McQuaid comments on AIGCP meeting and Johan Bruyneel
By Shane Stokes
As was first suggested when the Floyd Landis case broke, the UCI is to commission an in-depth audit into the sport in order to study the motivations, pressures and conditions which prompt riders to dope and thus try to come up with measures which will lessen the incidence of drug use in the future.
UCI President Pat McQuaid recently spoke to Cyclingnews about the problems affecting the sport, and vowed that the study would be an extensive one. "At the moment I am working on the group for this audit that I have put forward. It will be a group of world-renowned scientists in sports physiology, sports psychology and sports sociology.
"I hope that by the time it comes to the world championships in Salzburg that I will have something more definite on it. The group will be charged with examining all aspects of our cycling structure, such as teams and their structure, the ProTour, the ProTour calendar and general calendar of events, the number of races a rider rides. The whole thing.
"We will also look at the lifestyles they lead and the various pressures on them, from the commercial pressures to the media pressures. It is going to be a fairly far-reaching process and I would imagine that it will be some time in the middle of next year before we get the results of it."
McQuaid stated that this study of the physical and mental demands of cycling will have a clearly defined goal. "What we need is a sport where there is no excuse for doping. That is the target. We will look at everything, including the penalties handed out and who they are given to. We will be look at the management structures behind teams, and consider the situation when there are cases of doping within a team - should it be just the cyclist who should be sanctioned, or should the team be sanctioned as well?"
One suggestion that has been put forward by commentators - and some riders - within the sport is that certain races, including Grand Tours, should have limitations on the length and/or severity of the stages. This idea has met with resistance from the organisers of the Tour de France, but McQuaid argues that there has to be flexibility and a willingness to address whatever issues the experts feel contribute to the problem.
"If this audit suggests it has to be done, then it has to be done," he said. "And that is why I am going to outsiders, people outside the sport, because I think if you look to insiders or people with expertise in the sport, then they already have preconceived ideas going into it.
"I am not saying, and I have no intention of trying to reduce the length of the three Tours. But whether we like it or not, and whether the three Tours like it or not, those three events are where we have our biggest problems with doping. Therefore they have to face up to that fact. If it means that we have to ask them to make some changes, then I would hope that they would be magnanimous enough and intelligent enough to realise that those changes are for the betterment of their events, as well as everything else."
On another matter, the Irishman responded to recent comments by Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel that the UCI was not being proactive enough in the fallout from recent doping affairs.
"My response to that is that we have to follow the rules and regulations. Johan Bruyneel knows quite well that the ProTour rules do not allow for the suspension of a team. Whilst the AIGCP meeting was a very passionate one where they called for the suspension of those teams [Astana and Phonak], I think they need to be a little bit more considered in these things. We can withdraw licences but we have to go through a process to do so. The fact is that had we tried to stop those two teams riding the Vuelta, we would have been in CAS within 24 hours and we would have lost. It is a straightforward situation, and there is no point in criticising the UCI over that."
McQuaid referred to tougher anti-doping deterrents planned by two big teams as an example of the best way forward. "I am happy to hear what I am hearing from T-Mobile and what I am now hearing from CSC, in terms of what they are doing to plan for the future, rather than to just call for the exclusion of teams which is against the rules."
McQuaid did however feel that the AIGCP meeting represented a change in attitude of the teams, and stated that this gives him some reassurance that things are changing. "I think that one by one the teams are coming up with a new approach. I welcome very much the approach of T-Mobile and particularly the approach of Bjarne Riis in appointing that doping expert. [Danish newspaper Politiken reported this week that a Danish anti-doping scientist had accepted to cooperate with Team CSC in the future - ed.] I feel that is a very good move on their part, and T-Mobile are going quite a distance as well into improving their control on the riders.
"The teams have to accept responsibility for the riders now, and, fortunately, they are now starting to do that. They cannot just stand there any more and say that we cannot control them 100 percent of the time."