Chris Froome is not a Russian

03/07/2018

WADA will not appeal the decision of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) not to assert an Adverse Analytical Finding(AAF) in the case of Chris Froome. WADA reviewed the explanations of Chris Froome, supported by expert opinions, consulted with internal and independent external experts and came to the conclusion that the concentration of Salbutamol found in the urine sample of Chris Froome was within the permissible maximum dose.

ASO, the Tour de France organiser, referred some days ago to article 28 of the Tour the France rules, which gives the organiser the opportunity to ban a team or any of its members whose presence would be such as to damage the image or reputation of ASO or the event. ASO announced that it intended to use article 28 of its rules to ban Chris Froome and to avoid the situation of the Giro. Froome participated in the Giro when there was still uncertainty with regard to an AAF because of the Salbutamol findings. The same would have harmed the image and reputation of the Tour de France.

Now that WADA and UCI have closed the proceedings against Froome in his favor, ASO has announced to allow Froome to participate in the Tour the France 2018.

In the matters of 28 Russian Athletes that participated in Sochi Olympic Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the bans that were imposed by the IOC following an investigation into alleged systematic doping at the Sochi Games (CAS decision of 1 February 2018). IOC nevertheless decided after the CAS Award not to invite the subject Athletes.

IOC based its decision on Article 44 par. 3 of the Olympic Charter, which stipulates:

"Any entry is subject to acceptance by the IOC, which may, at its discretion, refuse any entry, without indication of grounds. Nobody is entitled as of right to participate in the Olympic Games".

This article 44 of the Olympic Charter is an open standard that needs to be considered on a case by case basis. CAS, when requested to decide in the matter that was initiated by the Russian Athletes, considered:

"That the individual Applicants failed to meet the criteria [to provide evidence of a "clean" history] suggests that there was some evidence that there were suspicions they were implicated in, or protected by, the Russian doping scheme notwithstanding the CAS decisions of 1 February 2018. [in which CAS decided that there was not sufficient evidence to upheld the sanctions imposed by IOC]"

CAS came therefore to the conclusion:

"It may be that non-sanctioned individual athletes, including the Applicants, are prevented from participating in the Olympic Games simply because they are citizens of a country that has been found to have engaged in a systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules. However, in light of the IOC's overall objective to balance the interests of clean athletes and the fight against doping against the interests of individual Russian athletes, the Panel concludes that any unfairness was a consequential effect of the suspension of the ROC and that the process was neither discriminatory nor unfair (see also CAS 2015/A/4319)."

The cases of Froome on the one hand and the aforementioned Russian athletes on the other are of course not similar. Froome does not have a doping history, neither has his team Sky, even when you consider the doping rumours around team Sky.

The reason I make nevertheless the comparison between the two matters is because of the possibility ASO created as did IOC to ban athletes when at its discretion it considers presence of the athlete "would be such as to damage the image or reputation of ASO or the event." CAS has accepted in the matters of the Russian athletes that there are circumstances that justify the non eligibility of athletes even without an AAF in place.

ASO made use of its discretionary power when it banned Astana and Contador in 2008 from participating in the Tour de France. ASO decided at the time that given "the damage caused by this team to the Tour de France and cycling in general, as much in 2006 as 2007" it had to prevent Astana from competing in any of their races. "The Astana team in effect last year betrayed the confidence of organisers who even then invited them on trust of an overhaul presented by their leaders," ASO said in a statement.

In the matter of Astana, ASO clearly made use of its power under article 28 of the Tour the France rules to protect the image and reputation of ASO (and cycling in general). This decision of ASO under the "Astana circumstances" is in compliance with the CAS ruling in the request for eligibility of Russian Athletes.

As mentioned before article 44 of the Olympic Charter as well as article 28 of the Tour de France rules are open standards to be considered in each individual case. In the matter of Froome ASO does not impose article 28 as it did in the Astana matter. There are good arguments for this decision, taking into account as well Human Right-principles such as the right of Athletes to a fair process.

However, one can expect that with Froome participating in the Tour de France the image and reputation of the Tour de France and cycling in general are harmed anyway. We have been confronted with rumours and speculations around Froome and Sky during the Giro (and with regard to Sky -Wiggins- before as well) and this will come back and discussed in depth in live broadcasting, highlights and commentaries during the Tour de France. The fact that nor WADA nor UCI has been transparent with regard to the findings of their experts does not help to protect the reputation and image of the Tour either. But that in itself may not play a (decisive) role in ASO's decision whether or not to allow Froom to participate. Apparently and rightfully, ASO did not give priority to this sentiment of the outside world in this matter, but it will have to do so at some point of time in order to protect the credibility of cycling.

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De foto van Dolf Segaar
Dolf Segaar
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