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French physiologist wants complete transparency
Antoine Vayer has called for the UCI, teams and if necessary, individual riders, to publish all their biological passport and SRM data in a move to quell suspicions of doping within the professional peloton.
The French physiologist, who trained the Festina team of the 1990s, and who last month labelled Pat McQuaid incompetent, has turned his attention to the peloton and specifically Sky after a string of dominant performance from the British squad.
The team has never had a rider fail a doping test or been flagged up through the biological passport. However, suspicions were raised about the team last year and have continued into 2013, but with innuendo and pure speculation rather than hard evidence at the cornerstone of the debate the team has been forced to answer questions over its strength. The short-term hiring of Rabobank’s former doctor Geert Leinders last year only added fuel to the fire.
Vayer, who has question marks over Sky’s recent performance at Tirreno-Adriactico, told Cyclingnews, “The riders and teams have to prove their innocence.”
“They can’t do it by doing what they’re doing at the moment. The judge from the Festina trial sent me a 30-page handwritten letter recently. He concluded by saying that maybe we should have clarity on all the black years of doping because there’s still a shadow.”
“So it’s up to teams, it’s up to Sky to prove their innocence. If I was president of the UCI I would clarify all of this and say to the public, ‘the guy you see at Paris-Nice, at Tirreno, you can’t have suspicion because here is all their SRM data, here’s the biological blood values’. That’s the first thing you have to do. I wrote a manifesto about this in 2000 and it’s all for the sake of transparency.”
On rare occasions riders have published their passport data as a way of offering transparency. Lance Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins both published their test results from 2009, while Christian Vande Velde did the same in 2008. The moves were met with mixed results with both Armstrong and Wiggins facing scrutiny over their results. Both riders maintain that they rode the 2009 clean although Armstrong latter lost his Tour podium place.
“Time is the best form of transparency,” Vayer added, pointing at the scandals that embroiled a number of teams in the 1990s, including the Festina squad he worked for and the US Postal team that was branded the most sophisticated doping operation by USADA last October.
Part of the current climate of suspicion that Sky and the rest of the peloton find themselves under stems from the USADA report published in 2012, although there have been several efforts from within the peloton to distance the current crop of riders from the past.
However, teams like Blanco and Team Saxo-Tinkoff have struggled due to the ties they still currently hold with their pasts. Sky has tried to be proactive: releasing several staff who doped in the 1990s and 2000s and by asking riders to sign anti-doping declarations. The team also discussed the possibility of inviting 'doubters' to their Manchester base to explain how the team operates.
The current climate, however, has ensured that nearly every winner’s press conference involves the athletes having to justify their success or comment on Lance Armstrong.
“For Wiggins to say that he would be working in Tesco if he was caught doping is not an argument,” Vayer says.
“I don’t believe that Sky are the dream team in a good sense. I would like to believe though but I was the trainer at the French dream team at Festina. Many other riders train very hard but why is it only Sky riders on the front playing with the others? If riders are hiding something we’ll know the truth in a few years but a man like me can’t believe. I have too much suspicion to be enthusiastic.”
“It’s good to say you train harder with more technology but I could say the same about Festina, too. I was the first trainer in 1994 to put home trainers out before the time trials because no one was ever warming up. We were copied for that. I was the first trainer to also make the Festina riders have long training camps.”
For Vayer part of the focus on Sky is down to their work with Leinders. The team has been at pains to stress its regret with hiring the doctor who worked at Rabobank and is accused by several former riders of providing and assisting in doping during his time with the Dutch team.
Riche Porte, Sky’s winner of Paris-Nice, told Cyclingnews that Leinders prescribed nothing more than the odd Paracetomol during his 80-day stint with the team. While Vayer has no proof to the contrary he believes that association still needs explaining and that publishing raw biological passport and SRM data will go a long way to silencing critics of Sky and other teams in general.
“Look at the story. US Postal take del Moral who was at ONCE. Why do you take these doctors? And why do you take them from teams that have done rubbish things? It’s always the same story. Festina was Festina because they took Rijkaert from PDM, Postal was Postal because they took Del Moral. Why would Sky take Leinders? Where did he work before? Why didn’t they go for the doctor at FDJ? Why did they even take a doctor at all? Is there a need for a doctor in the team at all? Leinders was not the model of integrity."