By Susan Westemeyer
Thorwald Veneberg had his first day in court and had to hear some hard words as to why Rabobank did not offer him a contract for the coming season. "This rider has won only one unimportant race in seven years and last year he was nearly worthless for the team," claimed the team's lawyer, according to Telesport.nl. The Dutch rider claims that under Netherlands' law that, since he has had a contract with the team since January 1, 2001, he should be considered under contract for an indefinite period of time.
In yesterday's hearing, Veneberg asked the court to order Rabobank to continue to treat him as a full member of the team through at least the end of the calendar year, which according to him, includes participation in the photography session for the 2008 team photo and in the team-building exercises. He also wants to retain his bike and not turn it in in on October 27.
Veneberg called the case a matter of principle. "As a domestique, I always said yes. Now I am saying no, and they are scared of me. It is very well if they not longer want a rider, but it has to be done according to normal procedures."
He was notified in August that he would not be offered a contract for the coming season. His last race for the team was the 3-Länder Tour, where he finished in 64th place, out of 71 finishers.
Judge H. de Ruiter ruled that Veneberg did not have to turn his bike in. He added that if the next judge to hear the case "rules that you remain with the team, then it is up to Rabobank to ensure that you appear in the presentation booklet. It would be difficult for me to order them to include you in the photo." The next hearing is scheduled for October 22.
The case has some parallels to that of soccer player Jean-Marc Bosman, who basically ended the payment of transfer fees in professional football under EU law. At the time, Bosman's contract had expired and wanted to change teams from the Belgian to the French League, but the teams could not resolve their differences about how much the transfer sum would be. So Bosman went to the EU court stating that the law will let him freely move to different employers within the European Union.