By Jean-François Quénet in Salzburg
Professor Sturbois from the University of Leuven in Belgium has been appointed by the UCI to conduct an audit on professional cycling for a better understanding of "the doping culture that remains there," according to president Pat McQuaid.
A group of physiologists, psychologists, sport sociologists and psychiatrists, all independent from the world of cycling, will be formed. They are supposed to come up with conclusions within a year. McQuaid and his partners at the UCI have realized that "cyclists live in a cocoon".
"We want to know why they go from vitamin pills to vitamin injections then to stronger injections," he said, citing comments made to him by Tom Boonen, who said the environment of the Tour de France is so stressful that he looks forwards to the start of the race "for taking a rest".
Said McQuaid: "We have no intention to reduce the length of the Grand Tours but we want to make sure that there are no excuses for doping. Scientists will be doing the research. If changes have to be made, they will be made."
The inquiry will be financed by the reserve funds of the ProTour (money collected from the issuing of licenses to race organisers and teams) and the riders' contribution, with the anti-doping tax set to go from two to four percent of total prize money next year.
McQuaid is also confident in the new involvement of some teams who have expressed strong anti-doping policies: "Getting rid of the doping culture," is the UCI's new priority, he said.
Asked about Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano's future in the staff of Euskaltel despite his implication in the Operaciòn Puerto investigation, UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf recalled that the teams' Code of Conduct states that no riders or staff in that situation can be recruited.
"If we receive a request from Euskaltel for Gonzalez de Galdeano, we'll study it closely," Rumpf assured. Strangely, as the UCI exposed their program against the doping culture, Johan Museeuw visited the press conference room. Although he's still banned for drugs in the Landuyt affair until October 14 this year, the UCI issued him an accreditation as an "ex-world champion". "He shouldn't be here," an embarrassed Rumpf said afterwards.