- Article published:
- January 16, 2013, 18:00
- Cycling News
McQuaid defends the UCI as anti-doping helpline is launched
The UCI has hit back at calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be incorporated into the ongoing UCI Independent Commission investigation, claiming that any amnesty for individual confessions would constitute a violation of the WADA Anti-Doping Code and would have limited effect because governing bodies and police could still pursue athletes who admit to doping.
The UCI Independent Commission members have called for the UCI to change their terms of reference for the wider good of professional cycling and in an attempt to convince the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the Change Cycling Now (CCN) group to contribute to their work.
The UCI stated their case in a long press release, suggesting it would be willing to help WADA fund and develop a truth and reconciliation process covering all sports.
"If WADA is serious about uncovering the full extent to which modern science and the limited methods of detection available to sporting bodies and anti-doping authorities (including itself) have prevented doping, it should establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The UCI, for one, would be happy to participate in such a process and contribute to its funding," the press release reads.
The UCI's often cozy and controversial relationship with Lance Armstrong has come under renewed scrutiny as the Texan's reported TV confession is close to airing. The New York Times has reported that Armstrong may be ready to testify against UCI officials about their involvement with doping in cycling.
The UCI has tried to defend its track record by claiming that even WADA or USADA failed to catch Armstrong via anti-doping controls.
"USADA has asserted that Lance Armstrong and the USPS team ran the most sophisticated and professionalised doping programme that sport has ever seen. Certainly, WADA tested Lance Armstrong many times during his career and failed to find any proof of doping. USADA, too, tested Armstrong many times and similarly failed. We all had access to the same test results – and they too must have formed the view that there was an insufficient basis to pursue a doping violation against Lance Armstrong," the press release reads.
"There is no dispute, therefore, that we are talking about doping violations that were difficult, if not impossible, to detect on the basis of the existing science and the limited methods at the disposal of anti-doping authorities. Unlike the national criminal authorities, the UCI does not have the power to carry out searches of the rooms or vehicles of athletes, nor compel riders to give evidence before a Grand Jury under the threat of criminal prosecution for perjury. The turning point in USADA’s investigation came only after it was able to collect evidence under penalty of perjury following the federal criminal investigation."
UCI President Mr Pat McQuaid publicised the UCI's efforts to fighting doping when announcing the launch of a 24-hour confidential anti-doping helpline for professional riders.
The free helpline will take calls in English and French and is for all athletes in the UCI Registered Testing Pool as well as any professional cyclists taking part in UCI competitions. The calls will be recorded and, depending on their nature, forwarded to specialists in the legal, anti-doping and medical fields, who will decide what follow-up action should be taken.
“The integrity of cycling is at stake. We have established this helpline to encourage the sport’s professionals to come forward and reveal, in the strictest confidence, anything they know about doping practices within the peloton,” McQuaid said in the press release, preferring to look to the future than consider to his responsibilities of the past.
“As some of our top riders have strongly attested in media reports, today’s sport is totally different from how it was before. So we are making good progress.”
“When I became President of the UCI in 2005, I declared that the fight against doping was one of my overriding priorities. Doping is a culture which existed in our sport for decades, so we can only truly banish doping from cycling – and indeed in all sports – by completely eradicating that culture and changing it into a culture of ‘anti-doping’. Changing to this ‘anti-doping’ culture can only be done through education, prevention and by being more vigilant about the entourage of athletes – as well as at the same time offering them more support, which is what this helpline does.”
The helpline number, which can be accessed from anywhere in the world, is +800 8884 8884.
- Article published:
- January 16, 2013, 18:52
- Cycling News
Cannot rule out the possibility of “manipulation” though
It is unlikely that Fränk Schleck used Xipamide for doping purposes or to cover up the use of some other product or doping method, according to the expert opinion submitted to the Luxembourg National Anti-Doping Agency. However, the report did not exclude the possibility.
The five page report was prepared by Dr. Hans Geyer, deputy director of the WADA-approved laboratory in Cologne. Tageblatt.lu obtained and released the report. The ALAD has indicated it will release its final decision on the Schleck case on January 30 .
Schleck tested positive during the Tour de France for the diuretic Xipamide, which can be used to conceal other doping products. He has denied doping.
Geyer concluded that “it cannot be excluded that an effective dose of Xipamide has been administrered for manipulation purposes between the 6th of July and the 14th of July.
“Several aspects of plausibility should be taken into consideration: 1. the application of a diuretic during a stage race leads to a decrease of performance by dehydration. 2. during the Tour de France many doping controls can be expected, where diuretics can be detected and 3. the use of a diuretic for weight loss reason makes no sense during a stage race.
“Therefore the scenario of an application of a low, non-effective dose of Xipamide is more likely that the manipulation scenario with an effective does of Xipamide.”
Schleck's urine test showed a concentration of about 100 pg/ml which is “an extremely low concentration,” Geyer noted. He said that he is not aware of any studies done on the possible effects of such a low dosage.
It was also not possible to exclude the possibility of the use of another prohibited product or method, he said. “The prohibited substance might have been already eliminated when the diuretic is administrered or 2. the diuretic is detectable for a longer time period as the other doping substance or the effects of a prohibited method (eg atypical blood values).”
Geyer also noted that it was possible that a contaminated food supplement had contained the banned product.
The drug is classified in the World Anti-Doping Agency code as a "specified substance". Under the code, if an athlete can prove unintended ingestion of specified substances, the required two-year ban can be reduced to anything between a warning and a one-year ban.
- Article published:
- January 16, 2013, 20:23
- Pat Malach
New points system to favor UCI-sanctioned races
USA Cycling will change the ranking and points structure of its National Race Calendar for 2013, putting an emphasis on UCI-sanctioned events and tightening the differences in series points that individual races award. But not everyone is happy with the changes or how they were implemented.
Micah Rice, USAC vice president for national events, told Cyclingnews the new structure would create a two-tiered ranking system, with UCI races occupying the top tier and non-UCI races forming a second tier. The NRC previously featured a five-tier ranking system, ranging from 2.4 to 2.HC for stage races and 1.4 to 1.HC for one-day events. Points differences between rankings jumped from 40 to as much as 100.
Although USAC has not yet released the final details, under the proposed two-tiered system, the SRAM Tour of the Gila in New Mexico would likely supplant the Nature Valley Grand Prix as the NRC's top-ranked stage race, while two Pennsylvania one-day races, the Keystone Open in Philadelphia on July 7 and the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown on Sept. 14, would likely be the only other races to qualify for the national calendar's top tier.
“We wanted to revamp it a little bit, to make it a little simpler and less subjective,” Rice said. “And we wanted to make it a little more competitive, so we kind of narrowed those points differences down a little bit to make it more interesting.”
The 10-race NRC series starts with the Redlands Bicycle Classic on April 1-4 in California and concludes September 14 with the Thompson Bucks County Classic. Francisco Mancebo won the men's individual title the past two years, while Carmen Small, riding for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, won the 2012 women's series.
Rice said the National Criterium Calendar, which consists of 25 competitions, including seven multi-day events, will also be run under a two-tiered ranking system in 2013. But because all of the NCC events have been submitted to the UCI's criterium calendar, race rankings will be based on a list of categories such as quality of organization, technical direction, marketing, crowd size, live webcast media interest and coverage, depth of field, prize money and longevity.
“You check a number of boxes on what you have,” Rice said. “And if you check a certain number of boxes then you make it to the upper tier.”
The NRC rankings previously worked in a similar fashion, but that changed in November during USAC's team and race directors' summit in Colorado Springs. Rice said he and other USAC staff met with team directors during a breakout session at the summit and worked out a proposal for the NRC's two-tiered system. Those changes were presented during a joint meeting of the teams and the race directors, Rice said, and facing no objections at the time were put in place for a one-year trial run.
But Rice's version of how the changes were introduced was partially contradicted by several people who attended the Colorado Springs summit. Cyclingnews spoke with multiple sources who said race promoters were not privy to the proposed changes before Rice briefly presented them at a session that was supposed to focus on the National Criterium Calendar.
“We had no idea that Micah had met privately with the teams or that the NRC rankings would be a topic in a session that the agenda stated would be devoted to the NCC,” said a race promoter who also requested anonymity for this article. “He invited us to follow up with concerns, but when we tried, it did no good.”
Rice characterized any claims that he blindsided race promoters as “ridiculous,” emphasizing that the subject was presented when all of the stakeholders were in the room, and it faced no objections at the time. Moreover, subsequent conversations via conference call and email failed to immediately produce a consensus among the race directors about how they wanted to proceed, Rice said, and so he decided to move forward with the two-tiered proposal for 2013.
“Two of the three stakeholders are pretty happy with this,” Rice said. “And the third stakeholder couldn't decide what they wanted to do. So that's when I kind of said, 'Well, we'll move forward with this for a year and talk about it again.' There's plenty of arguments back and forth on this and that, but we're going to try it for a year and then see how it went, and then when we have these meetings again in November we'll have more discussion about it.”
Some of the promoters' questioned whether a ranking system based solely on UCI sanctioning would serve to popularize the sport as efficiently as a multi-leveled system based on a host of predetermined best practices designed to promote cycling.
The problem is compounded for a race like the Nature Valley Grand Prix because the criterium-heavy event wouldn't qualify for UCI-sanctioning in its current format. The UCI traditionally does not allow criteriums in its stage races, Rice said, and USAC had to seek an exemption for the Tour of the Gila to have just one criterium; the Nature Valley Grand Prix features three criteriums in five days.
The Minnesota race, which recently donated $30,000 to a local children's hospice as part of its non-profit charity mission, would have to change its format substantially or give up the top-ranked NRC status it has traditionally banked on to help promote itself.
Although USAC would ultimately like to see more races make the jump to become UCI, Rice said, the governing body is not trying to force anybody's hand.
“There are a lot of reasons why some people don't want to be UCI, and we get that,” he said. “We don't necessarily want to push everyone toward being UCI. Some people have a reason to be UCI and some people don't. Some people might want to take that step, and some people might want more criteriums in their event. So there are a lot of reasons why people make the decision to go UCI or to not go UCI.”
One advantage UCI races have over non-sanctioned races is that both Pro Continental teams like UnitedHealthcare and amateur teams like Cal Giant-Specialized are eligible to participate in 2.2 events. Because any races 2.1 and above are not eligible for the NRC, amateurs would not be excluded from NRC races that moved toward UCI sanctioning.
“The whole idea behind the NRC is really that of a stepping stone to the stage race or Olympic style, European style events,” Rice said. “It's a way for some of these smaller teams – small domestic pro teams or even riders who are not pro yet – to be able to race against some of these bigger, better riders and get more experience at that level so maybe some day they might be prepared for a [USA] Pro Cycling Challenge or a Tour of Utah.”
With the changes already in place for this season, race directors opposed to the new system will have a year to build support before they make the case in Colorado Springs next fall for a more nuanced ranking system.
- Article published:
- January 16, 2013, 21:12
- Cycling News
Any decision to come after Oprah/Armstrong interview
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) countered statements by its Canadian member Dick Pound, who suggested cycling could only be cleaned up by being removed from the Olympic programme, by stating that any such move is "highly unlikely".
Pound, a former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made the comments in light of rumours that Lance Armstrong may implicate the UCI in his doping conspiracy as part of an effort to extricate himself from the lifetime ban imposed by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
It is expected that in tomorrow's interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong will confess to doping during his seven-year winning streak at the Tour de France, and he may address how he was able to avoid testing positive and what role the UCI may have played in that.
IOC communications director Mark Adams dismissed the notion of excluding cycling from the Olympics as premature, and reiterated the Committee's support of cycling's anti-doping efforts.
"In recent years the UCI has done more than most to fight doping," Adams said in a statement. "Its possible exclusion from the Olympic Programme is highly unlikely. Furthermore, it is premature to talk about such things as the interview has not yet been broadcast. Once it has - and once UCI and USADA have commented - we will have a clearer idea on what our next steps will be."
The UCI has been accused of inappropriately taking payments from Armstrong, purportedly for anti-doping efforts, in exchange for looking the other way on suspect doping controls, of leaking information on the timing of out-of-competition controls, and giving Armstrong's teams preferential treatment upon arrival of doping controllers at the Tour de France.
While the UCI has created an Independent Commission to examine its anti-doping efforts over the years, WADA and USADA have refused to take part, and have questioned the commission's impartiality.
- Article published:
- January 16, 2013, 22:00
- Cycling News
Riders race on velodrome at team presentation
Following the introductions of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's 2013 roster at the team launch in Gent's Eddy Merckx velodrome, the riders took to the track for some friendly competition. Several members of the team have considerable track pedigrees which were showcased in events such as the flying lap time trial, match sprint, elimination, derny race and team sprint.
One of the highlights was Iljo Keisse going head-to-head with Dutch road champion and frequent Six-Day partner Niki Terpstra in a 30-lap derny race. Keisse, paced by trainer Tom Steels, came out with a victory while racing in his hometown.
"It was the perfect race," Keisse said. "It was a good start, and the last 10 laps were great. It is really fantastic to do the presentation on the track. Track is really the foundation of cycling and I think the fans will appreciate it."
Perhaps the most anticipated battle of the night was the match sprint final, which came down to Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen. The two battled neck-and-neck in the final stretch, but it was Boonen who managed to get the win.
In the team sprint final, it was the "Challenger" team — Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Iljo Keisse, and Mark Cavendish — who won. Cavendish raised his hands in victory as he was the final rider for his victorious team.
Cavendish was also the fastest rider in the flying lap competition over Keisse.
"For me, Omega Pharma-Quick Step is the most traditional team out there, with the most historical roots," said Cavendish. "This team is steeped in the culture of cycling. Ask any young rider, especially the young Classics rider what team they want to ride with. They will say OPQS without hesitation. To be a part of this dynasty is something. I am so excited for this opportunity."
Cavendish said he watched the team "in awe" last year.
"The Classics, the wins at the World TTT and the ITT — they were the most dominant team in the world," Cavendish said. "All that was missing was the Grand Tour stages, so that was the perfect opportunity for me to fit in this year."
World time trial champion Tony Martin was happy with the unique team presentation.
"I had a lot of fun," Martin said. "I like to be in my natural element on the bike like this, competing on the track with my teammates. We all took it very seriously. We practiced this morning. This turned out to be a very nice day! I hope the supporters enjoyed it as we riders enjoyed the time we had."
- Article published:
- January 17, 2013, 01:42
- Peter Cossins
BMC team boss outlines strategy leading into the Tour de France
Following last year's Tour de France, BMC were widely expected to bring in another climber or two in order to beef up their support for team leaders Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen in the mountains. However, despite being seriously outgunned by Team Sky on the climbs at last year's Tour de France, the Swiss/American outfit have stuck pretty much with what they already had, believing that what worked so well for them in 2011 when Evans won the Tour can work just as well this year, when the Australian hopes to be back to full fitness.
Team manager Jim Ochowicz recognises that BMC don't have a lot of climbers, but insists that there is no reason to think that they won't challenge for the yellow jersey again.
"It's not a secret that we don't have a lot of climbers. Everybody knows that. We weren't like Sky, for example, last year and we won't be like Sky this year either. In fact, we don't want to be like Sky. We want to be like us. We have our ideas about how we can race this team, and I think we have a good balance. We can go to every race and be competitive, and that includes the Tour," the veteran team boss explained at BMC's press presentation.
Ochowicz added that the team's signings, of which the most notable is Italian sprinter/rouleur Daniel Oss, had been made with the whole season in mind rather than just one race.
"What you have to remember about the Tour is that it changes every year. I can't build a team of 26 riders around what the Tour is going to decide to do in 2014, for example, because I won't know until next October where the race is going to be in 2014.
"We know it's going to start in England, but I don't know how hilly it's going to be, whether it will have a team time trial, a prologue. I have to think about the whole calendar, so we've got a pretty well-rounded team for the Tour where we can go in and get it done. We got it done in 2011 without a big climbing team, although Cadel was also in better shape."
Pressed on likely selections for the Tour, Ochowicz said: "Clearly, we're not making any yet. Overall, I would say we like the route this year, we think it suits us well. We also think we've got a couple of riders who should add something on the climbs.
"Dominik Nerz is one rider who I think that people will soon see a lot of. He did a lot for Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains in 2012, and we think he'll do the same for Cadel and Tejay. We've also got some other guys on the team who haven't been exposed to the Tour yet, such as Mathias Frank."
Asked about any possible change of tactics to deal with the Sky steamroller in the mountains, Ochowicz said: "We're never going to ride like Sky did – I don't even like that kind of riding. They won the Tour but I found it very boring. We tried to attack the race one day and it was impossible, but at least we tried.
"I like a more open race like the year Cadel won. I think that's more of the style of Tour you will see this year with Alberto Contador back and Andy Schleck back as well. Also, Sky have lost Michael Rogers, who was one of the key elements to their success at the Tour. So there's been a softening in some other teams and we've stepped it up a bit."
Tour de France not immediate goal for Hushovd
Ochowicz admitted that Thor Hushovd could feature in BMC's plans for the Tour, but made it clear that this decision is still a very long way off.
"The important thing for Thor Hushovd right now is not the Tour de France. He's going to Argentina and we want to see him start in Argentina and finish in Argentina, and finish healthy. Then he can make the next step in the Belgian races with the goal of doing something in Flanders and Roubaix. We have to take it one step at a time because he's coming back. He's very good right now in his head and his body, and we want to keep it that way."
As manager of the Motorola team back in the 1990s, Ochowicz was the man who brought Lance Armstrong into professional peloton. The two men remained close even after Motorola folded in 1996 and Ochowicz started down a new path as a wealth management consultant. However, the BMC team boss said he has not been in touch with his former team leader "for a while" and added that he had no idea what to expect of Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey.
- Lance Armstrong
- Tour de France 2013
- Article published:
- January 17, 2013, 03:22
- Cycling News
Live coverage of the two-part interview as it happens
In what will be one of the most watched interviews of the year, Lance Armstrong has reportedly admitted to the use of doping substances during his illustrious cycling career with arguably the most influential woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey. Live coverage of the two-part show will be covered right here on Cyclingnews.
Armstrong's apparent confession comes in response to the mass of evidence compiled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency which exposed the systematic use of banned substances by the U.S Postal and Discovery Channel teams. USADA's 'Reasoned Decision' document and subsequent fallout saw Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life.
Cyclingnews will follow what is said to be a tell-all interview with the Queen of television - as it happens.
The details of his discussion with Oprah are not yet known but the next two days will no doubt bring a huge response from the general cycling community. Follow the reactions, interviews, statements and related coverage right here.
Cyclingnews' live coverage of Armstrong's interview will start 30 minutes prior to the show's start.
Coverage will begin on Thursday 17 January 8:30pm EST with broadcast to commence at 9:00pm EST. Friday's second-part will also be covered live on Cyclingnews, starting at 8:30pm EST with television broadcast at 9:00pm EST.
The interview will be shown during Oprah's Next Chapter program through the Oprah Winfrey Network.
- Article published:
- January 17, 2013, 05:00
- Cycling News
Armstrong issue should be put in perspective, says Olympic champion
London Olympic Sprint champion Anna Meares has responded to the suggestion by International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound that cycling could be removed from the Olympic programme. Pound's comments come in the build-up to the possible confession of Lance Armstrong in a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Meare's voiced her opinion on her personal website, expressing her concerns for the younger and upcoming generation who would essentially receive the punishment for the actions of others.
"It would be disappointing to see cycling pulled from the Olympics and we all need to keep it in perspective that it is a Lance Armstrong issue, not every cyclist," said Meares on annameares.com.au.
"Just as we here in Australia have issues with drink driver's on our roads, this does not mean every driver is a bloody idiot; so to that just because cycling in its past and even in its recent past have had issues with a minority of its athletes cheating, doesn't mean every cyclist cheats.
"Drugs have been taken in cycling's past, there is no denying it. I believe we deserve the reputation we have as a result of the bad choices and decisions of some of its athletes, but it is not the only sport with issues.
"It is disappointing reports suggest that from his interview with Oprah, that Lance has been dishonest but this behaviour is not a part of my life practice privately nor professionally.
Meares is one of Australia's most decorated track cyclists, having amassed ten world championship gold medals and two Olympic titles; in Athens, 2004 and London in 2012. She was most recently awarded the prestigious Sir Hubert Opperman Medal at the Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards and was named the 2012 Australian Cyclist of the Year.
"What about the many disciplines under cycling? Track, mountain bike, BMX, Para cycling? Should they all be punished for what happened on the road pre 2000's? What about the younger generation coming through dreaming, aiming, working hard for that chance to represent their country at the Olympics who are today in their teens or younger? Do we say to them; sorry, no more dreaming for you, blame Lance Armstrong?"
Plans for Rio 2016 had yet to be decided following Meares' London campaign and with Pound's comments made public, Meares remains hopeful cycling is not cut from the Olympics.
"Let's wait and see what has been said in the interview between Lance and Oprah before any comments or opinions are made and I hope that if there are any ramifications involved it is reserved for the people who did wrong, not the sport of cycling as a whole."