UCI President Pat McQuaid has apparently backtracked on suggestions he made to French newspaper L'Equipe that Marco Pantani's victory in the 1998 Tour de France could be cancelled if his name emerges in the report into doping due to be published by the French Senate after this year's race.
Pantani dominated the 1998 Tour de France, completing a rare Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double. He was disqualified from the 1999 Giro d'Italia due to a high blood haematocrit value while leading the race but went into denial and suffered with mental problems. He died in 2005 due to a cocaine overdose on St Valentines Day.
The suggestion that his Tour victory could be stripped posthumously and after the eight-year statute of limitations rule angered Pantani's parents. They quickly wrote to McQuaid in defence of their son's name and today released McQuaid's reply.
In an apparent change of position, he said there were no grounds to take action and try to strip Pantani of his Tour de France victory because the testing of urine samples from 1998 were done as part of a research project in 2004 and were "not carried out according to the technical standards for anti-doping analyses."
He added that "the principles of anonymity and prior consent from the riders for scientific analyses were not respected."
McQuaid ended the letter by saying: "I sincerely hope that these words may have provided some clarification and solace and that we may preserve the wonderful image and memories we have of Marco Pantani."
The French Senate report was due to be published on July 18 but the politicians have no backed down on such a controversial date – the Tour de France was due to finish atop L'Alpe d'Huez. Instead the report will be published after the Tour de France.
Of 60 urine samples from 1998 that were tested for research purposes in 2005, 44 reportedly contained signs of EPO. Laurent Jalabert's has already been named and shamed by L'Equipe and he stepped down from his role as TV and radio commentator for this year's Tour de France.
McQuaid's full letter reads:
Dear Mr and Mrs Pantani,
I would like to thank you personally for your letter dated 1 July 2013.
As President of the UCI but also as a father, I can only imagine how difficult it has been to lose your son, the great rider, Marco Pantani.
I also understand how important it is for you to defend his memory and his name.
If by any chance the name Marco Pantani does come up during the activities of the Senate of the French Republic, there would not be, according to our information, any grounds for any steps to be taken.
Indeed, as the scientific research analyses undertaken by the French laboratory in 2004 were not carried out according to the technical standards for anti-doping analyses, these results cannot be accepted as proof in an anti-doping context and would therefore not enable the opening of disciplinary proceedings. In addition, the principles of anonymity and prior consent from the riders for scientific analyses were not respected.
I sincerely hope that these words may have provided some clarification and solace and that we may preserve the wonderful image and memories we have of Marco Pantani.