World championship status still unclear
Former U.S. national cyclocross champion Jonathan Page has been cleared of charges stemming from a missed in-competition doping test, but it may be a week before he knows whether that will result in his inclusion on the U.S. team for the upcoming world championships.
Page missed a post-race anti-doping test on November 29, 2008, at the UCI World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium. The American, who earned a silver medal at the 2007 world championships, had crashed out of the race and was nursing what turned out to be serious injuries. He was apparently unaware that his name was on a posted list of riders to be tested following the event.
Page reported that he learned of the missed test only several weeks after the fact. Failure to submit to in-competition testing can be treated as a doping violation at the same level of a positive laboratory analysis. Page requested and received expedited handling of the matter by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a hearing was held in the case on Thursday.
The panel found that Page had ample reason to miss the test, particularly in light of the injuries he sustained in the crash.
“He had a head injury,” said Page’s attorney, Antonio Gallegos. “That’s the big thing. His doctor later diagnosed him with a concussion and he had suffered injuries to his chest and arms as well. Jonathan was seriously injured, which caused him to drop out of the race and it was clear that he had other, very reasonable priorities right then.”
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart agreed, saying the panel ruled Page’s injuries qualified as a compelling reason for him to miss the test and therefore concluded that no doping rule violation had occurred, completely clearing him of charges in the case.
“The outcome of Jonathan Page’s case illustrates that under appropriate circumstances the arbitration process allows for consideration of mitigating or aggravating circumstances,” said Tygart. “The arbitrator’s decision was based on the detailed evidence presented at the hearing, and USADA regards the decision as a fair resolution, which will hopefully inspire other athletes and their support teams to avoid potential tragedy by diligently learning and adhering to the anti-doping regulations.”
Gallegos, who worked with attorneys Greg Nelson and John Bliss on the case, said that the legal team had little to do with the ultimate outcome.
“Look, there was no legal magic here,” said Gallegos. “It’s not that we were pulling legal tricks out of our hats. Jonathan flew out from Belgium and told his story sincerely and honestly. He looked the panel members in the eye and told the truth. That’s the bottom line. They found what he said to be true and they found he had a compelling justification to miss the test that day.
“The arbitration panel was fair,” Gallegos added. “They put tough, tough questions to both sides — us and USADA — and they decided what the facts were. Obviously, we’re very happy with the outcome.”
As in any doping case, the UCI retains a right to appeal the decision to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The U.S. is one of several countries eligible to send five elite male riders to the world championships, but earlier this month, the governing body named just four. While USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee declined to state the reason for the small roster, he did not deny that it may have been related to the pending question of Page’s status.
“We’ve been allotted five positions and we’ve obviously only named four to the team,” USA Cycling’s Andy Lee to VeloNews earlier this month.
As it stands, the decision clears Page to be named to the worlds team and there remains a single position open on the elite men’s squad. But Lee said it may be several days before Page’s status regarding Hoogerheide is known.
The UCI has established a January 23, 2009, deadline for national federations to submit complete rosters for worlds. But Lee said that the UCI has granted the U.S. an extension because of the Page case.
“Yes, today is the deadline set by the UCI,” Lee confirmed, “but in the case of Jonathan we’ve been given a seven-day extension, which would put that up to next Friday, January 30.”
That is two days ahead of the men’s race in Hoogerheide, but Page lives nearby in Belgium, so the logistics wouldn’t necessarily present a problem.
Lee said that Page had earlier petitioned to be one of USA Cycling’s discretionary picks, since he had not met automatic qualification by winning the national championships or leading the standings in the U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross series.
Lee said, however, the petition was received before the doping case was adjudicated.
“We haven’t had any formal discussions with Jonathan as of yet,” he said. “All of our communication with him took place before this decision, so we now have to talk to him in light of that.”
Lee said USA Cycling may not require the full seven-day extension, but the decision may revolve around whether the UCI exercises its right of appeal in the case.
“It’s a matter of if and when the UCI determines if he is eligible to compete,” Lee added.
USADA’s Tygart said that as far as his agency is concerned, the issue is settled.
“Our position is that he isn’t provisionally suspended,” said Tygart. “He presented his case, the panel ruled that no doping violation occurred and he should be eligible to compete.”
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