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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


More "guilty until proven innocent"

Last year I came to the defense of cyclist Floyd Landis, who, thanks to the wheels of justice which turn at the speed of an novice cyclist riding the Alpe d'Huez, is still waiting for his case to be sorted out a year later. So naturally I have to say something about today's bombshell:
Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race by his team after winning Wednesday's stage, the biggest blow yet in cycling's doping-tainted premier event.
Now keep in mind that, as the yellow jersey leader for nearly two weeks now, Rasmussen has been drug tested every day and, as far as has been announced (and it would have been announced!), has passed them all. So what's the "evidence" against him? This:
The expulsion, which Bergsma said was ordered by the Dutch team sponsor, was linked to "incorrect" information that Rasmussen gave to the team's sports director over his whereabouts last month. Rasmussen, who also has been suspended from the team, missed random drug tests May 8 and June 28, saying he was in Mexico. But a former rider, Davide Cassani, told Denmark's Danmarks Radio on Wednesday that he had seen Rasmussen in Italy in mid-June.
First of all, we had previously been told not that he "missed a random drug test," but that he hadn't informed his team where he was every single day, which is required in case they decided to administer a random "out-of-competition" test. This is the first I've read he actually missed a test; I question if that's true. Second, "mid-June" is not June 28! It's quite easy to be in Italy in "mid-June" and be in Mexico on June 28! Heck, you can be in Italy on June 27 and in Mexico on June 28. Why on earth would Rasmussen make an easily disprovable claim of having been in Mexico ("show us your ticket receipt") when he could just as easily say he just forgot to send an email announcing his whereabouts to his team, if he really was in Italy? And how can his team sponsor even dare to describe his information as "incorrect," rather than "questioned"? Does this ex-rider have a grudge against Rasmussen? Is he being paid by a rival team? I have no idea, and I doubt the sponsor even took the time to ask such questions.

Why do I make a thing about this? Because the whole "guilty until proven innocent" with respect to drugs in sport is, in my view, very much tied in to the same trend in society, which ends with "Iraq has WMD unless they can prove they don't" and "let's bomb this building even though we don't know who's in it because there might be some 'bad guy' inside and we can't take a chance." Am I stretching here? You can decide for yourself. I don't think so.

This is also part of the "corporations have all the power" (yes, even more than before) trend in society. Michael Rasmussen is an employee of the RaboBank squad (and indirectly of RaboBank, the team sponsor), and their "rights" are everything, his, nothing. They decide what they think is in their best interest. The fact that they might be ruining the career, and the future earning potential, of an individual, is not their problem, any more than it was the problem of the Phonak team when they destroyed the career of Floyd Landis, or of United States Government when they destroyed the career of Muhammad Ali (for different reasons, to be sure).

By the way, does that mean I conclude that Rasmussen might not be guilty (of what, I'm not sure)? No, I don't have enough facts to make a conclusion like that. But until there are more facts than are in evidence (and so far there are virtually no facts in evidence), he must be presumed innocent.

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