Of all the confessors in the USADA case, Levi is perhaps the strangest. Almost everything about him is different from the other confessors. But although in my opinion he’s been lucky for years (I was really disappointed when Quickstep signed him this year), I think that being fired yesterday was actually unfair to him. But let’s start at the beginning:
- He doped from very early-on, according to his affidavit. He started while still racing in the US. Most others claim to have raced cleanly in the US, made the move to Europe based on their talent and only started doping after (this supposedly proves that they deserved to be a pro, deserved to draw a salary and it dismisses any notion that they occupied a spot in the peloton for which there were more deserving candidates).
- None of this should be a surprise, as his doping practices were described in Hans Holczer’s book (it also states the UCI was aware and recommended he be taken out of the 2005 Tour de France).
- He’s the only one of the USADA confessors who has been convicted for doping before (in 1996 when, ironically, he rode for Team Einstein).
- He’s received a 6 month ban just like the others. But they are “first-time offenders” under the rules and this is clearly his second offense.
- According my interpretation of the WADA code, a second doping conviction automatically calls for a lifetime ban if it is for the offenses admitted to by Levi. With “substantial assistance in uncovering rule violations”, this can be reduced to 8 years. I have no idea how he can receive just a 6 month ban.
- I’ll grant that the WADA code is a bit vague, in that some violations are less serious – in case of no (significant) fault – but it doesn’t clarify anywhere what happens when there are two violation, the first of which is no significant fault and the second is. But 6 months suspension as if the first offense wasn’t there, I can’t find that anywhere in the rules.
So up to this point he’s lucky if anything. Now for the unfair part:
- For 2012 Omega Pharma-Quickstep hires Levi, despite everything in Holczer’s book, despite rumors everywhere (if I hear them, everybody hears them).
- Of course cycling is a sport with rumors everywhere, and you can’t act on rumors alone, but you have to figure that if somebody puts them in a book, he takes a big risk if they are untrue. And the assertions in the book were left uncontested in court, another strong indication.
- Now that the USADA information becomes public, Levi is fired by the team. Similarly to the Matt White case, it makes you wonder.
- Did team manager Patrick Lefevere not read Holczer’s book, or any news articles covering it? It rings a bit hollow.
- Was Levi fired because he doped six years ago, or because it is now revealed that he doped six years ago?
- If Lefevere knew about Levi’s past transgressions, he can’t fire him now. Aside from the opportunistic cynicism of such a move, any lawyer would have a field day with an employer who doesn’t immediately take action when he becomes aware of illegal behavior of his employee and who instead takes action a year later. Never mind any “it’s in the contract” defense.
- If Lefevere didn’t know about Levi’s past transgressions, well … then … right.
I hope Omega Pharma-Quickstep shed some more light into this situation, because to date their statement about firing their team leader has been shorter than a press release celebrating an 8th place finish in a Flemish kermesse.
At the same time, maybe they can address whether they are still comfortable with the employment of Dr. José Ibarguren Taus?