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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

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'."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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