July 3, 2006 – The UCI has taken note of comments made by Messrs Jean-Francois Lamour, French Minister of Sport, and Dick Pound, president of WADA, over the weekend and I would like to respond to them as I feel strongly that, in both cases, they were completely unjustified.
Let there be no doubt that the UCI is the first one to accept that this so-called “Spanish affair” is a scandal and a disaster for cycling. UCI will deal with that.
Yet I wonder whether blasting to bits the UCI is the most effective way to further the fight against doping in these dramatic circumstances.
I would like to remind the Minister that instead of making loose remarks on out-of-competition controls he should be coming up with concrete recommendations as to how he might improve the testing methods so that the kind of blood transfusion that was allegedly administered may be detected. The fact of the matter is that the riders implicated in Operation Puerto have been tested many times, including in the French laboratory in ChÃ¢tenay-Malabry, both within and out of competition and have always proven negative.
Some of the most prominent riders that are named in the affair have been tested by UCI, by WADA and by national anti-doping organizations several times in the months of May and June 2006. WADA has conducted 189 out-of-competition tests on cyclists in 2005. One result showed positive (for EPO, not blood transfusion). All known results for 2006 are negative. And what about the number of out-of-competition tests that have been conducted in France? Apparently the Minister has forgotten about his answer — in other political circumstances — to Mr. Le Fur of the French Parliament on 21 March 2006: “Cycling still is the sport that is controlled most because of the high number of competitions in France and also because of the voluntaristic anti-doping policy of the UCI”.
So no amount of out-of-competition controls would have assisted in identifying the practises being utilised in Spain: these are simply not detectable by doping controls.
It was the UCI through the information gleaned from its unique blood control programme who wrote to the Spanish Minister of State for Sport Mr. Jaime Lissavetsky in 2004 and once again on March 23rd of this year expressing its concern that blood doping practises appeared widespread in Spain and asking for his assistance in getting to the root of the problem. It is this pro-active policy of the UCI which has assisted in the actions of May 23rd and not any insistence of the Minister.
And I would also like to remind the Minister that it was the Code of Ethics of the UCI ProTeams which enabled the Teams to take the decision which they decided to take last Friday to withdraw cyclists named in this affair.
Finally, when the riders asked the Minister why he insisted with his Spanish colleague that only the names of cyclists be made public and not those of any other athletes involved, why did the Minister not answer? If, as some press statements suggested, 200 names were involved, why is there no such interest in the 140 other names and any doping problem that possibly might be related to them?
In relation to Mr. Pound, I would like to remind him of the following. On April 12 of this year you, along with three of your collaborators, spent a full day in our offices to view presentations on all UCI anti-doping efforts, after many misleading statements you had made on cycling and the UCI in recent years. As a result, you had to come back on virtually all of the statements and had to write an open letter to the Guardian newspaper in London retracting elements of an interview you gave them.
Again Mr. Pound why is it that the practises in Spain can go on under the radar of WADA without detection? Why not have made included in the World Anti-Doping Code and in national legislations effective mechanisms of mutual assistance between sporting authorities and judicial authorities? It is well known from various court cases that some forms of doping can be detected with police methods only. I think you and Mr. Lamour would be far better served trying to assist the sports authorities instead of taking cheap shots geared towards shaping your own popularity.
I also find it extremely interesting that these negative comments should come from two people who have recently been charged with breaking ethical rules and a serious breach of the WADA Code by an independent investigator, both of whom refused to cooperate with that investigator.
Comments from such persons should be more considered, more supportive and not made for political gain.