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Pereiro undergoes dope control in restaurant corridor

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Régis Garnier)

While the need for random dope testing is unquestionable, the randomness of it can lead to extremely awkward and even embarrassing situations, as was the case recently with Oscar Pereiro. The 2006 Tour de France winner had met up with friends in a bar in Santiago de Compostela when his mobile phone rang. On the other end were two of the International Cycling Union's (UCI) "vampires", who were outside Pereiro’s home in the nearby city of Vigo wanting him to undertake blood and urine tests.

Pereiro told them he didn’t plan to be home for hours, the testers wanted to get their job done, so the Caisse d’Epargne rider told them to come to him in Santiago. An hour later they arrived. They asked Pereiro to come with them to a local hotel to do the tests, but he didn’t want to.

"I was with friends and I didn’t want to leave the meal. And I wasn’t obliged to do so," he told La Voz de Galicia. "I have to be available for any control for an hour a day in a pre-specified place. In this case it was at my house between seven and eight in the morning."

The testers decided the best option was to do the testing in the restaurant’s toilets. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough room in the bathroom, so the tests had to be carried out in the corridor leading to the toilets, which was separated from the restaurant by a pair of saloon-style swing doors.

With his head and legs clearly visible to the restaurant’s customers behind the doors, Pereiro had to remove his trousers and underpants down to his ankles as the regulations demand, then take off his shirt and wash his hands so that he couldn’t manipulate the samples. Then he had to deliver the sample. That done, the testers carried out the blood testing procedure and put the samples in a mobile fridge they had carried into the restaurant.

According to one of Pereiro’s friends, the sight of the rider heading towards the bathroom with a man and a woman and a mobile fridge caused quite a stir in the restaurant. "The place was full of foreigners who watched three people head towards the toilets, spent a good deal of time in there and were doing all kinds of strange things behind the doors," said Alejandro Gómez. "Don’t they want cleanliness in sport? In that case why did they do the testing in such an unhygienic place? They are treating athletes like delinquents."

As for Pereiro, he admitted he viewed the incident as "a bit of a joke". He added: "Why are they wasting money on testing me when I haven’t competed for months? I’ve now done controls in airports, bars, just after a football match had finished… The people in that bar saw for themselves in exactly what situations these things can take place."

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).