Gianni Bugno, the head of the professional riders' union (CPA), has said that Franco Pellizotti and Danilo Di Luca are struggling to find teams for 2011 because they have been in direct conflict with the UCI.
Pellizotti was sidelined in May after falling foul of the UCI's biological passport system but was cleared to race by the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) in October. Di Luca tested positive for CERA at the 2009 Giro d'Italia. Although he is now free to race after receiving a nine-month reduction of his suspension after collaborating with Italian authorities, Di Luca still faces a 280,000 euro fine from the UCI.
"Pelli is paying for the war he fought and won against the UCI on the biological passport. Teams aren't taking him because they're afraid of blackmail," Bugno told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Danilo has got into legal proceedings with the UCI because after having his suspension reduced by 9 months he doesn't want to have to pay those 9 months of the fine. It seems a pointless and even damaging conflict to me because it's slowing down his return."
Bugno also reiterated his previous criticism of the biological passport and called on the UCI to make changes to the way the system operates.
"There is no news [on the biological passport] but it seems that the UCI wants to organise a conference at the end of January," Bugno said. "There need to be changes made to its management and its way of operating. As it is now, it doesn't give guarantees to anybody."
Bugno is similarly concerned that when it comes to positive doping tests, the rider in question is the only person to pay a price, while teams and managers remain unpunished.
"It's not right," he said. "In doping cases, the team should also bear an objective responsibility. One case might be let to slide, although it needn't be. At the second [instance of doping in a team], you're punished and maybe at the third, you stop or are relegated a division."
The handling of the Alberto Contador affair also drew Bugno's ire, and he maintains that the fact the case has still not been resolved on the eve of the new season is an indictment of the UCI regulations. "The bottom line is: the UCI's rules, as they stand, don't work well."
Races, teams and agents
Outside of the handling of the biological passport and doping cases, Bugno outlined a number of other issues that he feels need to be addressed by the UCI. In particular, he cited the need for a clearer distinction to be made between the professional and amateur strands of the sport, and he questioned the need for the Continental level.
"The pros should only ride amongst themselves. The Continental category has no sense, it shouldn't exist," Bugno said, before criticising the UCI's admission procedures for the sport's biggest races. "Geox, with Sastre and Menchov, doesn't deserve a place in the top flight because it doesn't have enough sporting credentials? Don't make me laugh."
Bugno also warned that UCI president Pat McQuaid's son Andrew's status as an agent to a number of riders was potentially problematic, and he called on a limit to be placed on the number of riders an agent could manage.
"It's not a good situation and it should be resolved because there could be a conflict of interests," Bugno said of McQuaid. "Then, since we're already on the topic, there should be a limit put on the number of riders an agent can follow. 10-12 is already a lot."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.