Metaltek Scott rider Marcel Six has been banned for 18 months by UK Anti Doping (UKAD) after refusing to provide a urine sample following the Halfords Tour Series round at Canary Wharf in May this year. In his defence, the Belgian rider, who had been called up to race that afternoon, said that he had to leave the venue immediately afterwards because his wife was locked out of their home and their son was ill.
While the decision of UKAD’s National Anti-Doping Panel suggests that its members were to some extent sympathetic to Six’s plight, the sanction imposed does send out a clear and unequivocal message that riders are required to follow the letter of the law when it comes to complying with testing procedures.
In UKAD’s full decision, it is revealed that cycling had become “a bone of contention” between Six, who races as an amateur, and his wife Chevone, who insisted that their children and her job should come first.
A nurse also provided a statement to the effect that Mrs Six suffered from “ongoing mood and anxiety-related symptoms,” which were “consistently worse at times when she is alone” meaning that she “relies heavily on her husband / partner.”
The nurse added that it was “fair to suspect that her symptoms may deteriorate should her husband be asked to work away from home.”
The panel accepted that on the day in question, 31 May 2012, Six “had not expected to be racing… and had made none of the domestic arrangements that he should have done. When – at a late stage – he was asked to race, he agreed to do so to avoid letting down his team.”
Finishing the race in 11th place, Six was selected for a random doping control – only riders from the top 12 finishers faced the prospect of such a test – and doping control chaperone Keith D’Wan approached him to tell him at 2020 hours that he would have to take a test.
According to D’Wan, he viewed Six’s “demeanour as being frustrated, angry and upset,” with the cyclist telling him he had to get home to his family.
However, the official was not aware at this point of the pressure that was being put on the cyclist by his wife via a string of phone calls and text messages creating what his lawyers, who were working for Six on a pro bono basis, described as a ‘drip drip’ effect.
The first of those calls came at 1715 hours to tell the rider that his son was ill, and she also attempted to contact him a number of times during the race itself and afterwards, including while D’Wan was trying to persuade the cyclist, who had by now walked to the underground car park, to take the test.
Six signed a form acknowledging that a “refusal or failure to comply with this request to provide a urine sample may constitute an Anti-Doping Rule violation,” adding in the field headed ‘Athlete Comments,’ “...wife with kids who are extremely ill and I need to be there.”
The decision noted that "it says something about his motivation that he did (albeit unrealistically) suggest that testers might carry out the test at home that day or the following day."
Crucially, however, Six failed to establish to the panel’s satisfaction that the circumstances, including the fact his son was ill and his wife locked out, constituted a “compelling justification” for him to refuse to provide a sample.
“Honourable though the Athlete’s motives may have been, we have no hesitation in finding that his refusal was not based on any compelling justification,” it said in its decision.
“To be blunt, even if he agreed to race only at the last minute and under pressure, the fact of the matter is that, if he had time to compete in a cycle race, he had to make time to take the test. If, as was the later the case, he wished to put his family first, then the time to do that was before he agreed to race rather than when he came to be tested.”
It added: “As we say, the Athlete’s situation here was avoidable. He chose to race and, having chosen to race, he should have been prepared to take the test.
“To that extent, the problem was of his own making and whilst his decision to put his family before his obligations as an athlete may be commendable and humane, his motives do not, in our view, constitute a defence on the basis of Article 2.3.”
The panel did however accept that “his clear motivation was to go urgently to the aid of his family whom he believed to be in significant distress with the potential for harm to the health of his wife and possibly also his children,” and while rejecting that it constituted “compelling justification,” said it did mean “he has behaved without significant fault.”
As a result, the potential two-year ban that Six could have faced was reduced to 18 months.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.