The director of the Giro d'Italia, Angelo Zomegnan, was forced to defend his race's stance against doping after being quizzed by Paul Kimmage at a presentation in London.
Zomegnan was hoping the event would focus on the announcement that Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) will ride this year's Giro, but Kimmage asked him about the role he plays in sorting out the problem of doping in professional cycling.
Zomegnan was careful with his answers and so Kimmage repeated his question three times.
"I'm not sure that one day we'll be out of the doping problem but I'm sure that every year we're doing better and more important than the year before," Zomegnan said in his far from perfect English.
"Last year the Giro d'Italia was the most controlled in the history of the race, with more than 520 controls. And for every control that was done by UCI and WADA, the lab did six or seven tests. Cycling is the most controlled sport in the world. Not only are the riders now on the right line but I think the now the line is better than ten or five ago."
Kimmage again asked if he as race organiser has a role to play.
Zomegnan said: "Yes."
"I like Mark because he's a clear (sic) rider. I remember when he fought with Riccò in a restaurant at the Tour of Italy in 2009. Doping is a cultural problem and we're helping young people and the young riders with specific programmes. Every year we visit more 4,200 schools and touch more than 100,000 young people to explain to them what sport is, what cycling is and what the Giro is, and how it's possible to practice sport, cycling and the Giro without doping.
"I need to remind you that the only big Tour that had no doping cases [in 2010] was the Giro, probably because we did a strong fight before the start."
Kimmage pointed out that Alexandre Vinokourov, Ivan Basso and Danilo Di Luca have all ridden in recent editions of the Giro and insisted that Zomegnan has the power not to invite people who have cheated on the sport. He asked why Zomegnan has not done that.
Zomegnan avoided giving a direct answer saying: "I'm the organiser but not the man who does the rules. In my opinion and it's RCS Sport's opinion and Gazzetta dello Sport's opinion, that it's time to give four year [bans], eight year, for the riders, for the athletes that fail for a second time in a serious doping case. I think that the rules are not strong enough. For sure we have to consider the doping problem as a criminal problem.
"I say again, I'm not the man who does the rules. I was a bad man because last year and in 2009 when I didn't invite Riccardo Riccò to our races. I was a bad man. Right now I'm not satisfied about the Riccò situation but I'm sure that my work was a good work."
After this exchange, other journalists were asked for questions and doping was no longer discussed.
Courtesy of Flamme Rouge Media