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Spanish court rejects whereabouts challenge

Just a day after successfully defending the suspension of Stefan Schumacher in the International Court of Arbitration for Sport, anti-doping officials scored a significant legal win in a Spanish courtroom.

Just a day after successfully defending the suspension of Stefan Schumacher in the International Court of Arbitration for Sport, anti-doping officials scored a significant legal win in a Spanish courtroom.

An appeals court in Almeria, Spain, on Wednesday rejected cyclist Carlos Roman Golbano’s constitutional challenge of the UCI and the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) practice of requiring athletes to be available for out-of-competition testing.

In a decision handed down by the Third Section of the Provincial Court of Almería, the court found that the governing bodies’ “Whereabouts Information System” did not constitute a violation of the rights of privacy guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution.

UCI president Pat McQuaid said that the court decision adds to an expanding body of case law that reaffirms a governing body’s right to impose strict testing and whereabouts requirements on those hoping to compete at the top levels of sport.

“Cycling has been at the forefront of the fight against doping for many years,” McQuaid said. “We are once again proud that our commitment offers benefits to the sports movement as a whole. We are ever more convinced that our joint efforts against the scourge of doping will become increasingly effective, in particular as a result of rulings such as this, which recognise the basic principles upon which our strategies and actions are based.”

McQuaid credited attorneys from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who played an important role in helping the UCI build its case when Golbano first filed his challenge in a lower court. According to the UCI, approximately 850 professional cyclists fall under the provisions of the Whereabouts Information System through the biological passport program.

Golbano has the option of appealing the decision through the European Court System, although similar challenges have not fared well. In 2004, two professional long-distance swimmers asked the European Court of Human Rights to overturn WADA’s testing policy on the grounds that it represented interference in their right to earn a living. The court not only dismissed the claim on jurisdictional grounds, but also ordered the two plaintiffs to pay court costs for both sides, ruling that the challenge was “frivolous” in nature.

In October, 2007, cyclist Andrej Kashechkin, suspended for testing positive for homologous blood doping, filed suit in a Belgian civil court challenging WADA’s authority to conduct doping tests. The judge ruled that the question did not fall within the court’s jurisdiction, but also made the point that the challenge would have failed even if it the jurisdictional question had not been at issue.