Embattled cyclist Geneviève Jeanson will be able to compete for Canada at the Athens Olympics, after U.S anti-doping authorities and an arbitrator let the 22-year-old from Lachine, Que., escape with only a fine and warning for missing a drug test.
"She's relieved," said Daniel Larouche, the spokesman for Jeanson's Rona professional cycling team. "She's cleared now to ride in the Canadian championships in Kamloops at the end of June, with no suspension hanging over her. She's happy about that."
Jeanson had faced a suspension of up to six months because she failed to appear at a postrace drug test after the Fleche Wallonne World Cup road race at Liege, Belgium, on April 21. Because her professional licence had been obtained through USA Cycling — the majority of her races are in the United States — it was up to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to rule on Jeanson's negligence.
The USADA announced the decision by a three-member panel of the American Arbitration Association and the North American Court of Arbitration for Sport.
It was considered a first doping offence, according to the Union Internationale Cycliste. A fine of 500 Swiss francs ($547 Canadian) was levied and Jeanson received a public warning.
Before a World Cup race in Montreal last month, Jeanson told a news conference she missed the test because she already had blood and urine tests taken before the race and was badly shaken when one of those tests indicated she had an elevated red blood cell count. She said she was also rattled when she was required to submit a urine sample before a male witness when no female doping control officer was available.
A subsequent test showed her red blood cell count to be normal. But Jeanson said she was overwhelmed with what had happened with her tests before the race and as a result missed getting tested after the race.
"I hadn't done anything wrong, but these people with half-million-dollar machines said something was wrong," Jeanson said at the time. "What was I to think ?"
She finished 30th in the 97.5-kilometre race in Belgium.
Jeanson won the World Cup in Montreal to qualify for Athens. But the past eight months have been rough for the former world junior road race champion.
Last October, Jeanson was pulled from the women's road race at the world championships in Hamilton because of high blood hematocrit levels.
Her count of red blood cells in a prerace test drew suspicion of blood boosting and searing comments from rival Canadian rider Lyne Bessette.
A urine sample taken the same day from Jeanson was flown to a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, to be tested for EPO (erythropoetin).
The tests showed no trace of a performance-enhancing substance, and Jeanson said her rich blood came from sleeping in a tent that simulated high-altitude conditions.
But subsequently, a Quebec doctor testifying before a disciplinary panel said he'd prescribed a blood booster for patients, including Jeanson. Maurice Duquette later changed his testimony and denied giving Jeanson the banned drugs.
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