UCI & WADA resume sparring match

In a literal tit for tat, the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have once again brought their...

In a literal tit for tat, the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have once again brought their opinions into the public eye. British news outlet The Guardian allowed the UCI's chief doctor and health manager, Dr. Mario Zorzoli, and WADA chairman Dick Pound to voice their opinion on the topic: 'Does cycling take its drug problem seriously enough?'

Dr. Zorzoli cited the 5,000-plus drug tests that take place each year at UCI-level races, saying prevention against doping in cycling began in 1997 with spot checks on blood samples, before more advanced methods including the ability to measure haematocrit, recombinant erythropoietin (EPO), haemoglobin count and reticulocytes (young red blood cells) provided the means to detect blood doping.

The WADA chairman was far less praiseworthy of efforts of the sport's governing body. Pound said the recent survey conducted in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, where four out of five people named cycling as the sport with the largest drug problem, is "a stunning indictment of failure on the part of officials, organisers and riders".

"What has been the traditional response of cycling when reports of rampant drug use surface?" asked Pound. "If from riders, the riders are immediately denounced, marginalised, written off as cranks or sued. If from the media, they are dismissed as untrue, exaggerated, not representative or taken out of context."

However, Dr. Zorzoli admits "there is a problem" and because of this, cycling's governing body devotes two separate departments to the area of anti-doping and health services, as well as a full-time lawyer. The UCI doctor also claimed that the urine-based test for EPO was introduced two years before WADA recognised the test as being valid and cycling at the highest level "is a lot cleaner than our critics believe".

Pound isn't so sure. "There is no doubt that some riders in the event are doped," he wrote in reference to the Tour de France. "It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it."

Believing that current testing is ineffective, Pound said cycling should outsource doping control programs to an independent agency to "act effectively and impose meaningful sanctions when positive cases arise."

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