By Gregor Brown
Fabio Bordonali, the manager of the LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini team defended his programme against the criticism of Tom Boonen yesterday. The Belgian was critical of the team's lack of wild card status, and suggested that it was not complying with the UCI's Biological Passport programme. But Bordonali clarified that the team has indeed paid for the passport testing this year and is fully compliant with the whereabouts system.
"The wild card label is not synonymous with the biological passport," Bordonali said to Cyclingnews. The UCI's wild card designation is based upon participation in the passport programme in part, but also carries other requirements unrelated to the anti-doping effort. Several teams missed the deadline for receiving the wild card designation which is required for ProTour races, but are still allowed to race the UCI's Historical calendar as long as they have paid into the passport system.
Without wild card status, LPR cannot start races such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race. But it is already on the list of invited teams to start in Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia. Tomorrow, it races in the Monte Paschi Eroica.
"I think that there is no intelligence and a lot of stupidity," Bordonali said of Boonen's comments. "It was not explained to Tom Boonen that LPR paid for the biological passport starting in [November] 2008."
Bordonali took over LPR at the end of 2007 with star rider Danilo Di Luca in his ranks. He found out early in 2008 that the team had to pay an additional sum of around 120,000 euro to join the International Cycling Union's new biological passport system. He did not pay because he did not have guarantees in which races his team could enter and he did not want to fuel the war between the Grand Tour organisers and the International Cycling Union (UCI).
The team hired Alessandro Petacchi mid-year following his suspension for excess asthma medication, but the organisers of Paris-Tours prohibited LPR Brakes from entering the race Petacchi won the previous year because it was not enrolled in the passport system. Since then, the team has started paying for the anti-doping testing programme, and it has the right to enter races that are important to the Italian team: the Giro d'Italia, Milano-Sanremo and Tour de France.
"I would like to understand how there are teams that did not have a biological passport in 2008 and raced in the most important races together with Tom Boonen. He did not say anything about these teams. It needs to be clear that the ProTour teams often race alongside Continental teams who do not pay into the biological passport system."
Bordonali received a letter from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) asking if the team would like to participate in its upcoming April classics: Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Di Luca is a past winner of the latter two). He affirmed the team's desire to race and the organiser will reveal the teams for its race by March 22.
The International Cycling Union will release information on which teams have paid into its anti-doping system by next week, which should help clear the confusion about the biological passport participation.