McQuaid comments on top riders dislike of DNA testing
By Shane Stokes
Contrary to what was stated in some media reports earlier this year, it has emerged that the UCI is willing to provide DNA samples in order to assist in the ongoing investigations into Operación Puerto.
UCI President Pat McQuaid confirmed to Cyclingnews on Wednesday that if the legal authorities make an official request for the samples, that cyclings governing body will turn them over in order to help identify riders who may have been involved in blood doping.
A large number of blood bags were found during the May swoop on the clinic run by controversial doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid, but until now the investigating authorities have been unable to identify precisely from whom these were taken. That could all change if the Spanish judge makes a request through the correct legal procedures.
"What was written in the media earlier this year was incorrect," said McQuaid, speaking by phone at the UCI headquarters in Aigle. "We have no problem giving blood if legally requested to do so."
"It is important to remember that we dont have a blood bank [of all the riders] here, but we do have access to the blood of some riders which is stored in certain laboratories. That said, [the] only way that we can provide that to the Spanish authorities is through a judicial process...it has to be done under the correct procedures. In other words, the judge in Spain has to ask a judge in Switzerland to ask the UCI to give it and once we got that instruction, we would readily give whatever we have, without problems. It is a judicial situation, so to speak."
McQuaid stated that a big meeting will be held on Friday in order to move forward plans to introduce DNA testing to the sport. Riders, teams, UCI medical staff and some DNA experts will all meet in Geneva in order to discuss the new proposals.
Although the AIGCP and many professional riders have welcomed the developments, several big names such as world champion Paolo Bettini and 2006 ProTour winner Alejandro Valverde have recently criticized the proposals, which they say are an invasion of their civil rights. While McQuaid didnt refer to these or any other riders specifically, he took an opposing view in saying that anyone who wishes to lessen the chances of further damage to the sport should accept rather than reject such anti-doping measures.
"Some of the riders have recently said that DNA testing is against their civil rights. I think they need to think a little bit [about the bigger picture] before they make statements such as that. For instance, I saw an interesting letter recently on Cyclingnews where a guy in London stated that last year there was a girl murdered in his locality, and that the police asked that men of a certain age would give their to DNA. Up to 3,000 people went to the police station and offered their DNA to try to assist. Those guys didnt have any problem with civil rights and I think cyclists need to have a similar attitude. If it proves that they are not implicated in a doping affair, then they should be ready and willing to give samples for those purposes."
Although the Operación Puerto investigations began back in May, the likely outcome of the Spanish judicial enquiry is still not known. The judge acting on the case recently instructed the Spanish federation not to open legal proceedings against the riders in question, effectively freezing any possible sanctions, while the Italian and Colombian federations shelved their investigations into Ivan Basso and Santiago Botero respectively. It is uncertain if proceedings will continue against riders from other countries.
The UCI contacted WADA recently in order to ask the anti-doping agency to get involved and request more information from the Spanish authorities. McQuaid said that there has been a positive response to that request.
"They have come back to us and have indicated that they have made contact with the Spanish government, asking questions, and that there is correspondence going on between them," he states. "WADA is working on the case, so that should help the situation."
"What we want from them is that they assist us in the sporting disciplinary process, so that information which we would require in order to have a disciplinary action taken will ultimately be provided to us. We may have to wait the end of the process to get it, but we want to make sure that we do get it."
"The ideal situation is that it could be done sooner rather than later, although thats looking less likely. That said, we have to wait until the original judge comes back. I think he was due to return sometime in November, and he may decide to change the way things are."
There has been some media speculation recently that the Operación Puerto judicial case may fizzle out. However McQuaid states that while the UCI hasnt yet been presented with all of the incriminating evidence against some riders, sporting sanctions are possible.
"The fact that we have sent dossiers to federations means that we think there is enough evidence to indicate doping practices have been ongoing," he states. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have sent the dossiers to the federations in the first place."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
Thursday, November 9 - Discovery formally announces Basso signing
Thursday, November 9 - UCI to provide DNA records if Spanish judge requests: McQuaid comments on top riders dislike of DNA testing
Thursday, November 9 - DNA meeting scheduled for Friday
Wednesday, November 8 - Basso and Lawyer ready for further legal battles if needed
Friday, November 3 - Spanish anti-doping law passed
Wednesday, November 1 - IOC pins hopes on new Spanish laws, while German teams hold the front
Tuesday, October 31 - USA Cycling on Puerto
Tuesday, October 31 - Pereiro and Sánchez speak about Puerto
Monday, October 30 - Davis back racing in Oz, Saiz breaks silence
Monday, October 30 - Civil Guard implicated in document falsification?, Botero happy about clearing, wants damages