First Edition News for June 22, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Australia's track cycling scandal:
French gets life, but still offers to assist new enquiry
By Gerard Knapp
What next for Mark French?
Photo: © Mark Gunter
Australian track cyclist Mark French today received a lifetime ban from
the Australian Olympic Committee for doping offences, but at the same
time has offered to cooperate with a new enquiry that will investigate
his testimony that alleges another five cyclists had also taken part in
doping at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) cycling facility in
Adelaide, South Australia.
French, 19, is a four-time junior world champion on the track and was
considered one of Australian cycling's brightest emerging stars. However,
in December last year, cleaners found a range of used injecting paraphernalia
in his room at the AIS and so began a process of investigations and hearings,
culminating in the damning report issued by Court of Arbitration for Sport
(CAS) on June 9 this year.
At the CAS hearings, French alleged that he and another five cyclists
at the AIS in Adelaide used his room to inject a variety of substances,
ranging from vitamins and supplements through to equine growth hormone
However, this testimony was provided in-camera to CAS and authorities
have been prevented from following up on his claims. Excerpts from French's
testimony - but no names -were quoted in the Australian Parliament last
Friday by Senator John Faulkner and subsequently the case made headlines
around the country the following morning.
By late Monday, French's solicitors agreed to provide qualified approval
to cooperate with a new enquiry, announced in the Senate by the Minister
for Sport, Senator Rod Kemp. Cyclingnews was told that this approval involves
providing the names of the five riders to the enquiry - to be chaired
by retired Supreme Court Justice the Honourable Robert Anderson QC - but
only for internal use by the enquiry and that the names are not to be
It's also understood that the terms of reference for the enquiry, to
be finalised within the next two days, could also look at the processes
involved in the administration of penalties and suspensions relating to
doping offences in Australia. It may also extend to investigating how
a confidential report was leaked to a politician (Senator Faulkner), who
in turn used the material to launch a scathing attack on his political
Australia is in the midst of a looming Federal election and combined
with an Olympics years, a doping offence is making the headlines as the
political forces go on the offensive.
Further, the enquiry may also investigate any unexplored forensic methods
that could be used to determine the actual user of the EGH, the most serious
doping substance found at the AIS.
While French admitted to injecting vitamins and the supplement Testicomp
(which contains minute traces of the banned drug glucocorticosteroid),
he denied using and indeed any knowledge of the EGH, or how the 13 used
ampoules of the drug were found in his room.
However, in his ruling (aka the Partial Arbitral Award) released on June
9, the Queen's Counsel for the CAS, Malcolm Holmes, described this element
of French's testimony as "implausible".
Not fast enough
The two bodies that took French to the 'sports court' over the doping
infringements, Cycling Australia (CA) and the Australian Sports Commission
(ASC), have faced criticism over the time taken to investigate the French
While both CA and the ASC have maintained they followed the correct bureaucratic
procedures in prosecuting French, it did not satisfy the Australian Olympic
Last Saturday, Simon Rofe, legal counsel for the AOC, said, "Cycling
Australia has a duty to inform us of its doping prosecutions and the outcomes
of them. For this to have gone on for so long without us knowing the seriousness
of the allegations is a matter of concern."
Some 12 days after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced
it had suspended French for two years and fined him $1000 for doping,
the AOC weighed in with a headline-grabbing ruling that effectively ends
any chance the cyclist had of representing Australia at future Olympic
At a press conference in Sydney, Rofe said, "Bob Elphinston, the AOC
secretary-general, has written to Mark French advising him that in light
of the fact that two of the charges against him that were found proven
involved trafficking, Mark is ineligible for life to represent Australia
at the Olympic Games".
But the AOC provided French with further incentive to cooperate with
the new enquiry. "I should add... that if Mark French was to give substantial
assistance in giving evidence as to other people involved in these offences
there is potential for his sanction to be reduced, but in any event it
will be a minimum of eight years under the world anti-doping code," Rofe
Earlier, the AOC warned that it will not allow those cyclists named by
French to be included in the Australian Olympic team for the Athens Olympic
Games unless this new enquiry could fully investigate French's claims
and clear their names.
"We have approximately 470 athletes in the team, we can't allow their
reputations to be sullied by five possible drug cheats," Rofe said last
However, an investigation into the French affair chaired by Justice Stanwix
in January this year found there was insufficient evidence to suggest
widespread doping at the AIS, although two riders were reprimanded for
Further, it's understood that not all cyclists who are with the AIS actually
live at the Del Monte, Adelaide, facility, but only use it as a training
However, the issue remains of identifying the actual user of the EGH,
as French maintains he had no knowledge of this drug being taken in his
room nor of the used ampoules being left behind in his own 'sharps bucket'
(made out of a used protein powder container).
At a press conference last Saturday, Graham Fredericks, the CEO of Cycling
Australia, said that even fingerprints and DNA testing had been ruled
out. "The advice we received from the relevant police authority at the
time was that nothing would be able to be gleaned . that could be used
in any legal sense".
The irony in the French case is that the drug he did admit to using -
glucocorticosteroid - was about to be made legal for use by athletes around
the time of his admitted usage.
In September last year, the health medical research commission of the
World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) proposed to remove glucocorticosteroid
from its list of banned substances. However, this proposal was over-ruled
by the WADA Executive Committee and the drug has stayed on its list.
The drug also remains on the list of banned substances as issued by the
International Cycling Union, and that list is applied to doping cases
by Cycling Australia.
Despite his denials, CAS still found French guilty of possession and
trafficking of the EGH.
It's expected that terms of reference for the latest enquiry will be
finalised within the next two days, and Cycling Australia has only three
weeks to clear up the matter as it has to name the final cycling team
for the Athens Olympics by July 9.
In the Senate on Monday, Senator Kemp said the enquiry "will inquire
into and provide recommendations on the allegations made by Mr French
in his evidence given to CAS".
Further, the Minister "asked that the investigation also examine and
provide recommendations on whether there was any failure of management,
systems or supervision at the Del Monte facility; and whether the processes
put in place by the ASC and other organisations in dealing with this matter
were appropriate and effective".
The emphasis and driver of this third enquiry is of a political, rather
than scientific, nature; it was demanded by the Federal Opposition in
the Senate and on Monday the Government agreed to its demand. However,
the other issue is the still-unresolved serious doping offence, but there
appears little chance of the enquiry determining who is guilty of using
the EGH found in French's room back in December.
Cycling Australia's Fredericks said that because there is no test to
detect EGH, any successful prosecution will require corroborating evidence
from a third party that can identify the rider/s who used the EGH - and
also clear the names of the other riders. "Otherwise, it's going to be
one statement against another, and that's probably not going to get us
Court setback for Armstrong
A French judge has rejected the request by Lance Armstrong's lawyer to
force the publisher of "LA Confidential" to include in each copy of the
book a statement by Armstrong denouncing the book's accusation that he
has engaged in doping during his career. The book by Pierre Ballester
and David Walsh hit shelves a week ago, and Armstrong's legal team reacted
immediately, beginning legal proceedings in France and the United Kingdom
against the authors and publishers.
"By ruling against Mr. Armstrong, the judge has understood perfectly
that Armstrong has attempted to respond through the courts to the journalists'
questions he previously refused to answer," commented Arnault de Montbrial,
lawyer for the book's publisher, Editions de la Martinière.
With this initial setback, Armstrong must pay each author and the publisher
a symbolic fee of 1 euro each for "abuse of procedure" and 1,500 euros
to cover court expenses.
"This decision guards the right of journalists to engage in serious investigations,
and reminds us that a person who is object of such an investigation cannot
use his refusal to answer questions to have a judge impose censure," de
Pierre Ballester, one of the book's co-authors, said simply "we're pleased
that the judge considers this is a question of investigative journalism
and not sensationalism."
Meanwhile, Armstrong's lawyer Christian Charrière-Bournazel has
entered an appeal to the decision.
"I'm very upset and I don't share the opinion of the court," he told
AFP, adding that he and Armstrong were not seeking the suppression
of the book, rather a chance to provide the statement to readers asserting
Armstrong's denial of the most serious charges.
Quick.Step names Tour team
The Quick.Step-Davitamon team, thus far the most successful team of the
2004 season, has named its roster for the Tour de France. Juan Miguel
Mercado and Michael Rogers will be the team's primary men for the general
classification, while Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen will fight for stage
wins. Richard Virenque has targeted a seventh polka dot jersey of best
climber, which would make him the absolute record holder. Supporting these
riders will be Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Servais Knaven (stage winner
in 2003), and Stefano Zanini. Two riders held in reserve are Laszlo Bodrogi
and Pedro Horrillo.
Saeco for Italian championships
Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego will be among Saeco's riders to compete
in the upcoming national championships in Italy. Cunego will be joined
by Danilo Di Luca, Gabriele Balducci, Leonardo Bertagnolli, Giosuè
Bonomi, Antonio Bucciero, Paolo Fornaciari, Nicola Gavazzi, Alessandro
Spezialetti and two-time national champion Salvatore Commesso.
While the Italian riders will be racing in Tuscany, Saeco's international
riders will be competing in their respective national championships. Juan
Fuentes will be in Spain, Gerrit Glomser and Andreas Matzbacher in Austria,
David Loosli in Switzerland, Jörg Ludewig in Germany, Evgeni Petrov
in Russia and Sylvester Szmyd in Poland.
Lampre for Italy and elsewhere
The Italian Lampre team will also field a sizeable team for this weekend's
national championship road race. Francesco Casagrande, who made his return
to competition at the Tour de Suisse after a lengthy battle with tendinitis,
will lead the team along with Alessandro Ballan, Sergio Barbero, GianLuca
Bortolami, Paolo Bossoni, Simone Bertoletti, Matteo Carrara, Francesco
Casagrande, Alessandro Cortinovis, Marco Pinotti, Manuel Quinziato, Michele
Scotto d'Abusco, and Daniele Righi.
Marco Pinotti and Manuel Quinziato will also contest the time trial on
Outside of Italy, Olexandr Kvachuk will race for the Ukrainian title,
Romans Vainsteins in Latvia, Jan Svorada in the Czech Republic, and Andrej
Hauptman will race in Slovenia.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)