By Shane Stokes
Tuesday was undoubtedly one of the busier periods for Anne Gripper, head of anti-doping with the UCI. When the news broke about Alexander Vinokourov’s positive A sample for homologous blood doping, the Australian‘s view was requested by many media organisations. However, as both she and UCI president Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews, she was unable to comment on the case for now. It is likely that this will remain the case until the B sample result is known.
Gripper started working with the UCI last autumn and in that time two major anti-doping initiatives have come into place. The first of these, '100% Against Doping', sees a greatly increased number of out of competition tests being carried out. In June these tests were highlighted when news emerged that the UCI was scrutinising riders whom the press referred to as the 'Men in Black'. At the time, Astana rejected media suggestions that its riders were involved in anything untoward, saying that while some of its riders trained in non-team clothing, it was to evade attention from the fans rather than from the testers. It later emerged that Alexandre Vinokourov was working with the controversial doctor Michele Ferrari.
Cyclingnews spoke to Gripper prior to the Tour de France and then – as now – she declined to indicate which riders or teams were being monitored. She confirmed however that there is targeted testing taking place. “We have a group of ProTour riders who are on what we call our registered testing pool, which is a pool that covers all disciplines - road, track, BMX - all the Olympic disciplines. And it consists of the top riders, male and female, from those disciplines,” she said.
“One of the criteria is the top 50 riders on the road, based on the rankings. And then there are another 20 ProTour riders who are on there for other reasons. Either they have got a certificate for high hematocrit or they are under suspension or there is a whole range of other reasons. So those 70 riders are required to give us daily whereabouts information, and on the most part they are good [at doing so]. But the riders who are more difficult for us to test are those who aren't required to do that, and more and more we are going to be relying on the teams to ensure that their riders do provide their whereabouts.
“The comments about the Men in Black was just one example… when we get information, it is about strange behaviours, either in training in competition. That is what we act on. And when we hear about riders going off to other parts of the world to do intense training, maybe where there is not the opportunity to be tested, well then that raises alarm bells as well. This year we are making attempts to actually go to those places.
"We want to make them know that there is no longer any sort of haven. This year, the '100% Against Doping' is the first time that we have really organised a properly thought out out-of-competition, unannounced programme. We want to make it clear that it is not just in Europe that they can be tested, they can be tested anywhere in the world. And if they do take themselves off to unusual places to train, we will find them there as well.”
Watch out for a full interview with Anne Gripper soon on Cyclingnews.