42 In­no­cent, But…

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Dan Dakin

A win and a drug test from a ju­nior race con­tinue to haunt Jack Burke

Five years af­ter be­ing cleared of an ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing, the young rider is still fight­ing for his rep­u­ta­tion. His case con­tin­ues to raise ques­tions about rider re­spon­si­bil­ity, anti-dop­ing pro­ce­dures and what those tests truly re­veal.

Five years af­ter be­ing cleared of an ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing, Jack Burke is still fight­ing for his rep­u­ta­tion. His prece­den­tset­ting case con­tin­ues to raise ques­tions about rider re­spon­si­bil­ity, anti-dop­ing pro­ce­dures and what those tests truly re­veal.

When Jack Burke swore he was in­no­cent in 2013 af­ter be­ing ac­cused by the uci of fail­ing a drug test, he wasn’t lying. Let’s get that clear. Burke’s only trans­gres­sion was be­ing late to the team bus and fill­ing up his bot­tles in a small Que­bec town with tainted drink­ing wa­ter. He didn’t cheat. The Sport Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Cen­tre of Canada said so. Even the in­ter­na­tional Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport said so.

So why, five years down the road, af­ter the big­gest win of his ca­reer, is Burke still get­ting Face­book mes­sages from ran­dom peo­ple say­ing things like, “must be more spe­cial wa­ter.”

“That’s the re­al­ity of high-level sport,” says Cy­cling Canada pres­i­dent John Tolkamp. “You’re go­ing to be un­der scru­tiny. It’s nat­u­ral once some­thing like this has come to light that there’s a level of sus­pi­cion. We’ve been burned too much in pro­fes­sional sports hear­ing ath­letes say they didn’t do any­thing.”

An ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing. aaf. It’s ev­ery cy­clist’s night­mare. It typ­i­cally leads to court hear­ings, sanc­tions, dis­qual­i­fied re­sults and a tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion that can never be re­ha­bil­i­tated. As of last year, aaf is a term cy­cling fans know well be­cause of Chris Froome and the high lev­els of salbu­ta­mol found in his urine

taken dur­ing at test at the 2017 Vuelta a Es­paña. Froome won that race, and then the Giro d’italia in May. The uci fi­nally cleared him of any wrong­do­ing just be­fore the Tour de France in July. Burke’s aaf from five years ago, in con­trast to Froome’s, has likely had a big­ger ef­fect on the rider’s ca­reer.

Per­spec­tive is ev­ery­thing in cases such as Burke’s. Even though he was cleared by the sport’s high­est courts, his story is still be­ing de­bated on Satur­day club rides and on the start­ing lines of bike races. “I just don’t like him,” a cy­clist who raced against Burke in his early years, and wishes to re­main anony­mous, said re­cently. “I don’t be­lieve him. He got a good lawyer who was able to get him out of it.”

“Get­ting hate mail from peo­ple I don’t know – that hurts a lot,” says Burke. “But the only peo­ple who have ever crit­i­cized or ques­tioned me are ei­ther look­ing for a rea­son why they’re not as good as me or they’re ig­no­rant and don’t want to read the whole story.”

The 2013 Tour de l’abitibi started off slowly for Burke. He was a mem­ber of Team Canada rac­ing in the stage race for ju­niors that had its 50th edi­tion this year. Rid­ers such as Steve Bauer, Alex Stieda, Lau­rent Jal­abert and Andy Hamp­sten have won the event in north­ern Que­bec. The 18-year-old Burke fin­ished mid­pack in the first and sec­ond stages, but grabbed the over­all lead on Stage 3 when he won a morn­ing time trial on July 18 in Rouyn-no­randa. From there, the Tour headed about 80 km east to the tiny town of Malar­tic. Home to 3,000 res­i­dents and the largest open-pit gold mine in Canada, the town hosted a cir­cuit race for the fourth stage, later that same day.

While most of the rid­ers filled up their wa­ter bot­tles i n RouynNo­randa, Burke was run­ning late and had to fill his in Malar­tic be­fore the race started. When he couldn’t find a suit­able op­tion, he asked some­one at a nearby sports com­plex to fill them for him. The worker did so, ask­ing him not to tell any other rid­ers so that she wouldn’t have to do the same for them. Burke dashed back to the start­ing line.

In Malar­tic, drink­ing wa­ter comes from wells deep in the ground. Also lo­cated deep un­der­ground is one of the largest gold de­posits in North Amer­ica, which is why, i n 2010, nearly 200 build­ings were up­rooted and moved a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres north to al­low Osisko Min­ing Corp. to har­vest that gold. Malar­tic is also home to a golf course and a wa­ter treat­ment sludge pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity. While min­ing pro­cesses and golf cour­ses can af­fect the lo­cal wa­ter ta­ble neg­a­tively, so can hu­man waste. In Malar­tic, the town’s ba­sic wa­ter treat­ment couldn’t man­age phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pounds, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals such as hy­drochloroth­iazide.

Of course, Burke didn’t know that when he filled those bot­tles. He didn’t know that when he peed into a cup for a drug test af­ter the cir­cuit race. He still didn’t know any of that when he re­ceived an email from the uci on Aug. 16, 2013 no­ti­fy­ing him of an ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing in his A sam­ple from that drug test. “I got tested be­cause of the time trial that morn­ing,” he says. “Had I been tested in RouynNo­randa right af­ter the time trial, we never would have had all this.”

That email from the uci, which was fol­lowed later by the con­fir­ma­tion that his B sam­ple had also tested pos­i­tive for hy­drochloroth­iazide (hctz), sent Burke’s life into chaos.

Un­der uci rules, a first anti-dop­ing vi­o­la­tion comes with a two-year sus­pen­sion. For Burke, that eas­ily could have meant miss­ing two crit­i­cal years of his de­vel­op­ment in the sport – not to men­tion the dam­age to his rep­u­ta­tion that a dop­ing vi­o­la­tion would bring with it.

In cy­cling, you’re guilty un­til proven in­no­cent. The bur­den of proof falls squarely on the shoul­ders of the cy­clist. Un­less Burke could prove the hctz en­tered his body with­out him know­ing it and that it wasn’t i ntended for per­for­manceen­hanc­ing pur­poses, his ca­reer was all but done.

“It was the ab­so­lute worst day of my life,” he says. “I called my dad, shak­ing. There were times go­ing through this whole process that I thought my life was over. My whole life was in cy­cling, and it was all com­ing apart.”

When Rick Lee, head coach for the Na­tional Cy­cling Cen­tre Hamil­ton (ncch), the team Burke had rid­den for in 2013 found out, he

“I JUST DON’T LIKE HIM. I DON’T BE­LIEVE HIM.”

was flab­ber­gasted. “We were to­tally shocked,” Lee says. “Af­ter a meet­ing with Jack and his fa­ther, we were sure there was a mis­take. We knew he was such a hard worker, and it made no sense to us at all.”

Burke’s fa­ther, Dion, had no doubt in his mind that his son was telling the truth. He went to work im­me­di­ately re­search­ing hctz, the town of Malar­tic and ev­ery sup­ple­ment and nu­tri­tional item Jack had been us­ing at the time of the test.

It was Dion who dis­cov­ered the con­nec­tion be­tween hctz and con­tam­i­nated drink­ing wa­ter. He started for­mu­lat­ing an ap­peal to have the two-year sus­pen­sion re­duced to a rep­ri­mand: the best­case sce­nario when fight­ing the uci in 2013.

“When my dad first came up with the idea, it seemed like the cra­zi­est thing,” Burke says. “But when we started look­ing at it, we re­al­ized I had the per­fect storm.”

The World Anti-dop­ing Agency over­sees the drug test­ing for the uci. The rules are then en­forced by cy­cling gov­ern­ing bod­ies around the world. So even though Burke was on Team Canada at the Tour de l’abitibi, Cy­cling Canada would be his op­po­nent when the Sport Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Cen­tre of Canada heard the case on Sept. 17, 2013.

For the hear­ing, the Burke fam­ily needed a lawyer, and needed one fast. Dion des­per­ately called nu­mer­ous sport lawyers, but only one called him back: James Bunt­ing from the Toronto firm Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg. He lis­tened to the Burkes ex­plain what hap­pened and de­cided to take the case pro bono.

Bunt­ing’s first-ever sport-re­lated case was help­ing a friend get back onto the na­tional alpine ski team af­ter he was let go fol­low­ing an in­jury. Bunt­ing was still in law school at the time. Al­though his ca­reer now deals mostly with class-ac­tion law­suits and com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion, Bunt­ing tries to take on a few sport-re­lated cases each year. Usu­ally at least one of those is at no cost to the ath­lete.

“I un­der­stand and I’m em­pa­thetic to ath­letes who find them­selves in a po­si­tion like Jack did,” Bunt­ing says. “The con­ver­sa­tion with Dion res­onated with me and my first con­ver­sa­tion with Jack res­onated with me. I thought tak­ing the case was the right thing to do.”

Less than a week af­ter that ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Dion and Bunt­ing, hear­ing sdrcc 13-0206 be­tween claimant Jack Burke and re­spon­dent Cy­cling Canada was be­fore ar­bi­tra­tor Richard Mclaren. Bunt­ing and as­so­ciate Chantelle Spag­nola rep­re­sented Burke; Brett Ste­wart rep­re­sented Cy­cling Canada; and ob­serv­ing the hear­ing was Do­minique Ler­oux, head of le­gal anti-dop­ing ser­vices for the uci. This case had sim­i­lar­i­ties with Al­berto Con­ta­dor’s case, in which the Tour de France-win­ner’s de­fence ar­gued that clen­buterol found in urine came from a tainted steak. His case, and twoyear ban, had only been set­tled the year pre­vi­ous. (About a month af­ter Burke’s hear­ing, Aus­tralian rider

Michael Rogers would have an ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing for clen­buterol and re­ceive a pro­vi­sional sanc­tion. The uci would clear him to race in April, with no fur­ther sanc­tions.) With Burke’s case, how­ever, there was the pos­si­bil­ity for new prece­dents as the banned sub­stance wasn’t in food or a sup­ple­ment, but in the en­vi­ron­ment.

Mclaren is a Western Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor who has in­ves­ti­gated some of the big­gest in­ter­na­tional dop­ing scan­dals in his­tory. He played a role in the ex­am­i­na­tion of U.S. track and field dop­ing at the Syd­ney Olympics and drug use in Ma­jor League Base­ball. He was an ar­bi­tra­tor on the Floyd Lan­dis dop­ing case. Most re­cently, he au­thored the two-part Mclaren Re­port, which in­ves­ti­gated sys­tem­atic, state-sponsored dop­ing in Rus­sia.

Both sides of the Burke case agreed to let Mclaren make a brief rul­ing within 24 hours of the hear­ing. The un­usu­ally tight time­line was to ac­com­mo­date an­other com­pli­ca­tion in the sit­u­a­tion: Burke had been selected to rep­re­sent Canada at the 2013 uci road world cham­pi­onships be­ing held in Italy. He was to board a plane for Europe on Sept. 18, the day af­ter the hear­ing.

Dur­ing a gru­elling six and a half hours, Burke, his fa­ther, the head of thew ada-ac­cred­ited lab in Mon­treal, a wa­ter-con­tam­i­na­tion ex­pert and oth­ers gave tes­ti­mony. Burke’ s team ar­gued that he in­ad­ver­tently in­gested hctz through con­tam­i­nated wa­ter, so he should there­fore re­ceive the light­est pos­si­ble pun­ish­ment un­der the uci’s anti-dop­ing rules (adr) – a rep­ri­mand. Cy­cling Canada ar­gued that “the more likely ex­pla­na­tion is that one of the sup­ple­ments [Burke] was tak­ing was con­tam­i­nated with hctz.”

The uci agreed with the con­tam­i­nated-sup­ple­ment the­ory, call­ing the con­tam­i­nated-wa­ter cause “un­likely,” and point­ing out that wada has been “warn­ing ath­letes for years about the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tam­i­nated sup­ple­ments.”

Prov­ing whether or not con­tam­i­nated wa­ter in Malar­tic was the cause of the pos­i­tive test might seem as sim­ple as test­ing the wa­ter, but in his rul­ing, Mclaren pointed out that there wasn’t time to test it be­fore the hear­ing. Even if there was time, the wa­ter would have needed to be drawn on the same day as Burke pro­vided a urine sam­ple to be truly ac­cu­rate. “Anal­y­sis of wa­ter col­lected to­day would not re­flect the same con­cen­tra­tion of sub­stances as the wa­ter the ath­lete in­gested in July,” Mclaren wrote.

Burke was at Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port ready to fly to Italy for worlds on Sept. 18 when Bunt­ing in­formed him of Mclaren’s rul­ing. “You’re good to race,” Bunt­ing said. It was a whirl­wind few days that ended ex­actly how Burke had hoped it would.

In Mclaren’s de­ci­sion, he said that while Burke did vi­o­late the dop­ing reg­u­la­tions by hav­ing trace amounts of hctz in his sys­tem, he didn’t do so in­ten­tion­ally. “I con­clude that on the ev­i­dence it is more likely the con­tam­i­nated source was drink­ing wa­ter ob­tained in Malar­tic and not any nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment,” Mclaren said. “The ath­lete did not pur­posely in­gest hctz and the level of hctz de­tected in his urine could not have achieved any mask­ing ef­fect.” Both sides agreed that the level of hctz was so low that many wada labs with­out the most up-to-date test­ing equip­ment wouldn’t have been able to de­tect it. As for a pun­ish­ment, Mclaren said a two-year ban would be “vastly dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the ath­lete’s de­gree of cul­pa­bil­ity,” adding that it would have a “dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on his fu­ture in the sport.” Mclaren said the ap­pro­pri­ate sanc­tion was a rep­ri­mand and no sus­pen­sion. While a vic­tory, it still meant Burke would have a first dop­ing in­frac­tion on his record, and that his re­sults in Que­bec wouldn’t count. But he was free to race at worlds and move on with his ca­reer. The uci, how­ever, wasn’t done with Jack Burke.

MCLAREN SAID THAT WHILE BURKE DID VI­O­LATE THE DOP­ING REG­U­LA­TIONS BY HAV­ING TRACE AMOUNTS OF HCTZ IN HIS SYS­TEM, HE DIDN’T DO SO IN­TEN­TION­ALLY.

For the uci, Burke’s case wasn’t mi­nor. A rep­ri­mand as a re­sult of un­in­ten­tional in­ges­tion could have prece­dent-set­ting reper­cus­sions. “When we got the re­sults af­ter the hear­ing, I knew there was the risk the uci would want to ap­peal it be­cause they didn’t want the prece­den­tial value the case set,” Bunt­ing says.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, the uci ap­pealed the sdrcc de­ci­sion and sent the case to the in­ter­na­tional Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport. Af­ter months of pro­ce­dural back-and-forth be­tween the uci and Burke’s lawyers, a hear­ing date was set for April 17, 2014 in New York City with Ot­tawa-based judge Hugh Fraser serv­ing as the sole ar­bi­tra­tor.

Af­ter the sdrcc rul­ing, Cy­cling Canada was able to work along­side Burke. The na­tional gov­ern­ing body first ar­gued that the ap­peal shouldn’t have been heard at all, and then took a sup­port­ive role in Burke’s case.

Pres­i­dent John Tolkamp says it’s just part of the del­i­cate bal­ance for his or­ga­ni­za­tion. “The process around any of these dop­ing cases is when a rider is found to have a sub­stance in their sys­tems, we have to treat them as guilty and en­force it. With Jack, we started to re­al­ize what was go­ing on and it was a chal­lenge to be­lieve that this was some­one who was re­ally try­ing to proac­tively cheat,” he says.

“In a lot of cases, we’re en­forc­ing it and we’re the ones pro­cess­ing them, but we’re also coach­ing the ath­letes on what the process is and how they can de­fend them­selves,” Tolkamp adds with re­gards to the two roles the gov­ern­ing body can have in re­la­tion to Cana­dian rid­ers.

At the cas, the prin­ci­pal is­sue be­ing de­bated was what pun­ish­ment should be ap­pro­pri­ate con­sid­er­ing Burke’s con­firmed anti-dop­ing vi­o­la­tion for hav­ing trace amounts of hctz in his sys­tem. The uci wanted a two-year ban while Burke said he de­served “at most, a rep­ri­mand.” The uci cast doubt on the con­tam­i­nated-wa­ter the­ory and ques­tioned Burke’s tes­ti­mony that he was the only one to fill bot­tles near the start line in Malar­tic.

“The ath­lete likely was not the only rider who had to ob­tain wa­ter in Malar­tic, es­pe­cially since the rid­ers ar­rived in Malar­tic at about 16:30, but the race did not start un­til 18:15,” the uci wrote in its sub­mis­sion. “In­stead, the uci sub­mits that the like­li­hood that other [nu­mer­ous] rid­ers drank wa­ter from Malar­tic is quite high.”

But Fraser dis­agreed. He ruled that the Malar­tic wa­ter “was con­tam­i­nated with hctz and there­fore, the ath­lete bears no fault or negligence.” That rul­ing was sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the uci had been ar­gu­ing that should the sole ar­bi­tra­tor find the ath­lete bore no fault, which Fraser did, then the pun­ish­ment should fall un­der a dif­fer­ent sec­tion of the uci’s anti-dop­ing rules than Mclaren had used pre­vi­ously.

“While Ar­bi­tra­tor Mclaren cor­rectly found no fault on the part of the ath­lete, he mis­tak­enly ap­plied the sanc­tion regime un­der Ar­ti­cle 295

of the uci adr when he de­ter­mined that a first dop­ing of­fense oc­curred,” Fraser ruled. “For the record, it must be em­pha­sized though that since the ath­lete bears no fault or negligence, the anti-dop­ing rule vi­o­la­tion shall not be con­sid­ered as a vi­o­la­tion for the pur­pose of de­ter­min­ing the pe­riod of in­el­i­gi­bil­ity in case of a fu­ture vi­o­la­tion.”

In other words: Burke had un­in­ten­tion­ally com­peted in the Tour de l’abitibi with hctz in his sys­tem, so re­sults from that race would have to be dis­qual­i­fied, but since Burke bears no fault for the in­frac­tion, there would be no of­fi­cial rep­ri­mand and no first of­fence on his record. It was pretty close to a home run. “I’m the only ath­lete in the his­tory of any sport, who has been found to bear no fault and not even been given a rep­ri­mand,” Burke says. “I don’t know of any ath­lete who didn’t even get a first strike. That’s a re­ally im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion for peo­ple to un­der­stand.”

“We did bet­ter the sec­ond time around than the first be­cause we had time to get ex­pert ev­i­dence on waste-wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion,” Bunt­ing says. “The first win pro­vided a greater sense of eu­pho­ria be­cause Jack was wait­ing at the air­port wait­ing for me to call. The sec­ond time around, the stakes were still very, very sig­nif­i­cant, but it didn’t have the same sense of ur­gency.”

Burke cred­its the work of Bunt­ing, whom he calls a su­per­man. “He went above and be­yond and did so much for me,” Burke says. “I was too young to un­der­stand most of it at the time, but the fact he be­lieved in me and was will­ing to help is in­cred­i­ble. I owe a lot of the fact my ca­reer is alive to him.”

Bunt­ing’s work and Burke’s case have since helped an­other ath­lete’s ca­reer. On June 7, 2016, U.S. gym­nast Kris­ten Shaldy­bin tested pos­i­tive for hctz. “We were able to prove that she drank a lot of wa­ter the night be­fore she was tested,” says Paul Greene, a lawyer with Global Sports Ad­vo­cates in Port­land, Maine. ”The wa­ter source was Lake Michi­gan, which showed very high lev­els of hctz.” Greene also says that Burke came up in Shaldy­bin’s de­fence. “The Burke case was the only case that I knew of at a Court of Sport Ar­bi­tra­tion level that in­volved con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and re­sulted in a no-fault rul­ing, so I be­lieve it did set a prece­dent,” he says. Burke’s ex­pe­ri­ence played a part in the no-fault rul­ing that the U.S. Anti-dop­ing Agency gave the gym­nast a lit­tle more than a month af­ter her pos­i­tive test.

Af­ter rac­ing for ncch and Team Canada in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Burke fi­nally got a big ca­reer op­por­tu­nity when H&R Block Pro Cy­cling di­rec­tor Mark Ern­st­ing signed him for 2016. It was a re­lief af­ter a lot of cold shoul­ders from the cy­cling com­mu­nity in the two years that fol­lowed the ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing. “Am­a­teur teams wouldn’t take me be­cause they didn’t know if I was a doper or not,” Burke says. “I try not to think about what I missed out on be­cause it drives me crazy and there’s noth­ing I can do about it.”

What he could do was what he had al­ways done: work ex­tremely hard on the bike. “Jack is one of the tough­est rid­ers ncch has worked with,” says Lee. “He has the strong­est work ethic that you could imag­ine. He would train af­ter mid­night if re­quired, and he has.”

Af­ter fight­ing for the best young rider ti­tle at the 2016 Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, Tour de Beauce and Tour of Al­berta, Burke was signed for 2017 to the new un­der-23-fo­cused Aevolo Cy­cling squad. Prov­ing team di­rec­tor Mike Creed made a good choice in sign­ing Burke, the rider de­liv­ered the team’s first-ever top-10 re­sult when he fin­ished eighth in the open­ing in­di­vid­ual time trial of the 2017 Joe Martin Stage Race. He went on to win the best young rider ti­tle at both the Grand Prix Cy­cliste de Sague­nay in June and at the Tour of Al­berta in Septem­ber – ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments that proved Burke’s ca­reer was back on track.

For 2018, Burke took an­other step for­ward, sign­ing with Jelly Belly Cy­cling Team, a con­ti­nen­tal out­fit that raced its 19th sea­son this year. Burke says he feels like he’s fi­nally push­ing through his past. “Hav­ing guys like Kevin Field from the na­tional team and Mike Creed who are well-re­spected and un­der­stand my case, I feel like I’m slowly gain­ing more peo­ple who can vouch for me

“WE AL­MOST AL­WAYS WIN THE CASES, BUT IT IM­POSES A HUGE TAX ON THE ATH­LETE.”

and tell my side of the story,” he says. “A lot of di­rec­tors don’t bother to read the whole story. It’s a very dif­fi­cult case to un­der­stand.”

Burke, who turned 23 in June and now lives in Squamish, B.C., knows get­ting to the World­tour will be more dif­fi­cult for him than other rid­ers of equal tal­ent, but he has come to ac­cept what hap­pened. “I don’t re­gret what I went through,” he says. “It sucks, but ev­ery­one has to deal with some­thing in­sanely ad­verse.”

He be­lieves the uci needs to learn from his case. “With hy­drochloroth­iazide, there’s no thresh­old. That makes sense for epo or testos­terone, be­cause you’re not go­ing to have that in your drink­ing wa­ter,” he says. “But when you’re talk­ing about a drug that’s read­ily avail­able to se­nior ci­ti­zens and isn’t be­ing fil­tered out of drink­ing wa­ter, that’s a flaw in the sys­tem.”

Tolkamp says he be­lieves the cas made the right de­ci­sion in clear­ing Burke. “For us, Jack was found not guilty so we just move on and treat him as some­one who never tested pos­i­tive,” he says, but adds that there are lessons to be learned for other rid­ers. “When you’re com­pet­ing at a high level, you have to be re­spon­si­ble for what goes into your sys­tem. But if mis­takes do hap­pen, and in­ad­ver­tent prod­ucts get into your sys­tem, this shows that there’s room to ex­plain it and move be­yond it.”

But is it time to up­date how the uci han­dles ad­verse an­a­lyt­i­cal find­ing cases, es­pe­cially ones involving sub­stances known to be in drink­ing wa­ter? Bunt­ing thinks so. “I’ve seen too many cases where it’s in­ad­ver­tent con­tact, like Jack’s, where we have to go to a full hear­ing,” he says. “We al­most al­ways win the cases, but it im­poses a huge tax on the ath­lete per­son­ally. It’s a very stress­ful process and it al­ways falls right be­fore the Olympic Games or a very im­por­tant com­pet­i­tive time for the ath­lete, so it has a re­ally pro­found psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect on them, even when you’re suc­cess­ful.”

How­ever, Bunt­ing also re­al­izes the tight rules are there for a rea­son. “I think the cards are def­i­nitely stacked against the ath­letes, but that is a nec­es­sary re­quire­ment in my view in or­der to pro­tect clean sport,” he says. “I rec­og­nize we need to have these strict rules and there can be no ex­cep­tions, oth­er­wise we might al­low cheaters to get away with cheat­ing.”

Al­though Bunt­ing doesn’t speak with Burke of­ten, in his of­fice is a re­minder of the role he played in the young rider’s life. Hang­ing promi­nently on his wall is a framed best young rider jersey from the Tour of Al­berta, which Burke sent to Bunt­ing as a thank you af­ter win­ning it in 2017. “It was very cool to get that jersey and to see that Jack is still pur­su­ing his pas­sion and do­ing re­ally well at it,” Bunt­ing says. “I was hon­oured to re­ceive it and that he thought of me. But it’s not fair for Jack to say he is where he is be­cause of me. He’s there be­cause of his own hard work. I was happy to help him out along his jour­ney, but he gets full credit for all the suc­cess he’s had in cy­cling.”

ncch coach­ing di­rec­tor Lloyd Fair­bairn be­lieves its time to move on. “It’s quite un­fair. Jack was the vic­tim of a sit­u­a­tion not of his mak­ing and ev­ery time some­one re­peats that ac­cu­sa­tion they un­justly re-vic­tim­ize him,” he says. “The best thing to do when wrongly ac­cused is to keep work­ing hard, move for­ward, and just ac­cept that oth­ers may never be­lieve the true story. If the com­ments be­come slan­der­ous or ha­rass­ing, then that is an­other ques­tion for the au­thor­i­ties to deal with.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Burke, he was re­minded on a rainy day in June that com­plete strangers some­times have no in­ter­est in mov­ing on. He won the queen stage of the Tour de Beauce with a re­mark­able at­tack on the climb up to Mont-mé­gan­tic. It was the big­gest stage win of his ca­reer – and then he checked his Face­book mes­sages.

Jack Burke (front) at the 2018 Tour de Beauce

op­po­site Burke races the 2016 B.C. time trial cham­pi­onshipsabove Burke rides in his Jelly Belly kit at the Tour de Delta road race, part of BC Su­per­week in 2018

leftAt the 2017 Tour of the Gila, Burke com­petes in the time trial with Aevolo Cy­cling

above Burke stands on the top step of the podium at the 2018 Tour de Beauce af­ter win­ning Stage 2 atop Mont-mé­gan­tic

op­po­site Burke takes the stage win at the 2018 Tour de Beauce on Mont-mé­gan­tic above Burke rides in the leader's jersey dur­ing the Stage 3 time trail of the Tour de Beauce

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