All of the five ProTour teams which were threatened with exclusion from Paris-Nice until they paid up on the International Cycling Union's (UCI) biological passport programme have submitted the required sums and are clear to start the race on Sunday, the UCI announced late Friday.
In a Paris press conference, UCI president Pat McQuaid gave the teams, Cofidis, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Silence-Lotto, Quick Step and Caisse d'Epargne, until close of business on Friday to submit the required first half of the €120,000 fee which is part of all ProTour teams' obligation to support the anti-doping effort. He informed those teams that they would be prevented from starting Paris-Nice if they did not pay, a statement which drew strong reactions.
Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere was frustrated with the UCI's demand, but ultimately his team and Cofidis were the first to submit the payments, with the other three teams quickly following suit.
The Quick Step team issued a statement defending its stand in the matter, clarifying that it had made a €30,000 payment on March 4, and said that this was part of a proposal by the ProTour teams' economic interest group, IPCT, to divide the payment into four installments. "The first was to be paid before the Paris-Nice, the second by April 1, the third by July 1 and the fourth installment had to be paid by October 1. In our opinion, the payments should have followed the progress of the biological passport programme over the course of the season."
Lefevere made it clear that his team supports the passport programme. "It is not our intention to doubt the usefulness or validity of the programme, which we have always supported, and which we have believed in since the beginning. We simply feel it would be more correct to spread the payment throughout the course of the season."
The UCI did not accept this argument, and Lefevere and his team decided to simply pay the remaining €90,000 "to avoid speculation about the team and to show once more that it wasn't a question of economics, but a point of principle, which evidently was not well received."