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McQuaid encouraged by Tour thus far

No sympathy for Beltran if guilty

By Shane Stokes

UCI President Pat McQuaid has expressed a belief that this year's Tour de France is cleaner than in previous years, saying that he is encouraged by what he has seen thus far.

"I'm not at the race this year but I do watch it on a passing basis from the office," he told Cyclingnews this week. "There are encouraging signs. When you see breakaways staying away until the end and another one lasting until 30 metres to go, that's something.

"So too when the bunch decides to chase down a break, they are not lined out with eight guys from one team and eight guys from another team at the front of a big, big long line. That doesn't happen... you see three or four guys from a team trying to up the pace, and at times the rest of the bunch is spread over the road. The speed isn't hugely fantastic, and that again would give you some comfort in the fact that it is different.

"There are also guys here winning stages that we know are coming from teams with very strong anti-doping stances."

The Tour de France has however had one big doping story thus far, the positive A sample returned by Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) and his exclusion from the race. The Spaniard has been found with traces of EPO in his urine and, if this is confirmed by the B sample, he will be fired by his team and suspended.

McQuaid stated that the B sample result is necessary before knowing for sure if Beltran is guilty but, if that does happen, he has no sympathy.

"I am very, very angry that individuals will still take big risks," he said. "It is time that every one of those competing at the highest level in the sport of cycling realised that the net is closing in and that we are not prepared to accept this sort of behaviour. We will continue using every means possible to eliminate individuals like this out of the sport.

"If the B test result ultimately proves that Beltran had taken EPO, then I have absolutely no sympathy for him. [In that case] I would think he is an absolute idiot."

He feels that things are moving in the right direction, but that it is naïve to expect an overnight transformation. "It is disappointing when you get a positive like Beltran. I had hoped that this year's Tour would be doping-free.

"Since the time I came because president of the UCI nearly three years ago, one of my stated objectives was to get rid of doping in the sport. I knew all along it was not going to be an overnight job, that it would take some time. There is still a bit of time to go."

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