Anti-Doping Denmark, dated February 16th.
Anti-Doping Denmark warned Rasmussen on February 16th 2010 following an unsuccessful doping control attempt on February 1st.
The second warning came by letter from ADD dated October 26th when Rasmussen was late in submitting his whereabouts information. Finally, on April 28th there was another failed attempt at a doping control. This led to a warning by the UCI, but it was only sent in a letter dated August 18th.
Rasmussen was fired by the soon to be defunct HTC-Highroad team when the disciplinary case was announced in September. Prior to this, the Danish rider had already agreed a move to Garmin-Cervelo which, most observers thought, would be cancelled due to the American squad's tough stance on doping. Following his acquittal, though, Rasmussen was officially unveiled with the rest of the team in Boulder, Colorado, last month.
Speaking to Ben Atkins for Velonation.com Slipstream Sports CEO, Jonathan Vaughters, said;
First off, whereabouts rules have to be respected, or the whole system falls apart. Internally, we suspend a rider from competition with only 2 missed tests during their time with us. We take whereabouts very seriously. So, I think the UCI is correct in their action to appeal this, as whereabouts are very important and must be respected. As for Alex and Garmin, we must respect the contract we signed on August 1st, 2011, which was well prior to the UCI informing the athlete or the public of their intent to prosecute a potential infraction.
As of now, he has been cleared of any infraction, therefore we do not have any legal right to cancel, suspend, or discontinue his contract.
Fair? Yes, I would argue that Vaughters' approach to Alex Rasmussen is fair. Publicly, at least, the Garmin DS is suggesting that he contracted the Danish rider on good faith and was a) unaware of the case about to be launched by the UCI and b) the dismissal of this case by the Danish Sports Federation means that, legally and for the moment, Alex Rasmussen is in the clear.
Vaughters is playing fast and loose with his verbiage here. He says that two infringements are all it takes to suspend a rider at Garmin "during their time with us" i.e. Slipstream are not responsible for what happens on other teams. And nor should they. What I can't understand is why the UCI don't make such infringements available to other teams? It would be ludicrous to contract an athlete to your team without knowing his current state of fitness and history of injury. Why not current number of infringements?
In his attempt to be seen as both fair and righteous - a dangerous and normally mutually exclusive pairing - Vaughters is ignoring the, as yet, undisputed assertion that Alex Rasmussen did miss three whereabouts tests. It was only by the grace of legal loophole and procedural incompetence on the part of the UCI that Garmin were able to officially unveil the Dane at their recent Boulder bash.
You can only applaud Jonathan Vaughters for standing by his newly signed rider. After all, from a legal standpoint, Rasmussen has not committed a sanction-able offence. But the Slipstream CEO seems to be putting the embarrassment and financial headache of dismissing Rasmussen ahead of the zero-tolerance policy on doping previously held. Yes, the rules are the rules, but when you find yourself dangling by legal loopholes and reaching for the semantics or those rules, the UCI aren't the only ones Alex Rasmussen has made look foolish.