Belgian rider Tom Meeusen wins appeal against World Championships exclusion

Cyclo-cross rider successfully appeals against Belgian Cycling Federations decision not to register him at the World Championships after doping suspicion

Belgian cyclo-cross rider Tom Meeusen has won his appeal against a ruling by the Belgian Cycling Federation (BCF) on January 19 not to register him for the upcoming Cyclo-Cross World Championships in the Czech Republic, after he was linked to an ongoing blood-doping investigation.

The investigation centres around Dr Chris Mertens, who is suspected of providing ozone treatment to 19 athletes, the majority of which are reported to be notable cyclo-cross riders.

Ozone treatment, also known as ozonated autohemotherapy, is designed to increase oxygen levels in the body and is illegal under UCI rules. Meeusen, along with two other riders Laurens Sweeck and Bart Wellens, were excluded from the Belgian national team after their names were linked to the two-and-a-half year in enquiry into Mertens activities.

Now however, Meeusen is free to attend the World Championships, having already missed the 2013 event for the same reasons, as his lawyers successfully appealed that the Article of the UCI regulations the BCF had used to exclude the rider, was not applicable.

Article 9.2.002 of the UCI regulations 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.” And while Meeusen’s lawyers pleaded successfully inapplicability of the rule, the court has yet to reveal why they came to their decision.

“The Arbitration Court has only issued a decision without a motive for it, so we do not yet know on which basis they have decided that this rule is not applicable,” Stijn Debaene, Partner of Fieldfisher, the firm that defended Meeusen told Cycling Weekly.

“Maybe they have decided that this rule is not applicable because there is no investigation that has been initiated against the rider, which is the first thing that we pleaded. Maybe they have said, as they did in the Valverde case, that the rule in and of itself is not a rule which should be applied anyway. But we do not know at this time.”

The Court has 10 days to disclose why it came to it’s decision, but the BCF will now comply with the ruling and will include Meeusen in it’s squad for the Cyclo-Cross World Championships after it was obliged to do so by the Court.

Meeusen tweeted about the decision, after the hearing came to a close at 2am on Friday morning. He said: “What a roller coaster of emotions this week! There is still justice. Huge thanks to everyone who stood behind me! #dopefree”