UCI president Brian Cookson has said that the manipulation of anti-doping controls in Russia outlined in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s McLaren Report has less of an impact on cycling than on other sports because riders are tested outside of their home countries as part of the biological passport system.
Russia was forced out of the team pursuit at the Rio 2016 Olympics after Kirill Sveshnikov, Dmitry Sokolov and Dmitry Strakhov were implicated in the McLaren Report, but Olga Zabelinskaya – who tested positive for octopamine in 2014 – claimed silver in the women’s time trial.
“Large numbers of Russian athletes are already in our system, in the biological passport, in the registered testing pool – whether ours, or their own, or the UKAD [United Kingdom Anti-Doping] one – and so they're tested multiple times outside of Russia,” Cookson told Fairfax Media at the Olympic Games in Rio.
"Whether or not a laboratory in Russia is tampered with doesn't really have that big an impact on our sport when cyclists are competing all over the world and being tested all over the world.
“The independent processes we've put in place, I believe, wouldn't allow me – even if I wanted to, which I don't – to sweep anything under the carpet."
Russian cycling federation president Igor Makarov was one of Cookson’s key supporters when he was elected UCI president in 2013. On his election to the post, Cookson promised reform of the governing body in the wake of USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Lance Armstrong affair, and he maintains that cycling has done more than other sports in response to the issue of doping.
“I don't want to be complacent or to criticise other sports. I think what we have done was necessary for our sport," Cookson said. "And I'm not at all complacent, but I think we're in a good position as a sport. I think our credibility is much higher than it was a few years ago, but we need to keep working at that. As do all other sports.
“I've often said that, for me, there are two groups of sports: sports that have a doping problem and are doing something about it - and I believe we're in amongst the leaders in those - and sports that have a doping problem and are in denial and are not doing anywhere near enough about it.”