The UCI has angrily rejected criticism of its biological passport programme by Gerard Vroomen, co-founder of Cervélo, regarding a perceived lack of testing, the governing body providing figures from tests conducted on riders of the team the Canadian bike-brand itself co-sponsors, Garmin- Cervélo, to illustrate its point.
By responding to Vroomen’s criticisms in a press release sent to media outlets worldwide, rather than perhaps sending him a private email setting out what it sees as the facts and asking him to put the record straight, the UCI not only lays itself open to accusations of heavy-handedness, but also ensures that Vroomen’s comments reach a much wider audience than would otherwise have been the case.
Writing on his blog yesterday, Vroomen said: I have not heard of a rider being tested for the biological passport between the end of the 2010 Tour and April 2011. After that I am not sure. While it is logical that the frequency of testing might decrease somewhat once profiles are established, the fact remains that the profile in itself is not a deterrent. The deterrent comes from testing current values against those profiles to see if there are clues indicating doping.”
He continued: “If what I have been hearing is indeed the case throughout the sport, then that would be worrisome. It would mean that in a crucial build-up and competition period, only riders who were on teams with independent anti-doping programs (such as HTC and Garmin-Cervelo) have been properly monitored to the extent that science is capable of.”
Following response to his original piece, Vroomen subsequently clarified some of his comments in a separate post on his blog.
Vroomen’s comments were subsequently reported on the website Velonation, but in a statement today, the UCI said that it “categorically rejects the allegations published by Mr. Gerard Vroomen on his personal blog yesterday concerning biological passports, comments which were then relayed by the velonation.com website. The UCI has therefore decided to provide the following statement in order to protect the public image of cycling and in particular with due respect to the commitment of those working on daily basis in the fight against doping.”
In a statement released this lunchtime, the UCI said: “The allegation that no tests were carried out under the biological passport testing program between the end of the Tour de France 2010 and April 2011 is absolutely incorrect.”
It went on to provide statistics showing that a total of 1,074 ‘blood passport’ tests, excluding urine tests and the 2010 Tour de France, had been conducted from 1 July 2010 until the end of the year; Garmin-Transitions, now Garmin-Cervelo, saw 1,577 tests from 1 July 2010 to 30 April 2011.
The tests, said the UCI, included “out-of-competition controls, pre-competition and in-competition controls on all major events during this period and team training camps.”
It added that Cervelo TestTeam had been subject to 45 tests between July and September 2010, and Garmin-Transitions/Garmin-Cervelo to 68 from 1 July 2010 to 30 April 2011.
The governing body added that “the assertions made by Gerard Vroomen’s are misleading, irresponsible, mischievous and clearly show a very weak understanding of this complex subject, an area which goes well beyond financial questions alone. “The UCI considers Mr Vroomen’s comments particularly unacceptable given the years of research and investments in this area. The result of UCI’s anti-doping work has been unanimously recognised by international experts and its program has become a worldwide reference in the fight against doping.
It also insisted that “the exceptional quality of competition at the recent Tour de France 2011, a Tour which also reflected a cleaner era in cycling.
“Mr Vroomen appears exceptionally poorly informed as he would seem not to have been aware of the tests carried out on the two teams he has been involved with,” it continued. “A simple phone call could have clarified the situation for Mr Vrooman should his concerns have been genuine, but he chose not to do this.
“Further the UCI refutes any suggestion that anti-doping funds have been used to fund legal bills for fighting legal cases.
The UCI therefore suggests that Mr Vroomen, and the media, ensure that facts are correct before making public statements about UCI’s activities,” it concluded.
As yet, there has been no reaction to the UCI’s press release by Vroomen on either his Twitter stream or his blog.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.