The UCI have hit back at a report from the French anti-doping agency, the AFLD which apparently suggests that the UCI consistently favoured the Astana team at this year's Tour de France labelling the accusations "groundless" and accusing AFLD boss Pierre Bordry of courting publicity. It also suggests that the UCI will look for a "neutral partner" with which to conduct doping controls at the 2010 Tour.
Not noted for its ability to take criticism, the manner of the UCI's response comes as little surprise and nor does its further ratcheting up of tensions with the AFLD. Not only does the UCI statement accuse M. Bordry of seeking publicity, it also accuses his organisation of going behind the UCI's back in producing the report. "The AFLD has drawn up and published a unilateral report, without giving the UCI the opportunity to study it and correct any erroneous comments that it may contain".
While the UCI may not like what the AFLD report has to say – and it certainly doesn't – it nevertheless has two uncomfortable truths to deal with. First, aside from trading insults there is nothing it can do about the AFLD, ultimately the agency answers to the French Government which has somewhat more clout than the UCI, particularly in France. Second, the agency has a pretty good batting average when it comes to catching dopers and it has proved adept at finding new ways to do so too. As to who it could find to be a "neutral partner" in conducting doping controls at Le Tour, that ultimately will depend on the attitude of ASO and, very possibly, the French Government.
For his part the AFLD boss told Le Monde that he was convinced that two new drugs were being used at this year's Tour, flatly contradicting the UCI's assertion in August that the 2009 edition of the race was clean. Speaking to Le Monde Bordry suggested that his organisation had clear evidence of blood transfusions taking place and he suggested that riders were already using Hematide, a third generation EPO derivative which won't actually be licensed for use until 2011 but which is already on WADA's banned list, and Aicar, a product that works on muscular tissue to promote the burning of fats. According to Le Monde, Bordry was shocked at how thin some Tour riders were this year.
He went on to tell the newspaper that his organisation was working on tests for both substances and would be retrospectively testing all the blood samples from this year's Tour once such tests were available. Similar retrospective tests carried out after last year's Tour caught a number of riders including including Berard Kohl who 'won' the King of the Mountains competition.
This morning the International Cycling Union (UCI) received a report drawn up by the AFLD (French Anti-Doping Agency) on the procedures of the testing carried out during the 2009 Tour de France. The report was simultaneously released to the media; this was probably not by coincidence.
Firstly, the UCI considers the manner in which Mr Pierre Bordry and his colleagues have proceeded to be completely unacceptable.
While the UCI and AFLD together agreed a programme of testing for the 2009 Tour de France, the AFLD has drawn up and published a unilateral report, without giving the UCI the opportunity to study it and correct any erroneous comments that it may contain. This is certainly not what one would expect from a professional, reliable partnership working together in the battle against doping.
As to the substance of the matter, the UCI considers the accusations made by the AFLD against officials sent to the Tour de France to be completely unfounded and indeed very serious. The UCI fully respects the obligations arising from the World Anti-Doping Code: the equality of treatment of teams and riders is meticulously guaranteed, testing conditions completely conform to the prevailing standards and the rules on storing samples are rigorously observed.
Furthermore, the UCI recalls that as a result of concerns previously expressed by the AFLD, it had already conducted an investigation on the treatment of the Astana team. This clearly showed that the Astana team had not been favoured in any way.
More generally and with a view to constantly improving the effectiveness of the battle against doping, the UCI had committed itself to a close collaboration with the AFLD after the latter had requested that our Federation was the sole organisation responsible for anti-doping at the 2009 Tour de France. Unfortunately, this experience showed that the AFLD only emphasises what it considers to be the practical failings of the other parties in order to insinuate that they had acted incorrectly throughout.
This attitude is not appropriate and does not give credit to the enormous amount of work carried out by many people during the three weeks of the event under the scope of an intensive anti-doping programme that is the most complete and sophisticated implemented for any sporting event outside the Olympic Games.
Finally, the UCI considers it very disappointing that the good operational partnership put in place for the 2009 Tour de France has been undermined by Mr Bordry’s pursuit of media attention, which seems also to have had the objective of sabotaging the efforts of the UCI and its partners in recent years with regard to the fight against doping. This has led the UCI to wonder about Mr Bordry’s actual intentions.
Consequently, the UCI will now study the options for collaborating with a neutral partner for anti-doping controls on French soil. Such an option has already been implemented by other International Federations.
So far, there has been no reaction to the AFLD report from Astana or from ASO.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.