By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
Professional riders will have to show their passport next year, but it will be for crossing the anti-doping border after French minister for sport Roselyne Bachelot announced the introduction of "500 to 700 biological passports before July 1st" at an anti-doping summit in Paris on Tuesday. Also in attendance were UCI president Pat McQuaid, Tour de France president and director Patrice Clerc and Christian Prudhomme, and WADA boss Dick Pound who called McQuaid his "friend". It was something of a reconciliation meeting for all these people more used to fighting via press releases.
Therefore, nothing spectacular should be expected from the Tour de France launch in Paris on Thursday, as McQuaid is now welcome after failing to get an accreditation for the event in July, at the end of which Clerc had announced ASO "would not work with the UCI in the future". ASO is rumoured to not accept the proposal from the UCI that all ProTour teams have to be lined up in the Tour de France. Mainly, the participation of Astana remains questionable. "But we can't imagine that one single rider will ride the 2008 Tour de France without showing a biological passport," Clerc stated.
The program, based on half a dozen blood analyses to determine each rider's blood profile, is considered by all parties (UCI, WADA and ASO) as a real weapon against blood doping. "We hope if it's successful in cycling that once we know it is successful, we'll use it in other sports after 2008," Pound said. The biological passport will not be compulsory at the start of all races but "the main ones". It will concern road riders only when it's put in place on January 1 and McQuaid added: "I'd like to think we'll do it in other disciplines than road possibly before the Olympics in Beijing."
"The conditions are there for a new start in cycling," Clerc said. "A disaster is becoming an opportunity for cycling to be an example for everybody." The president of ASO suggested the Paris summit to be like "a kilometre zero". He said he was "a little bit afraid of the word amnesty" but that's what he meant.
"At some stage it'll be time to forget about the past," added Prudhomme.
In July, the direction of the Tour de France appeared totally at odds with the UCI's own vision. Now ASO seem ready to organise the world's biggest bike race inside the UCI system, but with the biological passport. At the Paris summit, the questions of therapeutic use exemptions (mainly for corticoids) and recovery drips - strictly banned by the WADA code but never submitted to any kind of control - were not taken into serious consideration. It appears that the most important part of this summit was the picture that old enemies have been reunited.