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Delay in Astana doping control draws fire
The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) president Pierre Bordry and French sport minister Roselyne Bachelot issued reminders to UCI doping controllers to treat all teams the same after testing of the Astana team was delayed last Saturday.
"I want to remind all parties of their responsibilities, in particular following the regrettable incident of last Saturday where the UCI displayed a certain laxness during the testing of the Astana team," said Bachelot, according to AFP. "To avoid any kind of dispute in the future, we need to make sure this doesn't happen again."
The incident in question was first made public on Tuesday by French newspaper L'Equipe, who reported that Astana team staff had coffee with the testers for neary an hour before commencing their doping controls on the riders.
Bordry later criticized the UCI testers in a radio interview, saying, "It seems there's a bit of leniency when it comes to dealing with cyclists. The UCI has a less professional approach. I'm not sure the same rules are being applied to everyone in the same conditions."
Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens explained that the incident was not an intentional delay by the team.
"We did not keep him waiting - everybody was sleeping," Maertens said of that morning. "The controller apparently came too early. He realized that our hotel was right at the start line, so we needed no transfer time, and [he] decided to wait some time before announcing being there.
"Our riders were also controlled the day before and after the stage - three times in two days," said Maertens.
The AFLD president has been openly skeptical of the UCI's doping control procedures. Last year, the agency was in charge of the Tour de France controls when the race organiser, ASO, defied the UCI by running the race outside the aegis of the world cycling body.
After the AFLD was successful in catching six riders using the banned blood booster EPO during last year's Tour, Bordry battled for control of this year's Tour doping controls with the UCI.
The UCI resumed control of the anti-doping procedures after coming to an accord with race organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation, last fall.
The incident was also not the first time Astana's star rider, Lance Armstrong, has been accused of delaying a doping control. On March 17, doping controllers from the AFLD showed up for a surprise test at Armstrong's residence in France. Armstrong was allowed to leave the presence of doping controllers for some 20 minutes to take a shower.
The 'shower-gate' incident nearly cost Armstrong his start in the Tour de France, but the AFLD showed leniency and did not open disciplinary proceedings against him.