By Antonio J. Salmerón
Saunier Duval's directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin expressed frustration this week at the UCI's treatment of its riders, singling out the UCI president Pat McQuaid for the harshest words. The UCI announced it would appeal the Spanish federation's decision to not sanction Saunier Duval rider Iban Mayo to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Mayo tested positive for EPO during the 2007 Tour de France, but the 'B-sample' analysis drew criticism after a first test done in Belgium came back inconclusive, and the UCI sent the remainder back to the Châtenay-Malabry National Anti-Doping Laboratory in Paris. The second test came back positive.
"Pat McQuaid is the worst thing for cycling at the moment," Matxin complained to Cyclingnews. "He is destroying cycling, and nobody knows why. I gave him my support many times before, but not now."
The Spanish federation general secretary Eugenio Bermudez refused to sanction Mayo after the repeated 'B-sample' analysis, saying that the UCI was trying to bend its rules to suit its own purposes. Matxin re-iterated that concern, but added that he felt his team was "like a ball in a tennis match played by the Spanish federation and the UCI".
"We had been attacked by the UCI before Mayo's affair when Piepoli was accused by the UCI due to a false alarm of doping in the Giro", Matxin recalled. Mayo and Piepoli were both found to be 'non-negative' during the Giro d'Italia: Mayo for a too-high testosterone:epitestosterone ratio and Piepoli for the asthma drug salbutamol.
Mayo was cleared after IRMS analysis showed no evidence of artificial testosterone. His team argued that he had an exemption for a naturally high ratio, and the UCI should not have released the test results and given the team negative publicity. Piepoli also had a medical exemption to use the asthma drug, but the level exceeded the legal limit. He was later cleared by his federation of doping charges.
Matxin is concerned that the problems with Mayo will affect the squad for 2008 after the loss of several key riders. "We lost very important riders, such as Gilberto Simoni and Koldo Gil, among others," Matxin explained. "But we will count on young promising riders that also have gained experience, such as Juan José Cobo, De La Fuente, Josep Jufre ... We have planned to race the three Grand Tours, but not all of them are certain for us. In this sense, I know that we will be in the Giro and in the Vuelta, but I do not know if we will have a wild-card for the Tour. We have to show we are as combative as ever."