By Hedwig Kröner
Newly-elected French Health and Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot is determined to end the stalemate between the International Cycling Union and the organisers of the three Grand Tours, which has culminated this summer at the Tour de France. After urging the UCI and ASO to work together at the beginning of August, it was the initiative of Bachelot to set up an anti-doping summit which will be held in October.
Bachelot wants to bring together all parties concerned with professional cycling. "Over 400 anti-doping controls were carried out at the Tour de France this year, and there were only three positives," she told L'Equipe on Thursday, September 13, explaining her faith in the sport. "We have changed our culture, changed an era. We have to go even further but we are confronted with certain obstacles. WADA, UCI and the organisers of cycling races haven't spoken to each other for months, which is why I'm organising an international anti-doping summit for cycling in Paris on October 22 and 23. It will be held at the CNOSF (National Olympic and Sporting Committee), and WADA chairman Richard Pound, UCI president Pat McQuaid as well as the organisers of the Grand Tours have already accepted to attend. There will be about 150 participants."
Bachelot also intends to broaden the results of the meetings onto other sports. "It is about making cycling a laboratory of experiences to be able to export solutions to other disciplines afterwards. I don't want to organise any intellectual small talk - I want very concrete actions," she added.
Moreover, the minister plans to make even the possession - not only the use - of doping products illegal in France. She has created a group of experts "to examine the legislative modifications to penalize the detention of doping products," and hopes to have the law passed as soon as 2008.
Meanwhile, ASO president Patrice Clerc was reluctant about the cooperation between the Tour de France organising company and the UCI, as the relationship between the two has reached a new low recently. In July, Clerc and race director Christian Prudhomme accused UCI president Pat McQuaid of wanting to hurt the Tour de France by omitting to reveal that Michael Rasmussen had missed two out-of-competition anti-doping tests prior to the event.
"The UCI should have applied its regulation, which it didn't," he told Cyclingnews on Thursday, September 13, from his office at the outskirts of Paris. "Also, before the race, the teams, the UCI and ourselves had sealed a pact to make the race as clean as possible. But neither the team [Rabobank] nor the UCI told us that this particular rider - of which we all knew that he would be an important actor in the race - was doubtful. Only to reveal in the middle of the race that Rasmussen, who was wearing the maillot jaune, was suspended from the Worlds by his own federation! I felt a very big frustration, because this should never have happened: he should never have participated in the first place!"
Nevertheless, Clerc was open to take up discussions with the UCI again at the summit, even if the disagreements between the two parties concerning the ProTour are far from resolved. "Over and above our political problems regarding the organisational principles of the sport, we will contribute to the meetings to obtain a consensus - for the sake of cycling, and notably the Tour de France. But our contacts with the UCI are scarce at the moment," he added.
Watch out for the full interview with Patrice Clerc on Cyclingnews in the coming days.