Former world and Olympic champion escapes sanction after third missed test ruled invalid

Former world and Olympic champion Jeannie Longo has been cleared by the French cycling federation (FFC) in connection with three missed out-of-competition drugs tests. The decision leaves Longo, winner of the Olympic road race at Atlanta in 1996, free to compete at London 2012 next year.

Longo, aged 53 and with some 59 national titles to her name, was found not to have been in breach of rules requiring athletes to disclose their whereabouts for testing purposes as a result of a technicality, reports L’Equipe.

If found guilty, she would have faced a ban of between three months and two years.

The cyclist had been a member of France’s pool of elite athletes who are required to make their whereabouts known since 14 March 2008. At the time, athletes remained part of that pool until they were told otherwise.

However, a rule change introduced on 14 April 2010 meant that athletes now had to be told each year whether they were included in that elite pool.

“As a consequence,” said the FFC in its decision, using her married name, “Mme Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli could not, at the latest, be considered as belonging to the target pool beyond 15 April 2011.”

That meant that the third and final ‘missed’ test on 20 June this year, when US Anti Doping Agency officials failed to locate the cyclist at the hotel she should have been at, was rendered invalid.

It’s the second significant legal victory for the Longo-Ciprelli family in recent weeks; last month, Longo’s husband, Patrice Ciprelli, successfully appealed a ban imposed by the FFC for allegedly buying doping products including EPO via the internet.

Both cases have undermined the reputation of one of France’s most enduring athletes. According to L’Equipe, Longo’s lawyers have filed a criminal complaint against the AFLD as a result of the effect on her image of the publication in the press of the allegations against her.

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.