The majority of professional cyclists are not engaged in illegal performance enhancing methods, according to the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) anti-doping chief Anne Gripper. The claim came after cycling’s world body announced the first five cases involving abnormal blood values unearthed by its blood passport program.
“I’m an optimist by nature but when I look at the 840 riders in the passport programme the vast majority of the peloton have very normal blood values,” Gripper told Cyclingnews. “So I’m really confident that we have a far higher number of clean riders than ever before. Those that choose not to ride clean are being exposed.
“The sport looks like it’s chaotic,” she added. “But we knew when we started this programme that we’d have two or three difficult years but the number of riders needing to be exposed is getting smaller and smaller and our ability to expose that number is getting better.”
Gripper believes that the blood profiling system, which flags abnormal blood values from regular testing for further analysis, is working as a deterrent. The Australian anti-doping expert believes the 18 months it’s taken for the system to yield a result is a worthwhile investment.
“It’s going to be much harder to find something new that can’t be seen in the profiling,” she said. “I agree there is always the possibility of something totally different but there really doesn’t appear to be something on the horizon at the moment.
“There is some discussion on gene therapy but that really hasn’t moved on in the last five years and it seems quite a long way away from being used by athletes,” said Gripper. “Even so, I think the profiling approach will make that a lot harder though.”
Lampre's Pietro Caucchioli and Fuji-Servetto's Ricardo Serrano have been suspended their teams after being named by the UCI as riders who showed abnormal values in the year-old system. Both teams stated that the riders showed the abnormal results during the 2008 season while riding for other teams.
Also named were former world champion Igor Astarloa, former Saunier Duval rider Ruben Lobato Elvira, who is without a team for this season, and Italian Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Androni Giocattoli).
To read the full interview with Anne Gripper - where she discusses the UCI’s arrangement with the Tour de France organiser and targeting of big-named riders - click here.