What's Cool In Road Cycling

Comment: Dumb-Ass Rumsas?

– By Gordan Cameron –

Even the non-specialist press have virtually ignored the tale of Edita Rumsas, her husband who reached the Tour de France podium, and the car load of drugs that turned up at the French border one morning in July. And because only a cyclist’s wife is in trouble so far, its tempting to think that an unfortunate fall-guy has taken the blame for someone else’s dealings.

At the very least, a lot of people looking at this story will think one thing about Raimondas Rumsas. He can’t be a very gallant man, if he sits at home while his wife spends her days staring at the walls of a French prison cell.

But like every cycling dope story, every sporting dope story, the background is murky and confusing. For those of you who haven’t been tuned in, this is the concise version.

By the time Rumsas finished 3rd in the Tour on July 28th, Edita had already been in custody for several hours, after her car was stopped and searched by customs officers near Chamonix. Trying to cross the border on the way to Italy, ‘huge quantities’ of drugs were found, allegedly including EPO and testosterone. The breaking story gave everyone flashbacks to July 1998 and Willy Voet’s run-in with the same branch of French authority, which led to the humiliation of the Festina team.

Edita is now under formal investigation for the trafficking and supplying of doping products, but to whom? If the haul was as large as we’re led to believe, such quantities couldn’t have been for one person, making the explanation that they were for her mother back home in Lithuania somewhat astounding. A Polish doctor claimed he’d prescribed some of the substances to her, all legal, including homeopathic remedies.

Rumsas protested innocence. His team, Lampre, denied all knowledge, but, protecting their sponsors and with an eye on the Tour invites for next year, acted swiftly in suspending him. All Rumsas’s Tour drug tests were negative (like all 141 carried out on the race), even a counter-analysis taken after a slightly elevated haemocrit count aroused suspicion, but nothing illegal was found.

Raimondas has since opted to stay at home with his children, and is refusing to return to France because there, legally, he could be held after questioning. And his wife has reportedly told him to stay home in case he ends up in jail, too. At the moment only Edita is directly implicated. This case has still to find its ‘smoking syringe’ which would drag someone else in.

Our 21st century society of ‘guilt now and facts later’ has put Rumsas and his wife in a nightmarish position if they have a genuine explanation for this mess. For us on the outside, it comes down to whether we’re prepared to keep putting our faith in our sporting heroes.

Gilberto Simoni missed the Tour after a ‘doping offence’, only for his wildly improbable explanation that he had inadvertently taken cocaine-laced throat lozenges to turn out to be correct…and how many people believed that excuse when they heard it?

There doesn’t seem to be any burden on the authorities to do their job and prove someone’s guilt. Once again, a professional cyclist is in the situation of having to prove his innocence, and Raimondas has plenty explaining to do. Regardless of the outcome, caught up in the cross-fire are his wife, children, and our reasons to continue believing in sporting ethics.

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