By Jeff Jones
The statements of former Welsh Cycling Union publicity officer Vic Gregory in relation to an anti-doping case (see Monday News) have attracted a detailed response from British Cycling and the WCU. Gregory was concerned with the BCF's actions over doping cases involving Julian Winn and "two other World track riders", claiming that they "coerced" the WCU into softening Winn's penalty.
However the BCF and WCU strongly dispute Gregory's claims, in particular the other (unnamed) riders who also tested positive during the Tour of Guadeloupe and "Two World track riders. As we have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of those, perhaps he [Gregory] will kindly provide the media and the Federation with the details so that action can be taken," reads the BCF statement issued on November 12.
The BCF reacted to Mr Gregory's stance on "soft" banned substances, saying that they are working with the UCI and IOC definitions of these. "The Federation and the Union are bound by the Anti-Doping Regulations which advise how such findings should be treated. We are fully committed in the war against those who cheat through the misuse of drugs in cycling, but not to the extent that we issue harsh punishment to those who unknowingly and genuinely make a mistake."
As stated yesterday, Winn tested positive for Ephedrine after the Bynea Road Race on September 9, 2001. He was subsequently disqualified from the even and given a 3 month suspension.
In an earlier BCF statement (November 7) it was revealed "the banned substance came from a dietary supplement (Slim Right Peak Performance) which failed to mention on the container label, or in any of the Company's U.K. advertising material, that the product contained "Ma Huang", which is also known as Chinese Ephedrine."
The substance has now been withdrawn from the market and the "Welsh Cycling Union accepted that in this case the banned substance had been taken unknowingly. In view of this and Winn's unblemished record...the WCU decided to defer the suspension for a period of two years subject to the competitor remaining free from any further doping offence. Winn has agreed to take part in ongoing anti-doping awareness education and training conducted by the Union."
"The BCF also disqualified Winn from the International Tour of Guadeloupe where tests revealed the same finding. As the offences were within a very short period of each other and involved the same levels of Ephedrine, the British Cycling Federation agreed that they should be treated as one as is provided for in UCI and BCF Anti-Doping Regulations."
Winn is reported by the BBC to be "absolutely devastated by the finding...It was probably the most depressing time I've ever had in my life." He aims to continue cycling in preparation for next year's Commonwealth Games.
There was a further case mentioned by the BCF involving 17 year old Tim Brammeier of Childwall, Liverpool who was found positive after the National Junior Track Series Finale at Manchester on September 22, 2001. He tested positive for phenylpropanolamine, an ingredient in a cold tablet that he had taken on the day of the event. He was disqualified from the competition and given a 3 month suspension, which was deferred for three years after the source of the drug was found.
The BCF November 7 statement concludes with a comment that "Whilst a lenient view has been taken, this will not be repeated since both Governing Bodies are determined to deal firmly with any competitor who cheats through the misuse of drugs in cycle racing. Doping offences in cycling are subject to "strict liability", in other words the presence of the banned substance is an offence regardless of how it came to be present in the competitor's sample. Future cases of the type involving Winn and Brammeier will receive full sentences now that competitors have been reminded of the real need to check all medicines and supplements before use. For enquiries, the British Federation may be reached at 01536 483695 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The BCF November 12 statement finally addresses Vic Gregory's claim that the BCF had coerced the WCU into easing Winn's penalty, believing that the "cases have been dealt with in a fair and proper manner, with advice being offered without any coercion. In fact the WCU invited the Federation to send an adviser to Winn's hearing and the BCF representative was not even present when the WCU Executive Board made its final decision."
The Anti-Doping Unit of UK Sport which conducted the tests said that "it is fantastic to see Governing Bodies adopting a common-sense approach and making the most of the educational opportunity associated with a finding, rather than just brushing it under the carpet."
Contrast this British doping affair with a recent example in Sweden, where one of the country's top cyclists, Niclas Axelsson, publicly admitted to taking EPO before the World Championships in Lisbon. This earned him an instant dismissal from his team (Alessio) and a probable two year ban from the Swedish Sports Federation. For the 29 year old, it may be the end of his career.
EPO is considered a more serious drug than Ephedrine, but Axelsson's two year penalty that will come from the Swedes is far greater than the UCI penalty of 6 months. In Sweden, doping of any sort is quite serious - to the extent that anyone breaking the rules deliberately or inadvertently finds it almost impossible to continue in the sport, even after a penalty is served.
In some cases, the doping rules can be viewed as too harsh. The obvious example being Jonathan Vaughters abandoning the 2001 Tour de France after he was stung by a wasp, but wasn't allowed to treat it with cortisone. Had he claimed cortisone for "medicinal purposes" before the race, then it would have been OK. Of course, he didn't know he was going to be stung...
There are numerous examples of cyclists and athletes in other sports testing positive for banned substances by accident, most commonly in cough medicines (where the ingredients are listed) and in dietary supplements (where they are not in some cases). In all cases, the athlete is still responsible for what they take and are solely liable under the rules. How those rules are implemented depends very much on the circumstances and the country's sporting laws.