Marco Pinotti (BMC) has said that the financial penalties for doping need to outweigh the potential benefits if it is to be eradicated from cycling. The Italian also welcomed the simultaneous publication of a manifesto for credible cycling by five European newspapers on Saturday, but he stressed that good intentions needed to be followed by firm action.
In particular, Pinotti cited the section of the manifesto that recommends teams do “not sign for a further two years any athletes suspended for more than six months,” noting that such an agreement already existed at ProTour level and was quickly forgotten once Liquigas signed Ivan Basso in 2008.
“A solution won’t come just from good proposals, they need to be respected too,” Pinotti told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’ll give you an example. When you say that teams must wait another two years before signing riders who have been suspended for more than six months, it’s very similar to what was the Ethical Code, which coincidentally was broken in Italy by Liquigas when they signed Basso.”
The same clause of the manifesto calls vaguely for “more severe penalties” for doping cases, but Pinotti has a more specific idea about a deterrent.
“Above all, doping needs to be made unviable from an economic point of view,” he said. “A legally sustainable solution needs to be found so that there is a much higher financial penalty than the current one, and then whoever doesn’t honour it isn’t allowed to come back to racing.
“Today, the economic benefits often outweigh the risks enormously. If a new, undetectable drug comes out, but with effects that improve performances, it would need strong moral values not to use it.”
The existing WorldTour points system does little to help the situation in Pinotti’s eyes, with teams desperate to sign riders with points in order to ensure their elite status. Those riders who have little or no points near the end of the campaign can find themselves in something of a paradoxical situation.
“Take a rider who is without UCI points and knows that he’ll be without a team and without a future at the end of the season. What does he do? He starts to dope to get results and points. If he tests positive, he is banned, but in any case, he would have been out of work.”
Investigations and testing
Pinotti admitted that he was not entirely in favour of temporary suspensions for riders who are implicated in doping investigations, perhaps mindful that his BMC teammate Alessandro Ballan has been involved in the Mantova inquiry (and twice temporarily de-activated by his team) since 2010.
“I’d like to be in favour of it, but you need to make a distinction. For those involved in a penal investigation, it can often drag on a long time and their guilt is still to be established,” Pinotti said. “On the other hand, if someone is positive, he must be stopped straightaway. Contador looked to delay the verdict after his positive test at the Tour – he had the right to defend himself, but he shouldn’t have ridden in the meantime, otherwise you risk continually rewriting the record books.”
On the issue of dope testing, Pinotti was in broad agreement about the effectiveness of the biological passport, but warned that “the moment you ease off [testing], everything returns to before, like in the 1990s.” He also believes that the testing of professionals remains more important than testing at underage level, saying, “the controls have to be where there are the greatest economic benefits.”
The newspapers’ manifesto also suggests that doping controls be carried out by WADA or another independent body rather than by the UCI, and Pinotti is in favour of such an initiative.
“What I find most interesting is the idea of independent anti-doping controls, although you’d have to find a way of financing them. Maybe an economic sanction [for doping offences] could be used for that.”