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Cyclist Longo cleared of doping by federation

Updated: November 22, 2011, 12:05

PARIS (AP) Former Olympic champion Jeannie Longo was cleared of breaching anti-doping rules by the French Cycling Federation on Tuesday in an embarrassing reversal for the French Anti-Doping Agency.

The 53-year-old Longo had faced a ban from three months to two years, a sanction that would effectively have ended the career of one of France's favorite athletes. Now she has a chance to ride at the London Olympics if she qualifies.

Longo had faced a disciplinary hearing after the AFLD said she had three whereabouts violations. But she was cleared when one of those violations was considered invalid because she was no longer a member of the testing pool, which only lasts for one year.

"(Because) there is no infraction relative to the whereabouts requirements (of three failures in a period of 18 months), the national disciplinary commission therefore found that no violation of the anti-doping rules can be held against Jeannie Longo,'' the FFC said.

The AFLD, which can appeal the FFC's ruling, did not immediately comment. Calls to Longo's home went unanswered.

Longo's lawyer, Bruno Ravaz, praised the FFC's decision and criticized the AFLD.

"We're very, very happy. It's a decision that does justice to Jeannie Long,'' Ravaz told L'Equipe's website. "(She) was not questioning the importance of the fight against doping, but wanted to defend the right of athletes to be treated equally, with respect to the procedures.''

Ravaz added that the AFLD has a "crushing'' legal power over athletes and "it transpired that the AFLD did not even respect the procedures it has decreed.''

Longo first competed at the Olympics in 1984 in Los Angeles, and she won the gold medal in the road race at the 1996 Atlanta Games. She has nine road world championship golds, claimed four titles at the world track championships and has been French champion 58 times.

Longo allegedly broke anti-doping rules requiring athletes to disclose where they can be located for testing twice in the past 18 months and a third time on June 20, while training in the United States.

Longo's attorney, Bruno Ravaz, said in September that a strike at French gas stations kept her from getting to where she was expected on one occasion. He said the second violation occurred when "the person in charge of administering the test couldn't find her father's chalet'' in France.

"She received a third warning following a test that strangely happened on her last day in the United States just as she was coming back to France the following day to take part in a race,'' Ravaz said.

In an AP interview in February, Longo's response was ambiguous when asked whether doping might be part of her longevity in cycling. She explained that there are no level playing fields in sports "because we all do what we can to be better.''

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