Belgian rider agent could sue UCI for defamation

Protest against release of 2010 Tour de France suspicious list

A major cyclists' agency in Belgium is considering legal action against the International Cycling Union (UCI) for its leaked “suspicious” list of riders at the 2010 Tour de France.  Celio Sport & Image, along with the riders involved, will look at the possibility of suing for defamation of character and asking for damages.

In addition, “we will demand total transparency concerning the methodology and assessment criteria for this system, and total access to their file for all riders,” the agency said in a press statement.

On Friday, L'Equipe published the list, which ranked the riders on a scale of 0 (not suspicious) to 10 (highly suspicious).  The rankings were said to be based on a combination of the first blood tests taken before the start of the Tour and the blood values from the biological passport.  Many of the riders on the list have protested against the rankings.

The  Belgian-based agency particularly questioned the role played by the biological passport values, because of the infrequency of testing, noting that, “most of these riders have even not yet been tested once in the year 2011.”

One of its clients is Carlos Barredo, one of only two riders to be given the “top” ranking.  “Carlos Barredo, who received the maximum ranking of 10/10 and as such could be considered 'public enemy number 1' for the UCI, has not been tested at all for the biological passport since October 2nd, 2010! Therefore we think that the problem of credibility lies largely with the UCI and its system, rather than with the riders.”

The list, “is based solely on the interpretation and feeling of individuals within amongst others the UCI. There is no indication of a methodology or any other proper scientific approach, which makes that there is no reason whatsoever to put these riders in such negative, public daylight. This list would be based on strange or somewhat aberrant values in the biological passport.

“Important to know is that the rider has no access to his file and has no right for defense, explanation, nuancing, or clarification. The UCI has never asked any question about this, neither
to the rider, nor to his team.”

This has combined to allow the UCI to “once again damage the image of the riders, and more in general the sport of cycling,” the statement said.  “. The UCI succeeds once again to put cycling in negative daylight, while in reality there is no problem whatsoever and no evidence in any way of the use of doping or any other form of cheating.”

The agencies clients include Barredo, Tom Boonen, Tyler Farrar, Niels Albert, Gerald Ciolek, Stijn Devolder, Karsten Kroon, Levi Leipheimer, Robbie McEwen, Michael Rogers, Gert Steegmans and Greg Van Avermaet.

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