UCI president Pat McQuaid has said that cycling’s governing body is still deliberating on whether it will appeal the Spanish federation’s decision not to sanction Alberto Contador after he tested positive for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France. The UCI will make an announcement on the matter in the coming days.
“We have thirty days to study the dossier submitted by the Spanish federation, that is to say, we have until March 24 to decide whether to appeal or not,” McQuaid told Ouest France. “Our lawyers have been very busy in recent weeks before the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS]. Nothing has been decided yet. We will make an announcement on Wednesday or Thursday.”
McQuaid explained that the UCI’s decision on the matter will conform to its anti-doping policy, which is “to defend the riders who don’t cheat.”
“We’re seeking out the cheats so that our sport can be credible,” McQuaid said. “In every doping case, the UCI evaluates the strength of the dossiers. “I’ve been worried by the credibility of our sport since my election [as UCI president]. Not only in this Contador affair. There’s also Riccò and Sinkewitz, there are always cheats. The young riders who are coming know that doping isn’t the answer.”
McQuaid moved to quash rumours that Vacansoleil-DCM’s ProTeam licence could be in danger in light of the recent scandal involving Riccardo Riccò, who suffered a kidney ailment that was allegedly caused by blood doping. The Dutch team gained entry to the WorldTour for 2011 after signing Riccò, although they have since parted company with the controversial Italian.
“Riccò had come back a year ago in a modest team [Ceramica Flaminia] without problems,” McQuaid claimed. “Vacansoleil recruited him afterwards. The team were perhaps naïve, but they couldn’t have known that Riccò was continuing to dope.”
McQuaid said that the UCI was in favour of introducing heavier sanctions for riders who test positive, but admitted that four-year suspensions could be difficult to implement.
“It’s already possible in WADA’s new anti-doping code, since last year,” McQuaid said. “But it’s true; it’s ambiguous and difficult to apply. We can request this heavier sanction according to the gravity of the infraction, in relation to various parameters.
“We in the UCI propose sanctions to the federations, but the rider can still contest this criterion of gravity before CAS. We have restrictions when faced with this possibility. CAS understands well that this rule isn’t easy to apply. When cheating is premeditated, I think that there needs to be a four-year suspension.”
“When the French government wants to lower the speed limit, it doesn’t ask the citizens”
McQuaid stood by the sentiments he expressed in an open letter he wrote to riders last week on the debate over the use of radio earpieces. “Everybody must understand that cycling is in danger if we don’t change the rules,” he said. “Television stations don’t want to show races where there are earpieces. After fifteen years of earpieces, they’ve noted a loss of interest.”
The teams’ association AIGCP has been critical of what it feels to be the UCI’s unilateral stance on the matter, but McQuaid moved to reject claims that the decision to ban earpieces had been taken without consultation.
“It’s the UCI who has the competence to change the rules,” McQuaid said. “Secondly, there were discussions in workshops with representatives from the teams, then the management committee took its decision. When the French government wants to lower the speed limit, it doesn’t ask the citizens. It’s the same situation.”
McQuaid reiterated his belief that racing is a better spectacle without race radios, and used Saturday’s dramatic Milan-San Remo as an example, even though, as a WorldTour event, riders were allowed use earpieces during the race.
“Without earpieces, uncertainty comes back into it [racing],” McQuaid said. “There are young riders who want to attack but their directeurs sportifs stop them from doing so, because they need to protect the leader.
“They constantly want to reduce the chances of bad luck, but did you see Milan-San Remo on Saturday? It was a great race, because of bad luck and crashes. There were 60km of intensity.”
McQuaid also confirmed that if riders make a protest against the radio ban by wearing earpieces at the weekend’s non-WorldTour races, they will face sanctions.
“If there are 80 riders without earpieces, we’ll do the race with 80,” he said. “The commissaires were ready to leave to race at Het Nieuwsblad if the riders hadn’t complied.”
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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, published by Gill Books.
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