Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Former professional cyclist Michael Rasmussen would not be able to advise another athlete to cooperate with anti-doping authorities due to his experiences with the anti-doping system, heard delegates at the sixth International Network of Humanistic Doping Research (INHDR) conference in Aarhus today. “If I had to advise an athlete whether to cooperate with the system, I do not know what advice I would give them, as anti-doping organisations do not have to respect any prior agreements”, he said (pictured). “There are no guarantees”.
In an extraordinary keynote address, Rasmussen accused the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) of intentionally lying at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS); explained how Anti-Doping Denmark (ADD) had dropped its case against him after fellow Danish rider Nicki Sørensen confessed to doping; and detailed his treatment at the hands of anti-doping authorities.
Rasmussen explained how he had been told by anti-doping authorities that they would go after his money and that he would receive a longer ban if he did not cooperate with them. He explained that he signed a contract with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), ADD, Danish authorities, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and others to receive a reduced two-year sanction in return for cooperation. Despite this agreement, his ban was later extended by four months to 28 months. “I later found out that they could have imposed a lifetime ban, as the anti-doping authorities are not required to respect such agreements”, he said.
Rasmussen was keen to point out that although he later admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, he was only charged with lying about his whereabouts. Elite athletes in a national federation’s registered testing pool (RTP) are required to state where they will be available to be tested for one hour each day using the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS). He provided details of a number of incidents where he felt he had been unfairly targeted by the anti-doping authorities.
The first incident occurred in 2006, when Rasmussen was riding for Rabobank. He said that six Rabobank riders had forgotten to file there whereabouts. He said that in five cases, a phone call sorted out the issue, however in his case, he received a written warning despite responding to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in a similar way to the other cyclists.
In 2007, following the publication of the Vogelzang Report commissioned by Rabobank to investigate allegations concerning the 2007 Tour de France, Rasmussen was suspended for missing three whereabouts filings in 18 months. It found that Rasmussen had deliberately misled the UCI about his whereabouts, however Rasmussen said that Rabobank knew about his whereabouts. In November, the Danish Olympic Committee (DIF) decided not to sanction him, alleging that the UCI had not informed him of the violation within the correct length of time.
Rasmussen said that there were two different postage stamps on an envelope sent to the UCI as a whereabouts filing – one reading 4 June and the other reading 8 June 2007. He said he informed Anne Gripper, head of the UCI’s anti-doping department at that time, that she had perhaps overlooked this. “She refused to acknowledge this and intentionally lied to the CAS”, said Rasmussen. “She said it was the 6th in order to get me banned”.
Rasmussen said that he felt he was the victim of a “witch hunt”, after the CAS let three riders off with a warning after they provided parking tickets to prove their location. He provided a plane ticket as proof of his whereabouts, yet received a ban.
Rasmussen said that he had been invited to Norway, where he was approached by two anti-doping officials requesting urine and blood samples. “I had difficulty with the reason for the blood tests, as it was outside of the athlete biological passport (ABP)”, he said. “I gave my blood, while asking why this was necessary outside of the ABP. I can only think that it was for shits and giggles.”
Giving samples can be a humiliating experience. Athletes who are subject to a random urine sample are required to produce that sample, and if they do not perform, the anti-doping official must follow them and not let them out of their sight. If the athlete cuts contact with the doping official, then that constitutes an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).
“Early one morning, I was trying to get my son ready for school”, recalled Rasmussen. “An anti-doping official was at the door. It was early in the morning and I had been to the toilet, so I was not able to produce the urine sample. The anti-doping official comes into my house. My son asked ‘why is that strange man here?’ I didn’t know what to say. Then, I told the official that I needed to take a shit. The official told me that he needed to follow me to the toilet and if I refuse, I will receive a two-year suspension. I had a stranger in my house watching me take a shit at 7:30 in the morning.”
When an athlete is banned, there are clear rules which state that they may not participate in any sanctioned events. However, confusion can arise over which events are permitted, and the diligent Rasmussen often sought approval. When asked if he could take part in an autograph signing to raise money for charity, he was told by the DIF that he could take part, but that “they would prefer” if it took place after the suspension had taken place. They also instructed him that “they would prefer” him to conduct the signing in neuteral clothes.
In a similar situation regarding a derny show event, the UCI told Rasmussen that as long as the race was not sanctioned and didn’t require a UCI licence, then it was OK. “Go have some fun, they said”, said Rasmussen. “It is not fair to the athlete that a national federation is trying to make me distance myself even further from the rule book than already required”.
This year, ADD released a report into doping in Danish cycling from 1998 – 2015, which you can download in English here. Rasmussen had already alleged that Nicki Sørensen had doped in his 2013 book, Yellow Fever. However, he said that he was asked to sign a 38-page testimony relating to the ADD report.
At the end of the investigation, on 21 April, Rasmussen said that he received two versions of what was planned to be included in the report along with a letter from ADD asking for approval, but requesting that the information should remain confidential with regard to the athletes named and in relation to Danish doping in cycling at the Olympics. Rasmussen said that two days later, he received another letter from ADD with another amendment, asking for an urgent response within two days.
A month later, Rasmussen said that ADD informed him that all documents concerned with the report are ‘temporary drafts’. It also asked him to agree to a confidentiality clause, so he sought the advice of a lawyer. The letter asks for confirmation that the drafts have been destroyed.
Rasmussen said that he then received a new version with all names erased and “the entire Olympic story altered to the point of absurdity”. After he had checked with his lawyer, Rasmussen said that he refused to sign the confidentiality clause. “The ADD said that I was right to do so”, he said. They now ‘requested’ that I destroy the documents.
On 19 June, Rasmussen said that he received a final email from ADD, informing him that he is not allowed to share any of the information with third parties, and that any information he holds should be kept confidential after the publication of the ADD report. Rasmussen says that he was told that if he shared the information contained within the ‘drafts’, this would be considered a breach of their agreement with him.
Three days ago, Rasmussen said that he received a letter from ADD stating that they have decided not to prosecute him. Sorensen had chosen to confess after the ADD report and after a newspaper story. “I would have found it rather bizarre to have been prosecuted for something a rider had confessed to, especially as it was all in a book two years earlier”, he said.