Thursday, July 26, 2007

UCI Doping Declaration: Not Worth The Paper It’s Written On?

What do Alexandre Vinokourov, Patrick Sinkewitz and Cristian Moreni have in common? Cycling fans would all answer that all three have been accused of doping offences in this year’s Tour De France, however all three have also signed the Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI) anti-doping declaration, which was designed to reassure the public that this year’s Tour is drug free.

The Astana cycling team withdrew from the Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. The Cofidis team also withdrew after Cristian Moreni tested positive for a banned substance, understood from reports to be testosterone. Patrick Sinkewitz was suspended by the T-Mobile team after a positive A-test for testosterone.

The UCI needs to find a more effective method of asserting that the sport is free of drugs, as German broadcasters ARD and ZDF threatened legal action after pulling out of covering the race, team sponsors (Cofidis) have indicated that they requested their team to withdraw from the race and the World Anti-Doping Agency today offered to convene a summit on how to deal with the problem of doping in cycling.

The Tour has also lost its leader, after the Rabobank team removed Michael Rasmussen from the Tour for violating team rules by giving alleged incorrect information about his whereabouts to the team’s sports director after missing drugs tests on 8 May and 28 June. “We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts became unbearable”, Tour Director Christian Prudhomme told the Associated Press.

It is only the second time in the 104-year history of the Tour de France that the leader of the race has been expelled. The challenge will now be to keep the race going and to keep its corporate sponsors interested in funding an event that has continually involved doping cases.

Perhaps opening the tour to amateurs, such as Londoner Luke Bream, could restore some credibility to the race. Bream is attempting to complete the Tour de France one day ahead of the actual race, assisted by his mum and fuelled by jam butties and Coca-Cola…

Andy Brown



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