With the ProTour season ready to start in Australia at the Tour Down Under this January, the UCI's latest anti-doping tool, the biological passport, is also set to hopefully make 2008 one of the cleanest cycling years ever. One key element to the increased out-of-competition tests (7000 tests in 2008 as compared to 1000 last year) is the introduction of a reliable riders' whereabouts system, the ADAMS computer system (Anti-Doping Administration & Management System).
With ADAMS, ProTour but also Pro Continental riders will submit and update their schedules online, making known their whereabouts every three months. The data will then be available not only to the UCI, but also to WADA and the various national anti-doping agencies, resulting in a better coordination of the controls. While this represents a considerable progress, the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés, the Rider's association) has voiced its concerns over the feasibility of such a system, where every hour of every day must be determined three months in advance.
While being all for the improved anti-doping tool in principle, Stéphane Augé, member of the CPA council, explained to L'Equipe on Thursday that the new system still represented "a substantial intrusion into our private life. If, three months ago, I said 'today I'm going to be at home', and that I take a walk with my kids - wham! I may be in trouble. And if I had planned to go for a training ride one morning, and it rains, I can't decide to ride in the afternoon without notifying the UCI? It seems very difficult to me to state what I'm going to do every hour, every day."
While the UCI is currently working on the possibility of changing one's schedule with a text message sent from a mobile phone, riders have to available for testing every day from 7am to 9.30pm. Three unjustified missed controls within 18 months result in a disciplinary procedure. "A missed test can immediately have far-reaching consequences," Augé continued. "In my team (Cofidis), after the trauma we went through with Moreni last year [Cristian Moreni tested positive during the 2007 Tour de France, and the whole squad was sent home - ed.], if a guy misses a test he'd be under pressure for the whole season. On December 19, together with some other riders (CPA president Cédric Vasseur, David Millar, Benoit Joachim, Philippe Gilbert and Davide Rebellin), we met with UCI representatives and asked for the system to be more supple."
The riders proposed different ideas to make the system more acceptable for the peloton, yet without reducing its efficiency. "Some would like a time window of two hours every day for the controls," Augé explained. "For example, the riders would have to be available every day, without exception, from 8-10am. After that, they can do whatever they please. Being controlled at 8am or at 5pm doesn't change much. Another idea is to have two or three hours to reach the inspectors in the case of a test. That way, we wouldn't have to be exactly where we planned to be three months ago. And a doping drug doesn't disappear within three hours - at least, I don't think so."
The proposals made by the CPA are being studied by the UCI at the moment.