By Brecht Decaluwé in Cognac
A surprising face at the start of the Time Trial was UCI president Pat McQuaid, who wasn't invited to this year's race by organiser ASO after the continuation of a standoff between the two organisation. "I was invited here by French television to do a interview yesterday evening and some teams invited me for the start today," McQuaid explained of his presence, adding he wasn't aiming on a split between the UCI and ASO. "That would be very unfortunate. We don't need more splits in cycling. I'm ready to talk.
"The UCI is ready to offer its services and its assistance to the Tour de France and ASO at any time," he continued. "I don't think the Tour de France belongs to the ASO, I think the Tour de France belongs to the cycling family and I am president of the cycling family. I think in that context they should accept that and we should be sitting down together to work out plans for the future. The biggest - I agree with Patrice Clerc on that - enemy of cycling is the doping. We shouldn't be fighting over that. Whatever the future is, we shouldn't be fighting over doping, we should be working together."
Last week McQuaid demanded an apology from Tour director Christian Prudhomme, after receiving a series of insults and accusations from the Frenchman after it was announced then Tour leader Michael Rasmussen had missed lodgement of whereabouts dates with anti-doping officials. "I still haven't received it," noted McQuaid. "He attacked and insulted me for reasons that were completely wrong. If I see him, I see him but there's no meeting scheduled. I have other people to see here."
"They're all completely wrong. They [ASO] take the opportunity when they have the media at their fingertips to blame the UCI on everything," he continued. "They blamed us for releasing information but we weren't even consulted for that. The Danish federation decided to release the information that they wouldn't select Rasmussen for the Worlds. They also blamed us for the fact that the German federation released the information but they did it themselves."
ASO claims that Rasmussen shouldn't be allowed to start due to a 45-days rule that states a rider can't miss a doping test in a period of 45 days before the start of a Grand Tour. McQuaid denies the usability of that rule. "We couldn't apply it," McQuaid reacted. "We took all the evidence that was there with us at that time and the 45-days rule didn't apply on the Rasmussen situation; we're using the three-warning-system. He had been tested twice in the month of June, once by the UCI and once by the Danish agency. Why would we throw a rider out of the Tour de France because he is one or two days late with his whereabouts schedule?
"Rules have to be in proportion," he continued. "The information we have now makes things different but at that time this was the information we had. It's correct that he has been thrown out because of the fact that he told a lie about his whereabouts. If you tell lies about your whereabouts to your team and the authorities then you're cheating as well."
Rabobank's Theo de Rooy was surprised that the confidential information on his former rider's warnings was made public and McQuaid agreed with the Dutch manager. "The rules don't allow us to make that public," he confessed. "If an A-sample is positive the rules don't allow us to make that public. It's the team's choice to do that but our rules don't allow that. I don't know if there are other riders with recorded warnings in this Tour, there probably are but I shouldn't know it before the third infringement."
Asked if the rules shouldn't be changed so everybody would know who's messing with his whereabouts McQuaid pointed towards World Anti-Doping Agency's Dick Pound. "That's the WADA rule, not ours."