Questions for Cookson as UCI's new stance on doping sanctions raises transparency issues

Governing body confirms in wake of Menchov affair it will not issue press releases when riders sanctioned

by Simon_MacMichael   July 13, 2014  

Brian Cookson at the site in Paris where the UCI was founded (source Brian Cookson Images, Flickr)

Brian Cookson’s promise that he would bring a fresh transparency to the operations of the UCI is being questioned today after it emerged that the governing body no longer plans to announce doping sanctions imposed on riders caught breaking anti-doping rules, except in the most high profile cases.

Many would argue that such an instance might include former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta winner, Denis Menchov. It emerged yesterday that the Russian, who retired in May last year citing a knee injury, is currently serving a two year-ban until April next year for irregularities in his biological passport.

It is not known when the ban came into effect, nor whether any of it is backdated. Instead of issuing a press release announcing the sanction when it was handed down, Menchov’s suspension was only discovered when the UCI, without fanfare, uploaded a table of closed anti-doping cases onto its website last week.

Besides Menchov, it also contained details of other riders who had been sanctioned for anti-doping violations without the information being made public.

Former Vini Fantini-Selle Italia rider Mauro Santambrigio, banned for two years for testing positive for EPO during the 2013 Giro d’Italia, in which he won a stage, and former Quick Step and Rabobank rider Carlos Barredo, serving a ban until October this year in relation to data in his biological passport.

Barredo loses results including his 2009 victory in the Clasica San Sebastian, which as blogger Inner Ring points out now goes to Roman Kreuziguer – last month stood down by his Tinkoff-Saxo team as it emerged that he too faces questions over his biological passport.

UCI spokesman Louis Chenaille yesterday outlined the governing body’s new approach in a telephone call with the Associated Press, saying that it had "a new way of communicating" anti-doping sanctions, which was simply to put the bare facts on its website, without an accompanying press release.

What that means in practice, assuming it is the same document that will be updated, is that fans and media alike will have to check back regularly and run down the alphabetical list of names to try and discover any new ones that may have been added.

That seems at odds with Cookson’s promise before he succeeded Pat McQuaid as UCI president in September last year that he would bring a new transparency to the body’s work.

Launching his manifesto in June 2013, he said: “I believe the most important challenge for the new President is to restore trust in the UCI, and most importantly to rebuild people’s faith in the way that anti-doping is dealt with.

“We need to give people reasons to believe that the future will be different from the past. We must build a culture of trust and confidence,” he added.

In a statement issued yesterday evening about Menchov, the governing body said:

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that it has imposed a 2-year ban on Russian rider Denis Menchov as a result of anti-doping rule violations based on his Athlete Biological Passport. The rider is declared ineligible until 9 April 2015 and is disqualified from the Tour de France 2009, 2010 and 2012, competitions during which abnormalities were clearly identified. The proceedings were initiated in 2013. The rider has exercised his procedural rights and accepted a proposal of sanction in accordance with the UCI Anti-Doping Rules. WADA and RUSADA have been duly informed and the sanction published on the UCI list of doping sanctions.

Chenaille added yesterday that the UCI may continue to issue press releases in some high-profile cases, and explained that it did not believe that Menchov warranted that treatment since he is retired.

He added that the Russian was stripped of results in the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Tour de France, but allowed to keep his 2009 Giro d’Italia victory, because anomalies were only discovered in biological passport data relating to the French race.

But as Inner Ring says, "Denis Menchov has been thrown off the podium of the 2010 Tour de France. It should be a triumph for the bio passport as he’s the biggest rider to be caught. Instead the UCI’s success started out as a mere entry in PDF sitting on the UCI website. The Silent Assassin was silently prosecuted."

He adds: "It’s a strange one because catching a rider should be big news, perhaps even something to boast about rather than something to tuck away inside a PDF that doesn’t even list recent additions and deletions. 'Press refresh to find out if the results of the Tour de France have been changed'."

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I don't see the problem here, they are still releasing all the names, all you have to do is check.

The lack of transparency over TUEs is the real issue (among others).

posted by cub [70 posts]
13th July 2014 - 11:28

44 Likes

Well Mr. Cookson did say that things will be different. Rolling On The Floor

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [605 posts]
13th July 2014 - 15:56

39 Likes

Very strange for an organisation that promised greater transparency.

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
13th July 2014 - 16:43

38 Likes

Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

posted by levermonkey [395 posts]
13th July 2014 - 17:12

37 Likes

levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

Totally agree with you here. They are still releasing all the details just in a different way than previously.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
13th July 2014 - 17:15

23 Likes

To be fair to the UCI their are scientific and legal issues with doping that make these things tricky. The bio-passport is still a blunt tool which highlights irregularities and does not create certainties. So it indicates that there is a strong likelihood that there is an issue, but scientifically there is a 'possibility' that the bloods are achievable 'pan e agua', so legally it has wiggle room. So between finding the irregularities, and charging the rider the experts and lawyers have to be satisfied, you then have the appeal process and then due process....in the meantime an innocent rider may have his career ruined. Not that I fully subscribe to that, but I think it is not simple to say that the UCI should just release findings as and when they happen. Though I think a bit more fanfare should be given when the final decision has been made.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1205 posts]
13th July 2014 - 17:27

30 Likes

levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

So it's acceptable that when the 2010 Tour de France runner-up (and multiple Grand Tour winner) is stripped of that result, the world only finds out *by chance* when he has 9 months of a 24-month ban remaining, and we still don't know when that sanction was handed down?

Rrrrriiiiggghhhttt.

Ps "Lazy journalists" - nice phrase to bandy around, but my editor once told me only time a journalist should worry about someone saying that is if it comes from him Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8520 posts]
13th July 2014 - 19:33

25 Likes

levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

Why not do both?

Something doesn't seem right here. Gets me wondering if a ban for a Brit is just around the corner.

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
13th July 2014 - 19:46

34 Likes

whether or not you think a press release about every ban is necessary, a press release to say they wouldn't be coming any more, when they have been for years: that would be nice, no?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
13th July 2014 - 20:23

38 Likes

Kimmage and others called for Cookson to explain on Twitter. Cookson replied that he will comment in due course, but not on Twitter, and that he is committed to transparency.
He said situation is complex legally. I'm not sure why - surely you issue a ban once due process has been followed to its conclusion. Can't see the problem with then issuing a press release stating that a rider has been banned and why.

I suppose, we'll find out soon in a carefully drafted press release - now that would be ironic

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
14th July 2014 - 0:58

28 Likes

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

So it's acceptable that when the 2010 Tour de France runner-up (and multiple Grand Tour winner) is stripped of that result, the world only finds out *by chance* when he has 9 months of a 24-month ban remaining, and we still don't know when that sanction was handed down?

Rrrrriiiiggghhhttt.

Ps "Lazy journalists" - nice phrase to bandy around, but my editor once told me only time a journalist should worry about someone saying that is if it comes from him Wink

Honestly speaking does it really matter ? Personally i think not. He's still banned and a press release on the day of the ban or at the end of the ban doesn't make a jot of difference.

As for lazy journalists........cutting and pasting stories from a different site is hardly called journalism. Simon, thats not a dig at you as you virtually always produce well thought out pieces.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
14th July 2014 - 3:25

13 Likes

levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

So a prominent organisation with responsibilities for an entire area of policy puts out a non-searchable document on a Friday afternoon, during the biggest event it is involved in, which reveals sanctions against at least 4 people it has authority over, including at least one high profile figure. It does not even send a courtesy email to its stakeholders to notify of this (other organisations I deal with will send you something to say "we have updated our sanctions list")

Do that in any corporate or official department in the world and it is known as "burying bad news". And that is exactly what the UCI were attempting to do - hide the announcement during the TDF than the rider currently recorded as second in 2010 had been banned and stripped of that result.

"Legally complex" is what people say to you when they mean "I don't want to answer". The UCI opened a process against Menchov, it investigated, it made a decision to sanction. The rider has apparently accepted the proposal to sanction, despite being retired. Why is the governing body hiding behind a quasi-judicial fig leaf when, bar a possible appeal to an arbitrator, to all intents the case is finished?

The UCI's rule 313 says disqualification of results is from date of first violation "unless unfair" which would be an exceptional.

The ABP is longitudinal. Every case is based on a wide study of values over an extended period. If the values in July 2009, 2010 and 2012 are abnormal then it is very difficult to see how they are the only ones given that this would be the first time in the history of the ABP that an athlete has been sanctions for cherry-picked sections and not on the basis of presenting abnormal values across the whole period of study.

This isn't "just the facts" - they could have communicated these facts in any number of ways. Also, if you are going to publish "facts" on a given date without comment, then you tend to inform of a schedule of publication somewhere - this is what ONS does and other bodies do

http://www.chasingwheels.com - Chasing Wheels, the journal of Britain's least competitive cyclist

posted by leguape [40 posts]
14th July 2014 - 8:52

5 Likes

daddyELVIS wrote:
levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

Why not do both?

Something doesn't seem right here. Gets me wondering if a ban for a Brit is just around the corner.

You mean like JTL...

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [509 posts]
17th July 2014 - 15:04

0 Likes

glynr36 wrote:
daddyELVIS wrote:
levermonkey wrote:
Am I missing something here? Where is the lack of transparency?

As far as I can see all they have done is move from 'sackcloth-and-ashes' press releases to simply putting the facts up on the web-site.

Is this really a story about lazy journalists not having everything handed to them on a plate and actually having to do some research? Devil

Why not do both?

Something doesn't seem right here. Gets me wondering if a ban for a Brit is just around the corner.

You mean like JTL...

Exactly - during the Tour too, for double burying of bad news!

Brits don't dope!!

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
19th July 2014 - 20:49

0 Likes