News feature, October 25, 2006.
Tension builds between ASO and UCI
Governing body to update AIGCP on fight against doping
By Shane Stokes
The ongoing rift between the UCI and ASO appears to be no closer to a resolution with the news that the latter body has declined to invite president Pat McQuaid to the 2007 Tour de France presentation on Thursday, and has also refused to partake in ongoing discussions on the way forward in the fight against drug use in the sport.
The battle against doping will be amongst the subjects to be discussed at the Annual General Meeting of the AIGCP (Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels), to be held on Wednesday in Paris.
The manager of the UCIs antidoping department, Mrs. Anne Gripper, will give a presentation about the current direction of the efforts, covering areas which include the modification of existing rules and an outline of the studies which are currently being made. UCI President Pat McQuaid will also be in attendance and will speak with key players in the AIGCP on this and other subjects.
In the aftermath of the Landis affair, the UCI set up an in-depth audit of the sport and the factors which may contribute to doping in cycling. The meeting will give an update as to the progress of this study, as well as discussions of other measures such as the possible introduction of compulsory DNA profiling, longitudinal health studies and a toughening of the existing tests which are in place.
It is understood that the UCI has already commissioned anti-doping experts to look into these areas, particularly DNA testing, and an update of this situation is expected to be given. Meanwhile the top teams are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the ProTour Code of Ethics at the meeting.
Tensions continue to build
The UCI issued a press release on Tuesday relating to the AIGCP meeting, in which the governing body outlined its strong disappointment with the ASO decision.
The UCI states that a proposal for collaboration in the fight against doping which was recently addressed to ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, was curtly refused, stated the release. The UCI strongly deplores this action.
Aside from the differences of opinion which remain about the UCI ProTour, the intention of the UCI was to enable the organisers of cyclings biggest races to take part in the development of the anti-doping strategy which will be put in place at the beginning of next season.
Doping is a problem which affects each of the various parties involved in cycling and the UCI, in keeping with the mission conferred upon it by its institutional role, wanted to extend the discussion to each of those, as it has done in the past.
The release also stated that ASO had declined to invite UCI President Pat McQuaid to the presentation of the 2007 Tour de France and that this, combined with its refusal to collaborate on anti-doping discussions, provides additional proof that its leaders refuse to show solidarity with the world of cycling, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
There are rumours that big-name riders may mark their dissatisfaction with the ongoing spat by missing the Tour presentation. While those under investigation such as Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and under-fire 2006 Tour victor Floyd Landis would surely not be welcome, it is thought that many others will boycott the launch, just as they boycotted the podium presentation at the Tour of Lombardy earlier this month.
It remains to be seen if ASO will acknowledge Landiss position as a possible final victor, subject to the outcome of his appeal, or if the title of Tour champion will instead be given to Oscar Pereiro.
If Lombardy is anything to go by, the riders and teams appear to be losing patience with the political struggles between the Grand Tour organisers and the UCI, given their dissatisfaction with the fact that Giro organisers RCS refused to present ProTour winner Alejandro Valverde with his jersey at the end of the race. Valverde threatened not to ride, then finally agreed to do so, but what was perceived as a snub against his jersey led to race winner Paolo Bettini and their fellow professionals refusing to go on stage for the post-race presentation.
The UCI is seeking to consolidate support and on Tuesday circulated a letter to the main players - such as teams, sponsors and various councils - in order to clarify its position on this and other matters. In the communiqué, the organisation calls for solidarity within cycling, stating that the growth of other sports means it is crucial for those within cycling to cooperate and work together in order to ensure future growth and success.
It argues that the ProTour is the best means of achieving this aim, and says that the rejection of the series by ASO and the other Grand Tour organisers weakens the sport. It urges those involved in cycling to back the ProTour and the reformed calendar structure, saying that only in that way can the necessary gains can be made.
The letter highlights what it feels are the major successes of the calendar reforms, including a 266% increase in television coverage of the Dauphiné Libéré, as well as a 45% increase in the number of races due to be held in the US in 2007, when compared with the current season. It also states that the growth on other continents is encouraging.
WADA support needed
Although the relationship with chairman Dick Pound remains a rocky one, the UCI has also appealed to WADA to assist in matters relating to the Operación Puerto investigation. The press release circulated on Tuesday concluded with a reference to the recent pronouncement by the Spanish authorities that disciplinary proceedings of a sporting nature cannot be concluded until the end of the court enquiry.
With regard to the recent developments of Operación Puerto, and in particular the communication of last October 3 by which the Spanish authorities prohibited the UCI from using the documents of this file for any disciplinary proceedings, our Federation requires the intervention of the World Agency Antidopage (WADA), it states.
The UCI believes that WADA, which has often asserted its position of preeminence in dealings between political and sporting authorities, must now assume its responsibilities with respect to the Spanish government by supporting the UCIs wish to be able to complete the disciplinary proceedings which were opened in accordance with the rules.
The UCI is firmly committed to establishing the facts relating to all the people implicated in this affair and counts upon the support of WADA to reach that point as soon as possible, it concludes. This will doubtlessly be discussed at the AIGCP meeting, along with the aforementioned proposals as to how future scandals can be prevented.