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Tour de France under the control of FFC and AFLD

ASO repeats opposition to the closed system of the UCI ProTour

By Jean-François Quénet in Paris

At a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed his request for the French cycling federation (FFC) to sanction the 2008 Tour de France as it did for Paris-Nice in March. The request comes after the International Cycling Union (UCI) refused to cease disciplinary action against the FFC for its support of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) at Paris-Nice.

Prudhomme repeated ASO's opposition to the closed system of the ProTour and regretted the UCI's refusal to let all Grand Tours select their starting teams. While the Giro and the Vuelta were allowed to choose their participating teams, the Tour de France was required by the UCI to invite all 18 ProTour teams. In February, ASO decided to leave out Astana and has now refused its signature event to be registered on the UCI calendar.

"We have asked the FFC to sanction the Tour de France and the AFLD (French anti-doping agency) will be in charge of the controls before and during the Tour de France," Prudhomme announced.

"We would like to see the end of this conflict with the UCI but I don't see the UCI making any progress," said FFC president Jean Pitallier. "We will soon designate the commissaires for the Tour de France. Those who have done Paris-Nice will have the priority." Experienced French judges Michel Lefort and Joël Ménard are among the most likely to be named as chief commissaire.

France wants to contribute 700,000 euro towards biological passport

The French secretary of sports Bernard Laporte was also present to support both the organisers of the Tour de France and the FFC. Laporte took office at the end of October 2007 after coaching the French team at the Rugby World Cup and his first duty as a politician was to take part in the summit which gave birth to the biological passport. At the time, the French government, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI appeared united in the fight against doping, but that unity has since fallen apart.

"The UCI has refused a contribution of 700,000 euro from the French Ministry of Sports and ASO," Laporte revealed. "We are disappointed to not participate in the biological passport anymore. We hope the project keeps improving and we'd like to take part in it with our 700,000 euro again later.

"We want to work with the UCI again for the interest of the sport, that's all that counts for us. I've noticed once again, on a recent trip to China, that the Tour de France has a worldwide impact and we have to all work together to keep people's interest high in the race and the sport of cycling in general."

Laporte said he was prepared to offer his services as a mediator between the UCI and ASO once again. "I guess we'll renew the contact after the Tour de France," he predicted. "Cycling deserves better than this unfortunate tussle."

To read the complete feature, click here.

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