Lance Armstrong may not, as previously reported, participate at the Gran Fondo Hincapie this weekend in South Carolina, due to the event’s sanctioning through USA Cycling.
Because of his lifetime ban, Armstrong is prohibited from participating in any event sanctioned by any signatory to the World Anti-Doping [WADA] Code.
What is at question is the status of the gran fondo, and how that lifetime ban applies.
USA Cycling’s website lists the Hincapie Fondo as permitted as a “Fun Ride or Tour,” rather than a competitive event which has “agreed to submit results to the National Rankings System.”
In USADA’s announcement of Armstrong’s lifetime ban, dated August 24, 2012, the agency stated, “A lifetime period of ineligibility as described in the [WADA] Code prevents Mr. Armstrong from participating in any activity or competition organized by any signatory to the Code or any member of any signatory.”
And while that statement makes it sound as though WADA Code prohibits Armstrong’s participation from any and all USA Cycling-sanctioned events, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told VeloNews on Wednesday that it had reached out to USA Cycling Tuesday, following the publication of a VeloNews story about Armstrong’s involvement, to determine whether or not the Hincapie fondo “qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”
“The WADA Code rules dictate that a sanctioned athlete cannot compete in an authorized event during that athlete’s period of ineligibility,” USADA’s media relations manager Annie Skinner wrote in a statement. “After this question was brought to our attention, we reached out to USA Cycling, and we are awaiting their determination as to whether or not this Gran Fondo qualifies as an authorized event under the rules.”
USA Cycling director of communications Bill Kellick told VeloNews that a section of the WADA code puts the decision upon the shoulders of the national anti-doping agency.
“The determination of whether an Athlete or other Person has violated the prohibition against participation, and whether a reduction under Article 10.5.2 is appropriate, shall be made by the Anti-Doping Organization whose results management led to the imposition of the initial period of Ineligibility,” the WADA code reads.
Because they are considered “non-competitive events,” and racing licenses are not required, gran fondos are difficult to police.
In this case, there would be no one to stop Armstrong, or anyone else, from riding. According to Kellick, if Armstrong does participate, it would then fall to USADA to determine what, if any penalty is meted out and then up to USAC to enforce any penalties.
“The event is a permitted, non-competitive ride with no officials, so there is no one there to stop [Armstrong] from participating,” Kellick said. “If he does participate, it would be up to USADA to determine what, if any, penalties would be imposed (beyond the lifetime ban) and then it would be up to USA Cycling to impose those penalties.”
Shawn Farrell, who was fired from USA Cycling last week after 11 years in the role of technical director, overseeing the federation’s rules and regulations, explained that it is essentially impossible for the federation to proactively enforce suspensions or bans from “fun ride or tour” events.
“Nobody [at USA Cycling] is specifically responsible for that,” Farrell told VeloNews. “USA Cycling has 3,000 events, and no staff can scan all start lists. Normally the licensing solves that problem. Gran fondos are challenging, as people don’t need licenses. But then the same thing can happen when a rider just fills out a one-day app and creates a separate account.”
As a non-competitive event, the Hincapie fondo is in no way required to be sanctioned through USA Cycling; the sanctioning amounts to rider insurance coverage, which USA Cycling offers to myriad cycling events.
Under USA Cycling permitting guidelines, one-day trial licenses are optional for gran fondos and fun rides/tours, but USA Cycling’s excess medical coverage is only provided with purchase of a one-day (or annual) license.
Four former members of Armstrong’s U.S Postal Service and Discovery Channel team who testified to USADA about drug use within the team will be participating — George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Michael Barry and Tom Danielson.
Former USPS riders Kevin Livingston and Dylan Casey are also participating.
Other former USPS riders who testified in the USADA case, but are not attending, include Levi Leipheimer, Frankie Andreu, Jonathan Vaughters, and Tyler Hamilton.
Hamilton received an eight-year suspension in 2009, following a positive doping test, his second violation since 2004.