UCI President Brian Cookson has hit back at criticism and suspicion surrounding the UCI's handling of the Denis Menchov Biological Passport case, insisting he has to balance transparency with legally binding procedures.
News of Menchov's suspension and loss of results from the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Tours de France, broke with the UCI surreptitiously slipping the news into a summary of doping cases that was published on July 10 instead of issuing a press release.
Cookson was at the Tour de France for the presentation of the La Course, the women's race on the last day of the race in Paris and the Tour de l'Avenir. However he was grilled on the Menchov case and his election claims of working with more transparency compared to former president Pat McQuaid.
"The first thing I want to say is that this was entirely in line with normal procedure. In the case of Menchov, he accepted the sanction and when there is acceptance, there is a process that follows and that is what was carried out," Cookson said.
"There's no new policy, change in tactic or strategy. That's what we do. I think we have to keep in mind that a guy who was doping has been caught through the Biological Passport. It's a success story but we have to handle these cases correctly and that's what we did."
Cookson flatly refuted the suspicion that his links to Katusha team backer and UCI Management Committee member Igor Makarov may have influenced the way the UCI handled the case.
"I understand the implications of that but first of all it was reported, it was on the website, it was not hidden at all, that's what we do normally. It might have been better if we'd made a more positive announcement about it but that's not what we've done at any time in the past. The only tine we've commented on doping cases that have been completed or in progress, is when a rider or his team, national Federation or others have commented. We've confirmed or not as the case maybe. That's what we do, that's why we do it. I think it's important that cases have to follow our rules, WADA rules and that's happened here."
"I can 100 per cent tell that there has been no involvement by Mr. Makarov in this case what so ever. I haven't spoken to Mr. Makarov on this matter or seen him since the UCI Management meeting back in June. I understand why people say these things but it's not true and what I've got to do is balance my wish for transparency against the need to carry these things through in a proper way and not have a presumption of guilty, rather than innocence hen cases are on going. There's a right time to comment and a wrong time to comment and that's what we've done in this case."
"I think we can do a better job. I think we can update that schedule more effectively but there have been seventy-odd cases since I became UCI president and took over and I don’t think you guys are interested in everyone but I do accept that you are interested in some more than others. We probably have to look at the way we present information to the public. If there is a case that is of public interest, I think we have to announce it in a proactive way rather than in a reactive way as we've done in the past."
Cookson defended the drawn out procedure of the Biological Passport, explaining it is "always going to be difficult when you're looking at long term testing and variations rather than the presence or not of a given substance."
He pushed back on the idea of more transparency regarding rider Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE), when riders and teams ask permission for medical treatment with banned substances.
"My view is that we have to follow the WADA code on TUEs. If we vary from the WADA code in any way, that would be the time we're challenged in the courts and I think there would be a good chance we would loose," he pointed out.
"The important thing is that we continue to follow the rules and correct procedures and that's what we will continue to do."