International European Law Firm Fieldfisher successfully brought Tom Meeusen’s case before the Belgian Arbitration Court, clearing the Belgian to race for the 2015 Cyclocross World Championship in Tabor. The hearing was held last night, and a decision was not made until early this morning. Details of the case were provided in a press release by Fieldfisher:
“Tom Meeusen has been involved in a doping-related investigation against a doctor whom he consulted in 2012. Dr Chris Mertens is suspected of providing ozone therapy to 19 athletes, an alternative treatment designed to increase the amount of oxygen to the body. The Belgian Cycling Federation took the decision on 19 January not to register the cyclist on the basis of Article 9.2.002 of the International Cycling Union rules. The Article states that a rider against whom an investigation was opened in relation to a breach of anti-doping rules will not be eligible for the World Championships until their definitive acquittal.
The Fieldfisher team was instructed and brought the case before the Belgian Arbitration Court for Sports to challenge the applicability of this Article. There was an emergency hearing at 8pm yesterday and its decision, taken at 2am this morning, secured a great result for the client. The Court ruled that the Article was not applicable and obliged the Belgian Cycling Federation to register Tom Meeusen for the World Championships in time for the deadline at noon today. The Federation has since announced that it will comply with the arbitral sentence.”
This will have implications on the World Cup Sunday as well. The original decision to exclude Meeusen from the World’s team also meant he would be unable to participate at Hoogerheide. According to DeMorgan Media, Meeusen’s lawyer, Kristof De Saedeleer, was reported saying. “The registration of Tom Meeusen for the World Cup today must be done before 12:00. Otherwise the UCI must pay a fine of 50,000 euros.“
While this is good news for Meeusen, the result of the original stance by the Royal Belgian Cycling Federation could still have impacts on his race. According to our European contributor, Christine Vardaros, Meeusen has not been training since the original decision had been set forth on January 18th. Whether his hopes were dashed by the original ineligibility or he was spending his time focused on his defense is not known, but it is clear that the last week was an atypical approach to peaking for Worlds compared to normal for the Belgian rider.
Bart Wellens, who was also excluded from the World’s team for the same reason, has still not been chosen. Kristof De Saedeleer argued that he would be free to prove his ability for worlds in Hoogerheide due to his World Cup eligibility through his UCI ranking. The Royal Belgian Cycling Federation will have until Monday to make the final decision on their Worlds Team, including whether or not to include Laurens Sweeck on the squad.
Our original report of the incident, released on January 19th, is as follows:
According to our European contributor, Christine Vardaros, and Sporza, Tom Meeusen, Bart Wellens and Laurens Sweeck will not be eligible to race in the 2015 World Championships at Tabor.
Their connection to an ongoing doping investigation with an ozone doctor from Rotselaar, which was originally brought to the attention of the UCI committee two years ago, is the reason these three will be left off the team, and will likely also mean the trio won’t be able to compete in the final World Cup in Hoogerheide.
Tom Meeusen is arguably having the best season of his career, and the younger Sweeck is also one of the favorites in his age group. Both riders had a reasonable chance to take gold at the Czech Republic. Wellens, two time world champion in 2003 and 2004, only had an outside chance to make the Worlds Team.
The heavy speculaiton from many media outlets in Europe is that Belgium will now go to Worlds with the following seven-man Elite squad: Wout van Aert, Sven Nys, Kevin Pauwels, Rob Peeters, Tim Merlier, Klaas Vantornout and Gianni Vermeersch.
Stay tuned as we will be updating with more information when it comes.