UCI cannot use spot checks to enforce no needles policy

Bradley Wiggins at the press conference

Bradley Wiggins at the press conference (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Sky's Bradley Wiggins has questioned the enforcement of the UCI's new no-needles policy, saying the team's medical staff are ‘adamant' other squads are continuing to inject recovery aids like vitamins and minerals.

And the UCI's Medical Officer, Dr Mario Zorzoli has admitted that the federation cannot perform spot checks and can only pursue an investigation if there is evidence from other anti-doping activities like police raids that a rider or team is flouting the rule.

According to the Mirror, Wiggins said: "The needle ban is fantastic but at the [recent] Dauphiné [race] there was no sign of it being policed.

"It would be great on the Tour [de France] if they actually raided teams to see if they were toeing the line. Medical people in our team are adamant other teams are still using syringes for recovery.

"People who have a history of this sort of stuff aren't going to just suddenly say ‘OK, that's the law now, we'll stop'" he added.

In the aftermath of the Giro d'Italia, the UCI's Dr Zorzoli said: "[The policy] ran smoothly. We didn't have one single problem and we had very positive feedback from the teams. We had meetings with some team managers and it was very well perceived."

However, Dr Zorzoli added that the federation could not perform spot checks on riders and that the UCI was reliant on teams providing a medical inventory of their pharmaceuticals before the race.

"Even on the list of forbidden substances and methods there are things we cannot find in anti-doping tests. So if someone makes an injection of vitamins this is something we cannot test and we cannot perform checks.

"So on the one side we have the list of the pharmaceuticals and the teams were bringing with them so it was clear there were no substances like vitamins or things like that."

Dr Zorzolli also said if a test revealed an atypical finding for a substance like a gluco-corticosteroid, the UCI could go back to the team or rider to find out if an injection has been used to administer the drug.

"Additionally we have to rely on police investigations," he said. "So if the team is searched by the police and they found needles and so on then we can intervene, but we don't have a direct way [to enforce the rule].

Many substances administered by injection are not illegal but experts believe that needle use can lead athletes to injecting ‘heavy' doping products like EPO. The rule was added to the UCI's regulations prior to the start of the Giro d'Italia.

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Sam started as a trainee reporter on daily newspapers in the UK before moving to South Africa where he contributed to national cycling magazine Ride for three years. After moving back to the UK he joined Procycling as a staff writer in November 2010.