Posted by Editor on 01/27/02
Bessette 'Cross Worlds Update
L'affaire Bessette continues to get more interesting...
To recap: Lyne Bessette sent a letter to the High Performance Committee (HPC) of the Canadian Cycling Association requesting permission to represent Canada at the upcoming Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder, Belgium (February 2-3). Bessette has been tearing up the local North American 'Cross scene all Fall, and looks like a good possibility for Canada's first cyclo-cross medal. As a bonus, she will be over there anyway, supporting her boyfriend (American Tim Johnson), so the cost to the CCA is minimal.
However - and it's a big however - she did not attend Nationals in Edmonton. This is critical, because there is a long-standing policy that states Nationals participation is mandatory to be considered for the World Championships.
"All National Team members received a letter stating that attendance at Nationals is mandatory; they all knew.", said Sean O'Donnell, High Performance Coordinator at the CCA.
Roland Green flew from Victoria to Moncton for the ITT so that he would be eligible for the Road Worlds (where he finished a very credible 14th). Chrissy Redden and Ryder Hesjedal went to Sun Peak for Mountain Bike Nationals, even though it did not fit with their programs, because the rule is the rule.
So, it appears pretty cut and dried, doesn't it?
Well, we spoke with Lyne earlier in the week, while she was in California (near Santa Barbara) for her Saturn team training camp, and things begin to look a little murkier.
"I knew Nationals were the 4th of November and I phoned the FQSC (her provincial association in Quebec). I asked them if I had to do Nationals and they checked (with the CCA) and said "no", for 'Cross. I was supposed to send my letter and my results."
Louis Barbeau, the Technical Director at the FQSC, confirms this version of the situation, stating: "I sent an e-mail to Sean (O'Donnell) asking about the Nationals. I then called him and he didn't know the answer, so he said he would check and get back to me.
I was later told by him that Nationals were not mandatory, that Lyne just had to send a letter to the HPC requesting permission."
Based on this information, Bessette decided not to attend the Nationals. "It would cost me $1000 to go to (Edmonton) and race against 4 other women."
At this point the story becomes less clear. O'Donnell says that he "doesn't remember saying anything to that nature" to Barbeau regarding Bessette not having to attend Nationals, and points to the clear policy that Nationals must be attended.
Barbeau retorts, "this is a National Team Program policy, not a CCA policy, and there is no National Team Program for 'Cross. We were given the impression that it could be arranged."
He and Bessette both hinted at the possibility that the decision was possibly payback for Bessette's withdrawl from the Road Worlds team, when she was a favourite to medal.
O'Donnell is emphatic that Bessette's non-attendance at Road Worlds was not a factor: "it never came up in the discussions, there was never any mention of it. The HPC decided that in the interests of fairness and consistency they had to apply the same rules to everybody."
Bessette has moved on, and is preparing for the 2002 season, including defending her Commonwealth Games road title in Manchester, UK. However, she still thinks that "it is bad - there will be no Canadian women on the line (in Zolder). It was a good opportunity to have a rider there at no cost (to the CCA).
I think that they have lost the spirit of cycling by following the rules too much. We could have had a rider there who could maybe do pretty good. Now I will just be standing at the side of the course in my jeans cheering my boyfriend on."
This is a tough one. On the one hand, there appears to have been some confusion over what the procedure was. However, there is no guarantee that Bessette would have attended Nationals even if she had been definitively told that it was mandatory.
The fact that she was 'going to be there anyway' is a non-argument. Using this argument, anyone could try to get onto a Worlds team by buying a plane ticket.
However, it does mean that Canada will have no representation in Zolder, and maybe exceptions need to be considered for 'development' sectors of the sport.
What do you think? Post your thoughts in the Forums.
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