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USA Cycling: Under WADA Code, Armstrong cannot ride Hincapie fondo

USA Cycling issued a statement Thursday, addressing the planned participation of Lance Armstrong in this weekend’s Gran Fondo Hincapie, declaring that, under WADA Code, Armstrong’s lifetime ban prohibits him from riding in the USA Cycling-sanctioned “non-competitive” event.

As reported earlier this week, Armstrong had intended to reunite with several former U.S. Postal Service teammates, including George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, and Kevin Livingston, as well as several active American professional riders, at the gran fondo bearing Hincapie’s name.

That participation came into question, however, due to the event’s sanctioning with USA Cycling.

USA Cycling’s website lists the Hincapie Fondo as permitted as a “Fun Ride or Tour,” rather than a competitive event which has “agreed to submit results to the National Rankings System.”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told VeloNews on Wednesday that it had reached out to USA Cycling Tuesday, following the publication of a VeloNews story about Armstrong’s involvement, to determine whether or not the Hincapie fondo “qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”

“The WADA Code rules dictate that a sanctioned athlete cannot compete in an authorized event during that athlete’s period of ineligibility,” USADA’s media relations manager Annie Skinner wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “After this question was brought to our attention, we reached out to USA Cycling, and we are awaiting their determination as to whether or not this Gran Fondo qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”

That question was answered Thursday morning, in a statement sent from USA Cycling to VeloNews, which declared that, after conferring with USADA and the UCI, USA Cycling determined that Armstrong is, indeed, banned from participating.

“USA Cycling has been asked by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to look into the Hincapie Gran Fondo in the face of questions concerning rider eligibility,” the statement read. “USA Cycling has informed USADA that the Hincapie Gran Fondo constitutes a cycling ‘activity’ that is ‘authorized’ by USA Cycling as those terms are used in the World Anti-Doping Code and in the Anti-Doping provisions of the UCI (International Cycling Union) Cycling Regulations. Under these provisions, an athlete’s suspension bars participation in an authorized activity such as this. The UCI has confirmed USA Cycling’s interpretation.”

Because they are considered “non-competitive events,” and racing licenses are not required, gran fondos are difficult to police.

In this case, there would be no one to stop Armstrong, or anyone else, from riding. USA Cycling’s statement went on to address what might happen in the event that Armstrong should disregard the rules and choose to ride in the fondo.

“The World Anti-Doping Code vests jurisdiction in UCI and in USADA to determine whether an athlete has violated the terms of any suspension, as well as to assess any sanctions that might accompany an adverse determination.”

As a non-competitive event, the Hincapie fondo is in no way required to be sanctioned through USA Cycling; the sanctioning amounts to rider insurance coverage, which USA Cycling offers to myriad cycling events.

Under USA Cycling permitting guidelines, one-day trial licenses are optional for gran fondos and fun rides/tours, but USA Cycling’s excess medical coverage is only provided with purchase of a one-day (or annual) license.