The UCI could introduce a unilateral no needle policy before this year’s Giro d’Italia, according to Garmin-Cervélo’s Team Physician, Prentice Steffen. Garmin have a no needle policy, which they introduced in 2008 as an experiment at the Tour de France. In 2010 they made it a full team policy, and each rider within the team is asked to sign a contract which states, “No injections or infusions of any kind will be permitted in any racing, training or resting circumstance, no matter time of year, location, or event.”
Last week, the day before Paris-Nice begun, Steffen was asked to speak at an assembly of ProTeam doctors, UCI officials including President Pat McQuaid, as well as members of the French police. The meeting covered several topics, including an overview of the UCI’s Biological Passport, police involvement and the possibilities of a no needle stance throughout the peloton.
“I got a call during the Tour of Qatar from Mario Zorzoli, Medical Director at the UCI, and he had heard that we had a no needle policy and he asked me if I would be willing to talk at a meeting. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be with team directors or doctors but either way I was happy to,” Steffen told Cyclingnews.
“I can’t say that all the team doctors were present and accounted for but there were over 30 people, Pat McQuaid and members of the French police, Mario and the sport science commission from the UCI.
“There was a review of Passport data and as time passes the number of results grows as well as the number of riders so there’s more statistical power that starts to look more interesting, so Mario explained some of the numbers.”
Garmin’s no needle policy stretches back to 2008 but according the Steffen, it needed several years before a fully validated and successful plan could be rolled out. If the UCI force all teams to follow Garmin’s footsteps, it could lead to suspensions for any team or rider caught with needles.
“I talked more about the ethics, logistics, evolution and implementation of our policy. Pat McQuaid spoke first and said that they’d been talking about this at a UCI level. But Pat talked about the image problem that we have in cycling and how there’s several ways that it manifests itself, and the association with needles is one of them.
“Enforcement is always the trick but my understanding is that this won’t be a WADA policy but a UCI policy, so a technical regulation that’s in the rule book. So it would be an infraction on the same ground as head butting in a sprint. So if a soigneur or team was found with any needles of any type it would be an infraction that could warrant a suspension. But I don’t think it’s window dressing. It’s a step in the right direction,” Steffen said.
Steffen’s motives stem from a desire to fight doping within the sport and promote riders that compete on a clean and level playing field.
“If we can bring up a generation of young riders who wouldn’t know how to inject themselves or would be horrified by the idea, that should be our goal. I think we’ve really done that at Slipstream. The reactions at my talk were generally quite favourable. I don’t think it was unanimously favourable, but you’d have to talk to more team doctors.
“What made me really proud was that Jonathan and I were out in front on this five years ago and brought it in three years ago. It was all based on science, ethics and logistics. There was some resistance from some of the older riders we brought in that thought it was dumb, but we stuck by it and now we’re getting some validation for it.”
Garmin-Cervélo’s anti-doping policy
Any and all supplements or medications, not approved by the medical staff of the team, found in possession or being consumed by any rider will result in an immediate suspension from competition. The possible end of this suspension will be determined by team medical staff and management.
All riders are required to participate in the ADSI* testing pool, if they wish to compete.
Any adverse or suspicious finding from ADSI will result in immediate suspension from racing. ADSI and team management will inform all pertinent authorities immediately of this finding, so as they may act accordingly.
ADSI testing may occur 24/7. It is not subject to WADA limitations.
ADSI testing will include tests not yet approved by WADA. These tests, if adverse, will result in a suspension from competition.
Slipstream Sports has a strict no needles policy. No injections or infusions of any kind will be permitted in any racing, training or resting circumstance, no matter time of year, location, or event. If you are a member of this team, you cannot inject yourself or have someone else inject you. Period. If there is a severe medical need, such as cortisone to reduce inflammation in a knee, any injection must approved by the management and medical team. Failure to adhere to this will mean a suspension from all racing.
I understand and accept the above,
* Anti-doping Sciences Institute, the manager of Garmin-Cervélo internal anti-doping programme.