Cyclingnews - the world centre of cycling Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recent News

January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008

2007 & earlier

Recently on

Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Cycling Newsflash for July 12, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

Mark French cleared

By John Stevenson

Australian cyclist Mark French has been cleared on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. French was banned for two years in 2004 after an earlier hearing found that he had used and trafficked in prohibited substances, corticosteroid (allegedly contained in a supplement preparation called Testicomp) and equine growth hormone (eGH).

The CAS today released its findings from a hearing on May 19, 20 and 21. Terminating French's two-year ban and ordering the return of the $1,000 fine imposed by a previous hearing, the CAS found that there was no scientific evidence that the Testicomp French had admitted to using contained a prohibited substance; and insufficient evidence "to conclude to the necessary degree of satisfaction that the knowing use of eGH has been proven."

In its highly-detailed, 24 page ruling, the CAS points to two major problems with the case against French. The allegation that French used corticosteroids by injecting Testicomp fails because there is no scientific evidence that Testicomp contains corticosteroid. Testicomp is a homeopathic supplement, which is claimed on its accompanying literature to contain corticosteroid, but analysis of Testicomp failed to find corticosteroids in the product. "An admission to use of Testicomp does not amount to an admission that there has been use of a prohibited substrance unless the product used is shown by chemical analysis to contain that which it purports to contain by its product leaflet," says the judgment.

Regarding the accusation of use and trafficking in eGH, the ruling finds problems with what would in a criminal case be termed the chain of custody of the waste bucket found in French's room. Other riders at the AIS facility in Adelaide had access to French's room and therefore "we cannot conclude that there is sufficient evidence to to lead to a conclusion that use of eGH by French is proven."

The ruling then addresses the DNA evidence against French, concluding that the DNA recovered from a needle in the waste bucket and alleged to have been French's may have come from another source.

Similar problems with the evidence and chain of custody issues caused the CAS to find that it was not proven that French had been involved in trafficking eGH.

French's appeal did not directly address the lifetime ban from Olympic competition that he received as a result of being found to have trafficked in prohibited substances. However, the decision does clear the way for French to compete internationally once again as the Olympic ban will be lifted. "Under the AOC's anti-doping policy that follows automatically," AOC spokesman Mike Tancred told AAP.

The French case led to one of the biggest media storms ever to accompany a doping allegation in Australian sport, which in turn raised concerns that investigators, politicians and the media were trampling the rights of French and other cyclists implicated by him in their enthusiasm to appear tough on drugs in sport.

French considers comeback

With the CAS' final verdict going his way, Mark French now has to decide whether to return to cycling after an 18 month legal and media ordeal.

"I've been up and down more than a yo-yo," French told the ABC. "I'm just [grateful] my family's stuck by me - I've been a lot more down than up. Everyone's pulled me through it, my solicitors, everyone - family, friends, good friends. Without everyone I wouldn't be here but now I can look at tomorrow. Everything's looking better."

From the outset, French maintained he had not used the contents of the empty equine growth hormone vials found in his room at the AIS facility in Adelaide. But despite having been finally cleared, he is still angry about the events of the last 18 months. "I am because I've lost everything I've wanted," he said.

French watched from the sidelines as other riders represented Australia. Being out of cycling, was hard, he says. "That was the worst time of my life and nothing will ever be able to give that back to me," he said. "I've lost 18 months of it, two world titles and an Olympic Games and I was at the top of my class - I was up there with the Ryan Bayleys and all the other boys.

"I've been cleared - everything's positive [but] I've still lost 18 months of my life."

Cycling Australia responds

The CEO of Cycling Australia, Graham Fredericks, this afternoon responded to the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to clear Mark French.

Here is the media statement issued by Fredericks and Cycling Australia:

Cycling Australia respects the processes of the Court of Arbitration for Sport which in this case is the final arbiter. As a result we have no alternative but to abide by this final ruling.

The Court has stated that in this case they have demanded a very high standard of proof almost approaching beyond reasonable doubt and that we have failed to meet that standard. We are certainly frustrated that despite two hearings in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, three independent inquiries and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on this case there is no cut-and-dried resolution.

The CAS Appeals Panel has ruled there is insufficient evidence to prove the charges in relation to Equine Growth Hormone and are not satisfied that Testicomp contains banned glucocorticosteroids despite the label saying it does. We presented our evidence and it hasn't been enough. We have exhausted all our legal avenues and there is nothing else we can do.

We have an obligation to our members and the public to vigorously pursue cases and that is what we have done. We presented our evidence and it was tested in court. Mr French exercised his rights under the same policy and this case is now closed.

I'm sad that cycling has been dragged through this because the sport doesn't deserve it. Cheating is the rare exception not the rule and we'll keep fighting to keep it that way for the thousands of Australians who get on their bikes every day to train and race.

I think Australians recognise how much is good in the sport of cycling. The public has been enthusiastic in their support of our athlete's during and since the Athens Olympic Games and this year at major events both here and overseas. Australians do not condemn the innocent and have demonstrated that quite clearly. We will not let cheats destroy our sport.

In relation to some of the specifics of the judgement Cycling Australia believes the DNA evidence ultimately was of no evidentiary value. In fact the panel has ruled that cross-contamination is a viable possibility and hence decided that any evidence relating to DNA in the bucket is unreliable. That would have been the case regardless of any action by us after discovery of the bucket.

It is clear from the findings of the Anderson report there was no cover up by Cycling Australia or the Australian Sports Commission and Mr Anderson found we followed the correct procedures and handled the matter expeditiously, conscientiously and in good faith and with concern for the rights of Mr French and others affected by the case. This case is a unique and complex one in the history of Australian sport and I honestly don't know what else we could have done.

This case is obviously one that would have immediately been referred to ASADA and we applaud the setting up of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Obviously we hope we are never in a position where we have to refer something to them but will not hesitate to do so if the need arises.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Australian doping allegations

November 18, 2004: Anderson report clears all but French
August 13, 2004: Dajka loses final bid
August 4, 2004: Witch hunting in the 21st century, part 2

August 3, 2004: Dajka appeal will be heard
August 2, 2004: Dajka misses deadline to appeal
July 30, 2004: Kersten in, Dajka out of Australian Olympic squad
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat, Selective leaks or reporting designed to defame?, Growth hormone test is go
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat
July 21, 2004: Australian Olympic Committee selects Eadie and Kersten
July 19, 2004: Eadie wins appeal
July 19, 2004: Eadie considers legal action
July 16, 2004: Dajka cleared by Customs
July 14, 2004: Eadie out, Kersten in, pending appeal
July 13, 2004: Eadie lodges appeal
July 12, 2004: Eadie hit with doping notice - from 1999; French saga rolls on
July 10, 2004: AOC 'withholds' Dajka from Australian Olympic team
July 9, 2004: Pound comments 'ill-informed', says ASC
July 2, 2004: Anderson report clears named riders; full Australian Olympics cycling team nominations
July 1, 2004: The high cost of controversy
June 26, 2004: Accused rider hits back: 'I was never in Adelaide'
June 25, 2004: One week for French inquiry
June 24, 2004: Mark French makes statement
June 23, 2004: Pound weighs in
June 22, 2004: Cycling Australia welcomes inquiry; Riders deny involvement in doping
June 22, 2004: French gets life, but still offers to assist new enquiry
June 21, 2004: Lifetime Olympic ban for French
June 19, 2004: French faces blowtorch from sports authorities
June 18, 2004: Opposition calls for inquiry into AIS track cycling program
June 9, 2004: French suspended two years
June 1, 2004: Horse hormones found in French's room

Previous News    Next News

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)