'Mr Clean' Christophe Bassons handed one-year ban after missing in-competition drugs test

Man frozen out of sport after speaking out against Lance Armstrong had abandoned MTB race and gone home before being selected for random test

by Simon_MacMichael   October 20, 2012  

road.cc news

Even in the crazy world of professional bike racing, some headlines still have the power to shock. Today’s news that Christophe Bassons has received a one-year ban for missing a doping control is one of those, going beyond the merely improbable –  ‘Lance Armstrong banned for life,’ or ‘Briton wins the Tour de France’ – and into another realm altogether.

The 38-year-old, whose career in road cycling ended more than a decade ago after he was in effect bullied out of the sport after speaking out against doping, was selected for a random doping control after the French mountain bike marathon championships at the start of September.

The problem was that he’d abandoned the race 20 kilometres from the finish and headed home and didn’t have enough time to get back.

Out of competition, miss three tests and you’re facing a ban, but for an in-competition test, you only have to miss one.

As a result of the missed doping control, Bassons has been handed a one-year ban by the French cycling federation, the FFC.

“When I stopped, someone from the race organisation asked my name, took a note of my race number and immediately informed race control,” Bassons told L’Equipe.

“I realise my error in not having waited until the end of the race to see if my name appeared on the list of riders to be tested.

“I took the road to Bordeaux [where he lives] and it was only two and a half hours after my abandonment that I got a phone call from the race timekeeper saying that I had to undergo a test. It was too late to get back to the site of the race.

“Why didn’t they call me earlier? Why such a heavy sanction? I don’t understand.”

Bassons has been in the news of late for being the man who first publicly pointed the finger at Lance Armstrong, raising questions about the Texan’s performance in the 1999 Tour de France, his first after recovering from cancer, and the first of the seven successive editions he would win.

He had already earned the reputation of being the ‘Mr Clean’ of the peloton after Festina team mates during the 1998 Tour de France identified him as being the only rider not using drugs in the wake of the scandal that engulfed that team, and he has recently said he turned down a significant pay rise that was conditional on him using EPO.

The following year, Bassons was riding the Tour for FDJ and also writing about his experience in a diary published in the newspaper Le Parisien. Tour organisers had hoped that year’s race would mark a fresh start from the doping that had come to blight the sport, culminating in the previous year’s chaos. They were wrong.

So too was Bassons when he assumed that his opinion in one of his articles, in which he spoke of how “shocked” he was at Armstrong’s performance that year, reflected the general view of the peloton.

The following day, on a stage from Sestriere to Alpe d’Huez, Bassons learnt from a mechanic that the peloton was planning to go slow for 100 kilometres in protest at his comments. He went on the attack, but was chased down by a peloton led not only by US Postal but also his own FDJ team.

Armstrong asumed the role of spokesman. “Go home,” he told the young Frenchman forcefully.

Afterwards, recounts The Observer, Armstrong told the press: "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home."

Bassons did just that, abandoning the Tour, and although he would race for the following two seasons with the Jean Delatour team, he was frozen out by fellow professionals as the law of omertà came into play, and his career as a pro racer would end in 2001 at the age of 27.

He would later go on to qualify as a sports teacher and now works in antidoping in Bordeaux, where he lives.

It’s said that in a democracy, it is preferable that the criminal justice system occasionally acquits guilty people, rather than convicting the innocent.

Should it be the same when it comes to doping, or should we accept that the price to pay for ensuring the guilty are caught is that those who did nothing wrong other than being a victim of circumstance should also pay, pour encourager les autres?

10 user comments

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hhhhmmmmm.......
Just floating an idea here:
Someone pays someone (in a position of authority) to make sure another''s name gets called so they get banned as a payback for bean spilling.

Not saying that's what happened of course......hhhhhhmmmmmmmm

posted by Super Domestique [1490 posts]
20th October 2012 - 15:37

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He's in charge of antidoping at youth levels in France.....How does that work if you are banned for a doping violation? Thinking

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8008 posts]
20th October 2012 - 15:38

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Why don't they randomly test at the start of the race instead?

Sudor

posted by Sudor [161 posts]
20th October 2012 - 17:42

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Possibly to stop you then taking speed or cocaine during the race?

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [923 posts]
20th October 2012 - 17:45

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Sudor wrote:
Why don't they randomly test at the start of the race instead?

Cos if you do that, it's possible to then take PEDs during the course of the race - easy to hand something up with a waterbottle.

Testing at the end ensures (in theory of course!) that the rider did the race clean. Usual procedure in road events is to test the top 3 plus 2 randoms - if it's a stage race you test the top 3, 2 randoms and the leaders of all the race classifications (eg KOM, points etc).

"Randoms" are often not random either, they can be targeted if anything is suspected. The classic one is a domestique riding himself into the ground for the benefit of the team for 100km before pulling out and going home - quite often randoms are actually targeted at those people who may have affected the outcome of the race while not actually finishing themselves.

posted by crazy-legs [423 posts]
20th October 2012 - 17:51

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Super Domestique wrote:
hhhhmmmmm.......
Just floating an idea here:
Someone pays someone (in a position of authority) to make sure another''s name gets called so they get banned as a payback for bean spilling.

FIRST thing I thought of, too Smile

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [199 posts]
20th October 2012 - 18:25

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we do not like cheats and bullies. Cool

posted by Seoige [104 posts]
20th October 2012 - 19:03

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What a stupid thing to happen. bloody typical. If its randon you check people who are in the race. He wasn't . the world is mad.

posted by mattsccm [215 posts]
21st October 2012 - 7:53

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They really don't like whistle blowers over there do they

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [478 posts]
21st October 2012 - 9:44

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Can Bassons appeal to the CAS?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
21st October 2012 - 12:48

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