Cycling News Flash for July 2, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Anderson report clears named riders
'Nothing to support their exclusion from Australia's Olympic cycling team'
By Gerard Knapp
The investigation into allegations made by suspended track sprinter, Mark French, that five other cyclists at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) used his room for injecting a range of unidentified substances has cleared the riders and is said to be "absolutely damning" of the teenage rider's earlier testimony.
A source close to the investigation told Cyclingnews that the report "Places a very large question-mark over his (French) evidence".
It appears there is nothing to support the exclusion of any of the riders nominated today by Cycling Australia to represent the country at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Executives from Cycling Australia, the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Olympic Committee were presented with the report, prepared by Robert Anderson, QC, a retired Supreme Court Justice from Western Australia, at 4pm this afternoon.
The three sports bodies will make statements tomorrow, providing further detail from Mr Anderson's report. However, it's understood that the AOC will not oppose the selection of any rider nominated today by Cycling Australia.
In the latest inquiry, French attempted to qualify statements he previously made in-camera at a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in early June. "He needed to qualify it (previous testimony) so substantially that it was reduced almost to vanishing point," said the source.
At that hearing, French was found guilty of possession and trafficking of doping substances, but it was the leaking of his testimony - described in the CAS ruling as "implausible" - that set off what has been unprecedented political involvement into any doping case in Australia.
In his testimony, French alleged that another five cyclists at the AIS had used his room for injecting. However, an earlier inquiry had found insufficient evidence to support this claim, while the CAS hearing in June was similarly dismissive.
Nonetheless, the 'French affair' made the front page repeatedly in Australia, with considerable damage done to cycling's reputation. Leading riders found themselves snubbed from important, symbolic engagements or abandoned by potential sponsors, even though nothing had been proven.
More to come
Mr Anderson will continue his inquiry into the 'French affair', as serious questions have been raised about the leaking of confidential testimony made in-camera to a Court. It's understood the senior jurist is concerned that an important legal facility - the concept of giving testimony in-camera - was seriously undermined by being raised in the Australian Parliament. Mr Anderson will also investigate the time taken to process and prosecute French, the four-time junior world champion.
At the CAS hearing in June, French was given a two-year suspension and $1000 fine. The AOC then weighed in and slapped a life ban on the teenager, considered one of Australia's brightest track cycling prospects, preventing him from competing at any future Olympic Games.
The second component of the Anderson inquiry will be presented to the Federal Government by October 31.
Cyclingnews coverage of the French affair
Cycling Australia sticks to Olympic team
Evans misses out - again
Cycling Australia this afternoon announced the riders it intends to nominate to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection in the Australian team for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
In its announcement of the nominations, the organisation stressed that "nominees have qualified for selection as per the 2004 Australian Olympic Team Nomination Criteria but selection of the Olympic Team will be conducted solely by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC)." Selection may also be affected by the outcome of the Anderson inquiry sparked by Mark French's allegations that five riders from the Australian Institute of Sport used his room to inject themselves with a range of substances. It is also possible that riders not nominated to the team will appeal, and they have until July 6, 2004 to do so.
Perhaps the most surprising omission is Cadel Evans, who recently won the Tour of Austria, and took the gold medal in the time trial at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Evans was also a surprise exclusion from the T-Mobile squad for the Tour de France. The Australian selectors have had an abundance of riches to choose from this year, with riders such as Allan Davis, Scott Sunderland, and Matthew Wilson showing good form this year and earning themselves places among the ten Australians who will start the Tour de France tomorrow.
Scott Sunderland expressed his disappointment at having been overlooked, as he was in 2000. "I really don't understand what's happening," he told Cyclingnews. "Can't make sense out of it just yet. When I woke this morning, I got a phone call from an Australian TV station asking me for a comment on my non-selection. I hadn't heard from the selectors yet so I was caught completely unaware. I was so disappointed to find out. It really was a fierce slap in the face.
"National Coach Shayne Bannan rang me after I had breakfast and told me about the selection. I have to digest it all now. No doubt I will have a lot to think about while out training today, but I'm certainly not the only one in that situation."
It's understood that 2003 world championships silver medalist Michael Rogers will be the first choice for the time trial on August 18, but the second of Australia's two places in that event remains open. One obvious candidate for the spot is Bradley McGee, who is nominally a member of the track team, but could double up. However, McGee is considered Australia's best chance in the 4000m pursuit, and the qualifying round of that discipline is the first track event, on August 20. Conditions in Athens are likely to be extremely hot and humid, which makes it difficult to imagine McGee recovering in just 48 hours from the necessary effort.
Australian Olympic nominations
Mountain Bike XC - Men
Chris Jongewaard (SA)
Mountain Bike XC - Women
Lisa Mathison (Qld)
Baden Cooke (Vic)
Sara Carrigan (Qld)
Ryan Bayley (WA)
Kate Bates (NSW)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)