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Lampre Test Dust-Up: Deep Breaths, Folks!

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Here is what the mini-fracas over "missed" doping controls at the Lampre camp boil down to:

  • Riders were not where they were expected to be at the time the controllers arrived. They were 10km away, coming back from dinner with some lucky Damiano Cunego fans.
  • Testing was scheduled for sometime between 11pm and 3am; by that, I gather riders were expected to be found in their rooms at that time [not that they were told about the tests]. Riders returned to their lodging by 11:30.
  • Controllers arrived at 11:15. Cunego claims his test was completed at 11:30 or thereabouts.

Fifteen minutes. If we're talking about the Watergate tapes, that's a lot. Does that justify a possible three- to twelve-month suspension? Doubtful.

There are reasons for subjecting riders to surprise tests, which in turn requires knowing where riders are. By my dim understanding, hematocrit levels can be masked by chugging enough liquid shortly before a test, so any lag time that gives the rider advanced warning of a test can potentially undermine its effectiveness. Arguably, 15 minutes is enough time to chug a couple bottles of Pedialyte and maybe get that number down a couple points.

At the same time, Cycling needs to be cautious about overprosecution. Riders already feel persecuted, and it'd be nice if the system operated in a way that gave them confidence in it. Given what we know, this looks like an innocent technicality, riders rolling in a little late from dinner with no expectation of meeting controllers at that hour. Surely numerous witnesses could quickly corroborate that the riders were at the restaurant, not off visiting shady doctors thought to be operating in the region. Hell, even a credit card receipt should do.

Ultimately Cycling needs to get the on-line whereabouts system (ADAMS) up and running, and remind riders to err on the side of conservative estimates to ensure punctuality. Don't say you're coming back home at 11 if you think you might run late. I don't want to make too light of the situation: one way to mock the system is to lag behind schedule, hoping that if the controllers show up, someone will call your cell and warn you first. But fifteen minutes, under circumstances which don't appear suspicious? CONI need to issue a stern warning and a promise to prosecute if it happens again. And that's it.