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-Pat McQuiad on the possibility of UCI sanctions against Riis, Aldag and Zabel after they confessed...
-Pat McQuiad on the possibility of UCI sanctions against Riis, Aldag and Zabel after they confessed to doping in the nineties.
Recent days have seen a flood of confessions with former team-mates of Bjarne Riis, the winner of the Tour in 1996, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Christian Henn, Udo Bolts, Brian Holm and others all admitting that they doped. Some, like Zabel, are still active riders and so may face suspensions. Others, like Riis, risk having past performances struck from the books. Indeed, the Dane has said that he would return the yellow jersey if requested to do so.
"In the case of the three of them, there is an eight-year statute of limitations in the WADA code which they are covered under," said McQuaid, when asked about possible sanctions for their actions. "I also think that in light of the fact that they have come forward voluntarily of their own accord and admitted this, it means that it would be wrong of the UCI to take very strict view on them and to try and find ways of sanctioning them. I think we have got to have a very reasonable approach.
"In relation to Riis, I believe it was mentioned at the press conference that if ASO came to him looking for the jersey, he would give it back to them. I think that ethically he should consider this and offer his jersey back."
Of course, that would raise the problem of who should be crowned Tour champion for that year. Given that Jan Ullrich (2nd) has been seriously implicated in Operación Puerto, being linked to Eufemiano Fuentes through DNA blood matching, and the third and fourth-placed riders Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux were involved in the Festina Affair, it would be a difficult decision to take.
McQuaid feels there is another way. "As regards the dilemma of who was below him, I think the way to sort that out is to declare that there was no winner of the race in 1996," he said. "I wouldn't even think of going down the classification [to pinpoint a clean winner].
"If ASO decide to do that [demand the yellow jersey back], the UCI won't object."
Although recent days have brought bad publicity, he said that in the long run, this may be for the best. "I think it is a very good thing for the future because it is allowing us to make a fresh start to the sport of cycling. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that these are confessions and activities that were going on in the 1990s. We are dealing with the sport in 2007, so it has completely changed. There is much stronger controls, there much higher ethical values of the teams, so you have to realise that we are talking about the sport a long time ago. Things are better now."
Check back on Cyclingnews over the weekend for a full news feature with reaction to Riis' confession.