Belgian cyclo-cross rider Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) is considering legal action after being excluded from the national team for the World Championships. Meeusen and two others - Laurens Sweeck and Bart Wellens – were all deemed ineligible for the event, which begins on January 31 in Tabor, Czech Republic.
"The team has hired a lawyer. I'm not really aware of the investigation I have not heard about it for months,” Meeusen told ATV. “At the BK (Belgian Championships) last year, a week before it, I had to give a DNA sample. I don't know if there's anything else I have to do."
Meeusen, Sweeck and Wellens have all been linked to an investigation regarding their doctor Chris Mertens. The Rotselaar-based doctor is suspected of providing ozone therapy to 19 athletes, including cyclists. It has been a lengthy investigation and Meeusen was previously held for questioning for three hours and prevented from riding the Rome World Cup race and the World Championships in 2013. Other riders have received bans as a result of the investigation, but Meeusen maintains he is innocent.
The exclusion also means that the 26-year-old will not be able to ride the next round of the World Cup in Hoogerheide, which takes place on January 25.
“This is frustrating. We are a week before the World Championships. I believed in my chances. I was depressed after the news was announced in 2013 and I was not allowed to participate in the Worlds in Louisville. I then cycled a year against my will. Now again, I cannot ride the World Championships. This is hard to accept.”
Meeusen was seen as one of the favourites for the World Championships after a strong winter season, which included second to Klaas Vantornout at the Belgian Championships. Meeusen says that watching the Worlds from his couch will be tough but he is determined to get back to racing as soon as possible.
"It was a very heavy blow," said Meeusen. "It's very difficult because I had just trained very hard to be ready for the World Cup and then you get a phone call and hear that you will not be at the start. That is mentally a very tough transition and it will be even harder when the World Cup comes closer."
"My first reaction was to stop because they took the joy of cycling away but I'm not going to quit. I'm going to fight for rehabilitation. Most of all I want to prove as soon as possible that I am right. For more than two years I am no longer with the doctor and now I’m riding better than ever. I have nothing to fear.”
Belgian federation refers case to arbitration
In a statement today, the Belgian Cycling Federations (RLVB in Wallonia and KBWB in Flanders) said that after getting legal advice, it would allow Meeusen, Wellens and Sweeck to take the question of their ineligibility to the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport (BAS).
"Riders can, on the basis of article 9.2.002 of the UCI rules and article 101.9. g of Chapter 1 of the KBWB regulations not be selected if there is a procedure or investigation that ... can lead to an offence against the UCI anti-doping regulations," the federation's statement read.
"Contrary to the misinformation which appeared in the newspaper 'De Morgen', the file of Tom Meeusen has still not been fully deferred to the RLVB, which is competent in this matter. This is also the case for dossier of the rider Bart Wellens.
"Recently, on this same request, the federal prosecutor received some additional records on the riders in question. Based on this information these riders will be summoned before the Disciplinary Commission of the competent RLVB for doping. The dossier of rider Laurens Sweeck is the competence of NADO-Flanders. The RLVB hope that also in this case the necessary steps will be made as soon as possible."