Cycling's power brokers met in Moudon, Switzerland, at the Tour of Romandie, and called for a 'united force' between the groups to combat doping and salvage cycling's reputation in light recent doping scandals.
Friday, May 4, UCI President Pat McQuaid, Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme and AIGCP President, Patrick Lefevere agreed to increase random doping controls "like never before" and to exclude riders suspected of doping from the upcoming Grand Tours.
According to the AFP, Lefevere said he is ready to exclude suspected riders despite the legal implications. "It is a risk we must take. The ideal way would be for justice to go all the way but it could take one or two years and by then, our sport would be dead," he said.
Prudhomme agreed that the doping issue is the most critical problem the sport faces, and called the meeting "the expression of a common will to act against doping." He continued, "I would not use the term 'historic' but it is a very important date. We can afford to disagree on all issues except this one."
Last year, just weeks before the start of the Tour de France, a raid by Spanish authorities on the clinic of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes netted more than 150 bags of blood and over 500 pages of evidence. While 58 riders were originally named, to date only German Jan Ullrich has been linked by DNA evidence to the blood. Ullrich retired from the sport before the evidence was made public.
Prudhomme indicated that the DNA link "showed us that there were ways to confound the riders and solid ground on which to act against the cheaters."
The so-called Operación Puerto case, which was shelved by the Spanish judge Antonio Serrano earlier this year, was recently reinvigorated, and news that the Spanish Guardia Civil had released a 6,000 page dossier containing 49 additional names, along with an Italian investigation into the involvement of 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso, brought the situation to a critical point.
The renewed investigations led to several riders being excluded from racing by their teams. The Discovery Channel team requested that Basso stop racing in light of the CONI investigation, leading the Italian to resign his position, while the ASO appealed to teams to withdraw riders who were named in the investigation from the start list of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
In an open letter to the UCI, Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport appealed to the UCI to make the determination of which riders are suspect and should not be allowed to race in the tour, which begins next week.
McQuaid underscored the difficulties in making such determinations earlier this week. "There is no way we have the eyes to go through these 6,000 pages and determine who is guilty and who is involved in some way or another," McQuaid said, according to AFP. "There is no way we can be finished before the end of this year. They are the practical issues which make it difficult for us with the best will in the world."
However, after the May 4 meeting, McQuaid seemed to be ready to keep riders from racing before the evidence has been sifted through. "If great riders have to be excluded, the will is there. Other riders will replace them. Clean riders," he said.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto