By Shane Stokes
Once again politics threaten the smooth running of the cycling season. UCI President Pat McQuaid spoke to Cyclingnews about the clash over Paris-Nice and possible sanctions for those involved. He also confirmed that Italian races will be on the UCI calendar and talked about a clear problem relating to the biological passport programme.
It's once again a worrying time for those who follow cycling. Despite hopes over the winter months that the UCI-ASO war was nearing a solution and also that the battle against doping was getting closer to being won, it has become increasingly apparent that both issues are still a long way from being resolved.
The first is easier to see, following ASO's recent decision to take Paris-Nice off the international calendar and to run it instead with the French federation. UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Thursday that he considered the decision to be a deliberate effort to stir up disharmony with the governing body, given that the UCI had imposed no rules dictating which teams must ride which was the ASO's chief complaint with the ProTour. "There was no reason, they have just done it to cause a showdown," he stated.
The problems affecting the fight against doping are less obvious at this point in time but, as McQuaid told Cyclingnews this week, race organisers have so far failed to pay their proportion of the costs for implementing the biological passport programme. The total cost of the programme is €5.3 million; at this point in time, the UCI is running €1.3 million short, and that shortfall could threaten the implementation of the passports this season.
McQuaid spoke to Cyclingnews on Wednesday, saying then that the teams had the power to work collectively and to force ASO to return Paris-Nice and its other races on the UCI calendar. However, the AIGCP opted instead to go against the UCI, announcing that its members had unanimously voted to take part in the race.
The Irishman later gave his reaction to the news, saying that he was disappointed by the announcement. "I find the AIGCP decision strange. Eric Boyer spoke to me on the phone Monday evening and told me he had contacted all 20 teams who were due to ride Paris-Nice and that the decision was unanimous that they were going to take to the start line. However ten minutes later I spoke to one of the ProTour team managers, who confirmed to me he had absolutely no contact from Boyer that day. So I wonder how unanimous the decision really was.
"I would also make the point that Boyer is the first ever President of AIGCP who has led his members to go against UCI regulations and collaborate with an organiser who itself is breaking the regulations."