UCI anti-doping manager Anne Gripper has said that the UCI is not involved in the retesting of the 2008 Tour de France samples, but that the governing body agrees in theory with the principle of re-examining suspect controls.
"It depends on the basis for the retests," she told Cyclingnews, when asked this morning about the practice. "We have retested some samples so the concept is something we think is appropriate under certain conditions. We store samples on the basis that if a new test can be done in the future, if there’s good reason to do them and if the circumstances are right, we’ll use them."
As reported yesterday on Cyclingnews, the French National Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) has started testing samples taken from a group of riders during the 2008 Tour. Up to 40 competitors are suspected of doping, and several big names are rumoured to be on the list.
Gripper outlined that the 2008 event was run under a different system than usual. "We worked in collaboration with the AFLD in 2009 and in previous years, but the 2008 Tour was different. It was national race last year," she said, referring to the temporary split between the UCI and ASO over the ProTour. "So we have no jurisdiction over the 2008 Tour samples.
"The decision to re-analyse samples from the 2008 was taken of their own volition. The UCI was not involved in any way with that choice. We haven’t been involved yet and I suspect that it will be something the AFLD manages themselves. As yet I don’t know what samples they’re looking at…I presume they will be urine."
Last year’s Tour de France was marked by several high-profile positive tests, with stage winner Riccardo Ricco testing positive for CERA, a third-generation form of EPO. Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas failed tests for regular EPO, while Dmitry Fofonov was found to have heptaminol in his system. All were thrown off the race.
The AFLD did a limited number of retests after the conclusion of the event, and as a result stage ten winner Leonardo Piepoli, double time trial victor Stefan Schumacher plus third-place finisher and King of the Mountains Bernhard Kohl were all disqualified for CERA.
The new round of analysis uses more sensitive tests. A number of riders were told before this year’s Tour de France that their samples were likely to be re-examined, and the results of this work will be known within a fortnight.
While the prospect of more positives from the race will undoubtedly be a blow to cycling, the AFLD is staying true to its word to fully investigate any suspicious values from 2008. It has also said that it will apply retrospective tests to the 2009 samples when more advanced tests are finalised.
Gripper envisages that the UCI will be involved again with the AFLD in 2010. "There’s a very good chance we’ll work together, regardless of the results from this set of testing,” she said. "The management would be the same as the process in 2009,"