By Shane Stokes in Manchester
If the International Cycling Union (UCI) wasn't already busy enough with its ongoing feud with the Grand Tour organisers, it was announced on Thursday that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was pulling out of the biological passport programme. This was in response to the UCI's action against former WADA president Richard Pound, who was critical of former UCI President Hein Verbruggen.
"That is an old matter, something that has being going on for a long time," said UCI President Pat McQuaid to Cyclingnews on Wednesday. "It came out in the press during the week. But it is an existing thing that has been going on for a while. We have always felt that he [Pound] was very unfair in its treatment of the UCI and in his treatment of what the UCI was actually doing. He made statements about what the UCI was doing in the fight against doping which were completely untrue."
Many are asking what the UCI can achieve with its legal action. During his time as president, Hein Verbruggen played down any suggestions of a serious doping problem in cycling. This was something which was shown not to be the case when the Festina Affair and other scandals unfolded. What's more, relations improved with Pound prior to the end of his tenure at the top of WADA. McQuaid concedes that things were different in recent months, but argues that the UCI has to protect its name and reputation.
"From my point of view as president, his attitude has changed," he stated. "He did change a little bit and wasn't quite so critical of the UCI in terms of what we are trying to bring forward with a biological passport and things like that. But that doesn't take away from the things he said about the UCI in the past. It needs to go on record that the UCI never neglected its duty in terms of the fight against doping."
The Irishman stated that WADA's contribution to the biological passport was relatively minor, an estimated $200,000 USD (€126,600) out of the €5 million budget. He said that the programme will continue, although there will be some reduction as a result.
"The money they were putting in was in the form of manpower because they were paying the salary of one person who was working on the team. Now we will be working with one person less, but we will continue on."
Those involved with the sport will hope that this is not the last word on the matter, that bridges can somehow be rebuilt between the UCI and WADA. McQuaid believes the move to be a knee-jerk reaction and so the hope is that time will mend the gulf that has opened up.