By Shane Stokes
A new layer of anti-doping will take hold in March, with the start of the Paris-Nice stage race. The program, which is expected to cost two million Euro, was detailed on Monday by UCI President Pat McQuaid during a meeting with riders' representatives in Brussels.
McQuaid told Cyclingnews on about the UCI's plans to greatly expand the anti-doping fight, something he said has been met with general agreement and which has helped improve relations with WADA chairman Dick Pound.
"We have been presenting a new anti-doping programme at all of those meetings that I mentioned," he stated, referring to meetings with the Professional Cycling Council, ProTour teams, ProTour organisers, UCI Management Committee and the UEC congress - all held in the past week. "I don't want to go into detail of it until we have everything completed and we have crossed the T's and doted the I's, but it has been accepted very positively by everybody and it will be the most advanced anti-doping programme of any sport."
McQuaid said that he hoped an announcement would be made 'in a couple of weeks time,' However rumours are already emerging vis-à-vis what is planned, with a version of the blood volume tests introduced by T-Mobile supposedly on the cards, as well as examinations for growth hormone.
Tuesday's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper stated that the measures will cost two million Euro and will also see a considerable increase in the number of out of competition tests, with riders liable to between one and four examinations per season as well as other tests before ProTour races.
Post-competition testing will also continue as before, with the efficacy of this to be boosted by tighter monitoring of the riders between the time they cross the finish line and when they provide the urine sample.
These steps have led to an improvement of relations with WADA chairman Dick Pound who has, in the past, been a vocal critic of the UCI. McQuaid says that the Canadian backs their efforts to secure full information from Operacíón Puerto, something which has been frustrated thus far by the Spanish judge's insistence that evidence gathered cannot be used until the judicial case has been concluded.
"I met with Dick Pound last week and he supports cycling in this," says McQuaid. "He understands the position that we are in and that we have no option but to allow these riders to race for now. We have to observe the basic principle of law, that people are innocent until proven guilty. So we have to allow them race until such time as we can get the information.
"He is in regular contact with the Spanish minister with a view to ultimately getting that material when this investigation finishes. Things are better than they were before with him. He has a better understanding now of what the UCI is doing and understands that we are committed to the fight against doping. He is likewise looking forward to seeing what new measures are being announced and hopefully he will support that publicly as well."
Present at the meeting where McQuaid made the announcement were president of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) Francesco Moser and riders Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Cédric Vasseur (Quick-Step) and Roger Hammond (T-Mobile).
Contributing: Gregor Brown