By Andrew Hood
In a case that could have major implications in the fight against doping in sport, a Swiss civil court late last week under-cut a two-year ban against German rider Danilo Hondo and ruled to allow him to resume racing while the court considers the case.
The case is believed to be the first time a civil court has over-ruled a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a non-governing body charged with settling doping disputes in sport.
“There’s never been a ruling like this, when an ordinary court suspends a decision by (CAS),” attorney Michael Lehner told AFP. “It’s a true victory for the rights of the athletes.”
Hondo, a German sprinter who rides with a Swiss license, tested positive for the banned stimulant carphedon during the Vuelta a Murcia in Spain in March 2005.
Last year, Hondo appealed a one-year racing ban imposed by the Swiss sports disciplinary body, but in January, CAS ruled against Hondo and actually extended the original competition ban to two years.
Cycling authorities have been firm in imposing mandatory, two-year racing bans for any doping offense since the inception of the ProTour series last year regardless of the severity of the doping offense.
Lehner said that the Lausanne court suggested that arbitrary penalties for doping infractions might be unfair and decided to review the case within the next six months. According to the court, Hondo can resume racing immediately until a final decision is made.
There was no immediate reaction over the weekend from UCI, World Anti-Doping Agency or CAS officials, but the ruling is sure to trigger discussion.
The decision could have major impact on the validity of CAS rulings, which up to now has been the final arbitrator in doping disputes. Other bids to challenge CAS rulings in civil court have regularly been shot down.
Hondo, who has insisted on his innocence, is already shopping around for a contract. According to Hondo spokesman Henry Fecherolle, Hondo’s agent Tony Rominger has already been in contact with several teams.
“We don’t know how the ProTour teams will react, but we are hopeful a team will give him a chance,” Fecherolle told VeloNews. “I spoke with him and he’s optimistic he can find a team. He only wants to race his bike again.”
Hondo, 32, enjoyed a breakout season in 2005, finishing second in the Milan-San Remo classic and winning two stages at the Murcia tour. He denied knowingly taking the banned stimulant, instead blaming a contaminated nutritional product.
His Gerolsteiner team fired him and team officials Sunday told the German wire service DPA they wouldn’t comment on whether he could return to the team until reviewing the case further.
In its January ruling, CAS said in a statement: “The results of the analysis (of Hondo’s samples) could not be called into question.”
Bouyer denied by CAS
In another interesting twist, CAS ruled late last week that Frank Bouyer, a French rider on the Bouygues Telecom team, cannot take prescribed medicine to treat diagnosed narcolepsy, a rare sleep disorder.
Bouyer had previously appealed to WADA to allow him to receive treatment from medicines that contain elements on the banned products list and returned to racing last August.
According to a report in L’Equipe, the UCI challenged the exception but left the door open for further review.
In the meantime, Bouyer received the news 48 hours ahead of starting the Cholet-Pays de Loire race Sunday in France and was not allowed to start.
Landis holds ProTour lead
Floyd Landis (Phonak) held his lead of the ProTour series following this weekend’s action at Milan-San Remo. A winner at Paris-Nice earlier this month, Landis isn’t expected to race another ProTour event until May’s Giro d’Italia and likely will never wear the leader’s jersey in a race.
Landis holds 52 points and maintained his one-point lead over Tirren-Adriatico winner Thomas Dekker (Rabobank). Milan-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato (Quick Step-Innergetic) moved into third with 50 points.
Close to record for MSR
The average speed of 45.269kph in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo was close to a new record. The fastest edition was in 1990, when Gianni Bugno won with an average speed of 45.806kph.
Three weeks for Boogerd
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) didn’t start Milan-San Remo after breaking his foot in a domestic accident while he was playing with his child late last week. He’s expected to miss at least three weeks, but hopes to be back in time to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April.
Sutton wins Cholet-Pays de Loire
Australian neopro Chris Sutton (Cofidis) dominated a bunch sprint to win the 29th edition of the Cholet-Pays de Loire race Sunday in Cholet.
The promising Aussie sprinter, who joined the team at the start of this season, held off Belgian Niko Eeckhout and Lilian Jegou of France to win the 202km race.
Another Australian, Baden Cooke – a former winner of the Tour de France green jersey for the sprinters’ points classification, who now rides for Unibet – came fifth in the bunch sprint. —Agence France Presse
1. Chris Sutton (Aus) Cofidis, 5:13:15
2. Niko Eeckhout (B), Chocolade Jacques, same time
3. Lilian Jegou (F), Française des Jeux, s.t.
4. Lloyd Mondory (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
5. Baden Cooke (Aus), Unibet.com, s.t.
6. Erki Putsep (Est), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
7. Jerome Pineau (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
8. Igor Abakoumov (B), Jartazi, s.t.
9. Said Haddou (F), Auber 93, s.t.
10. Jeremy Hunt (GB), Unibet.com, s.t.