Questionable standards in cycling doping bans and new trials

We start this morning with some news about the apparent double standards doping experiences in the sport of cycling. While the name Johan Bruynell might be foreign to most people’s ears, Lance Armstrong’s name is certainly notorious, as his recent doping scandal caused many to take a second look at the huge doping problem in cycling. Bruyneel served as Armstrong’s team manager at the time Armstrong was in competition, and he was also heavily involved in the doping scandal. At the hearing, the arbitrators found that Bruyneel was “’at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping’ on multiple teams spanning many years and many riders.” 

This past Monday, “ an arbitration panel ruled Monday that [Johan] Bruyneel would be barred from cycling for 10 years.” Former team trainer Pepe Martí and former team doctor Pedro Celaya, two individuals who also played key roles in the doping scandal, merely suffered an eight year ban. Armstrong, as most know, continues to suffer a lifetime ban from cycling. The article raises a serious question as to why the athlete suffers a lifetime ban, while the non-athletes (trainers, doctors, managers, etc.) have the potential to return to the sport, only to begin its doping tirade once again (slight exaggeration: some doctors and other individuals associated with the doping scandal did suffer lifetime bans). 

Although chief executive Travis Tygart of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) proposed lifetime bans for all three individuals, the case itself presented “one of the most complex antidoping prosecutions ever brought,” according to the arbitration panel. The article mentions an eight-year statute of limitations, which cut out a good portion of evidence and testimony. The lack of credibility for certain witnesses led to a decision to keep some of them out of testifying against the three coaches. Moreover, a distinguishing point between Armstrong and the three coaches is that Armstrong never attended an arbitration hearing (in addition, Armstrong’s attitude was everything but cooperative). While it is possible the coaches could still face a lifetime ban from coaching the sport, it is unlikely.  USADA will likely appeal the decision if “there was new evidence,” but the wording of the article suggests that this outcome is unlikely. The World Anti-Doping Agency is currently reviewing USADA’s decision, so we may see a future article if something unusual occurs.

Changing gears a bit, we turn our focus from the cycling world to the criminal world. Tim Danielson, a former American middle-distance runner, made history in 1966 when he became the second American to run under 4 minutes in the mile as a high school athlete. Now, nearly 50 years later, Danielson faces accusations of murdering his ex-wife Ming Qi by shooting her. Thereafter, Danielson attempted to commit suicide. Danielson’s legal defense stems from a drug called Chantix – a drug used for overcoming a smoking addiction – which may have caused his erratic behavior. While Danielson confessed to sending emails and making phone calls admitting he killed Qi,” the side-effects of Chantix – “”hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions” – may reduce or nullify Danielson’s guilt. The trial shall take place in California, where the law changed from “diminished capacity” to “diminished actuality.” The change in wording may provide some meager defense, but there is a chance no Chantix may have been in Danielson’s system at the time of the crime. Spokespeople from Chantix vehemently deny that any scientific evidence exists such that the drug would cause such drastic side-effects. While that fact does not completely disprove the defense, it is certainly a factor that could weigh against Danielson’s defense. Jury selection for the upcoming trial began yesterday.

In more doping news, we discover that American Walter Davis, a former world indoor and outdoor triple jump champion, is suffering a one-year ban from all track and field competitions “for repeatedly failing to file his location with anti-doping officials.” The ban went into effect last Wednesday, and is retroactive starting from July 1, 2013. Therefore, any results Davis achieved during that time period are automatically disqualified. Davis failed to file his “whereabouts information” three times between July 2012 and July 2013. Failure to do so results in suspension under the IAAF rules.

News from South Africa report that Hendrick Ramalaa, a veteran marathon runner, will run for presidency of the Athletics South Africa (ASA) in a month’s time. ASA has endured a recent cash flow issue, and Ramalaa believes he can “steer the ship of the embattled ASA in the right direction despite previously contributing to the mess.” Ramalaa garnered the support of former president and former enemy James Evans, as well as the other ASA members. ASA shall hold the elections on May 24.

An update from the Pistorius trial suggests that Pistorius may have taken acting lessons prior to his murder trial. Of course, the accusations were immediately denied, but the damage is already done. No official comment has been made about the accusation, though. Pistorius’ trial is set to resume on May 3.

Finally, Rome is still working furiously to win the 2024 Summer Olympics bid, but its government remains unsupportive. It appears that Italy’s financial status is bleak, and proposed funding cuts are likely to happen in the public sector – in the sports program, specifically. Many believe that an Olympics is the type of event to revitalize Italy’s economy, but newly elected Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has made no public comment on whether Italy should put forth a bid.



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