By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
ASO president Patrice Clerc was questioned about the biological passport that all riders will have to carry in order to take part in the 2008 Tour de France. "In 2008, it can only be used as an evaluation of the riders' biological data," he said. "Riders wont get suspended if some blood values are abnormal but they will be declared unfit to race, therefore it will avoid the possible margin of mistake. After the experimental period of 2008, the biological passport will be used for possible bans. We trust the scientists who guarantee to us that 600 to 700 riders will have a biological passport by July 1, 2008. That makes a potential of 30 to 35 teams that can be eligible the Tour de France, among which are the supposed-to-be big teams, but others as well."
Asked whether or not Astana's chances to ride the Tour after signing defending champion Alberto Contador have increased, Clerc stood firm: "No rider and no team has a guaranteed start at the 2008 Tour de France. Only riders with a biological passport will start, that's all I can say. But we don't have any link whatsoever with the ProTour. Nobody will oblige us to line up certain teams!"
The president of ASO doesn't want to restrict the fight against doping to the biological passport though. "We won't give any freedom to the riders after the start of the race," he added. "We also have the evidence that traditional doping tests work. It has worked with Mr. Vinokourov, with Mr. Moreni, with Mr. Kashechkin, with Mr. Mayo. The biological passport will prevent the important part of the doping during the six weeks before the race. There's no universal answer to the plague of doping but it's going to be very hard for the cheats to do what they have done in the past."