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News feature, July 29, 2007

ASO distances itself further from UCI

Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme and ASO President Patrice Clerc met with the press Saturday morning in Cognac to discuss the last three weeks of their Grand Tour. The event was hit with the news of two in-race positive controls and two other pre-event doping-related incidents that left the Frenchmen wanting to distance its race from the UCI (International Cycling Union). Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was in Cognac before the start of the time trial listen to what the Frenchmen had to say.

Patrik Sinkewitz, Alexander Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni and Michael Rasmussen made the 2007 Tour one to remember, but not for the right reasons. Both Sinkewitz and Rasmussen had pre-race issues that ASO, organiser of the Tour, believes the UCI could have prevented or perhaps it let slip by.

"There can only be one answer for the UCI, either they are incompetent or want to damage the Tour de France," blasted Prudhomme Saturday morning. Former maillot jaune wearer Michael Rasmussen missed two out of competition doping controls in June according to the UCI but Tour organisers were never made aware of it. "The UCI knew about the missed controls, and by the team, and yet the UCI told us he was okay," commented Clerc.

"Strange that we only knew of the Sinkewitz's positive results in the Tour," Prudhomme added. "Other results come so much quicker, so, for us, I get the feeling that the UCI did not really want to give us the results before [the Tour]."

There were two positive results in the Tour, with Alexander Vinokourov (Astanta) testing non-negative for blood doping while Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) tested non-negative for testosterone. Both the Switzerland and French registered squads were asked to leave the event, and did so immediately. "The mistakes from two riders, Alexander Vinokourov and Cristian Moreni, damaged the Tour de France with their behaviour," said Clerc. "Most of the riders are working in a clean way, without using any products. But some of them did not understand that things have changed. Most teams are doing well but some don't understand."

"The UCI is totally unprofessional and unconscious," Prudhomme continued. "The head of the UCI [Pat McQuaid]... Usually when you have these types of mistakes in normal work you asked for the person to be dismissed. ... They want to hurt the Tour de France, it is irresponsible."

Prudhomme accused the UCI
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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"We will work with the teams, sponsors, and national federations," explained Prudhomme of his plans for ASO's 2008 races, which include Paris-Nice, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne and Paris-Tours. "We will meet and work with everyone that wants to help. At our 2008 Tour presentation, this October 25, we will explained our plans and decisions. We will have ethics play the major part of next year's Tour selection, more so than a team's results. We don't want to do without an international institution but we want something better, and something that can fight doping."

"We can't confuse all of the UCI with some people who now have the power in the UCI," Clerc clarified. "We don't want to do without an international sporting institution. The problem is that the people there now are not competent and they want to damage the Tour de France. We thought we could work together and make an alliance against doping but we did not make it."

The UCI on June 19 the UCI released an agreement it required the riders to sign prior to the Tour de France. The riders agreed to pay a year's salary in fines if they were caught cheating that would go to funding anti-doping programs.

Any bond between the Tour and the UCI's ProTour seems to have been broken. This last week the UCI sent a press release to the Tour to inform it that it was selected to be a part of the 2008 ProTour. "We laughed," said Clerc. "We called them back but the moment is not right for serene work."

World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Dick Pound talked of an amnesty for some riders who speak up on doping, an idea Clerc says his organisation with consider. "We will take in account all ideas but, now, cycling news to recover and think. We will plan for the future and meet with those who have ideas."

The Frenchmen are encouraged by the public support of the World's biggest bike race. "The public is still with us and this is most important."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
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