By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A USA Cycling hearing regarding an incident described by race officials as "Serious Aggression" following the final stage of the Tour of Virginia last April could lead to suspensions. One of the riders involved in the fight, Jame Carney, has requested a hearing to appeal the decision made by USAC.
The incident was a verbal and physical altercation between Carney and Mark Hardman, the 2006 collegiate road champion, following the finish of the final stage. Two of Carney's teammates, John Delong and Boyd Johnson, also involved themselves in the fight, leading to all four being disqualified from the race and the USA Cycling officials reporting the post-race incident to the national office. However, no official ruling has been made for any of the riders involved due to Carney's request for a hearing.
"It's going to a hearing for an appeal," Carney told Cyclingnews after winning the elite amateur race of the Lancaster Classic last Sunday. Carney is allowed to still race in sanctioned events during the appeal process. "There was an investigation and basically I'm sorry for my involvement in it. But realistically, it has been blown way out of proportion. But this is the reason why USA Cycling has a process."
Not wanting to get into specifics about the incident before the hearing, Carney did say that he has regrets for the way things turned out. "I did some things I probably should not have done no matter how bad somebody rides in a bike race. You should not use certain language, but it is going to a hearing and that is the way it will be." Carney said the motivations for his actions just after the race finished were because of how another rider, Mark Hardman, was riding in the race. Hardman, who was in law school at the University of Virginia at the time, was riding in the national champion jersey as the current collegiate road race champion and racing for the University of Virginia composite team. Both Carney and Hardman, as well as two of Carney's teammates, were disqualified from the entire race.
Hardman declined to comment about the incident. However, he did tell Cyclingnews that he did not request an appeal because he had already decided that he was not going to pursue racing following the Tour of Virginia.
Carney also said that he is amazed at the wide variety of different accounts of what happened. "It's disturbing how when you get so many testimonies and so many of them are all over the place." However, he did say that the problem rested with how quickly a small incident turned into a large problem. "Things escalated really fast. Nothing should have happened in the first place, but the way things escalated is really unfortunate. I'm sure there will be some suspensions for some of the people involved, but my involvement was very limited."
Carney is not a stranger to these incidents, having been involved in an altercation two years ago following a charity track race in Trexlertown. "The only thing that is similar is that again we have a rider crashing me. Both times I had a rider grabbing my handlebars. I was absolutely one-hundred percent the victim in the Andy Lakatosh situation."
Carney is allowed to race this week in the amateur series of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown because he has appealed. However, if he is to serve a suspension, it could come at an unfortunate time. "The off-season for me is my on-season," he said regarding his annual trek to Australia for the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.
USA Cycling's communication director Andy Lee said that the hearing has not been scheduled yet but should be soon and that sanctions for any rider involved, if any, will be handed down at that time. "Jame was the only rider involved in the incident that requested a hearing," said Lee. "Nothing has been scheduled yet, but it will likely occur sometime in the next few weeks. Any sanctions will be determined at Carney’s hearing."
Tour of Virginia promoter Matt Butterman said that while an unfortunate event, not much fallout has occurred from sponsors or the general public. "Luckily it was away from the crowd at the finish. Really, only the people in the vicinity of the incident saw it -- the chief judge and a moto offical. As an organizer we deplore this kind of activity. We like to see good sportsmanship."
"It was a sour way to end things, but luckily it was out of the view of most of the spectators or sponsors, so nobody has expressed negative thoughts on it."
"It's bike racing, not boxing," said Carney. "I'm happy that the truth will come out -- when the truth comes out it will be better for everyone."