Seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has reacted angrily to news that Pierre Bordry, President of the AFLD, France’s governmental anti-doping agency, has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the UCI’s biological passport programme and called for additional testing at the Tour de France, with the cyclist using his Twitter feed to ask, “Anyone else getting sick and tired of this bullshit?”
The answer would appear to be no, if the reaction to the Team RadioShack rider’s tweets on the social networking site is anything to go by, with several pointing out that the priority is cleaning up a sport that is often viewed as almost irreparably broken given its long history of doping scandals.
Bordry made his remarks at an anti-doping symposium, according to an Associated Press report carried on ESPN.com, and claimed: “I don't think the biological passport is useful. What we need is neutral information on biological data. And we need a biological passport that is absolutely transparent to target riders. Everybody should deserve the same treatment."
The relationship between the AFLD and the UCI has long been a fractious one, and often it is ASO, organisers of the sports highest-profile event, that finds itself caught in the crossfire of the two bodies’ power struggle.
Last year, Bordry claimed that the UCI had bent the rules in favour of Armstrong’s then team, Astana, at the Tour de France, which of course also produced the general classification winner, Alberto Contador.
UCI President Pat McQuaid subsequently decided that this year the sport’s governing body would conduct testing at the race, without the involvement of the AFLD, after the two bodies’ attempt at working together on last year’s edition resulted in a breakdown in the relationship between them.
However, Associated Press reports that Bordry has used the World Anti-Doping Code to submit a formal request to the World Anto-Doping Agency (WADA) to permit AFLD to carry out additional tests once the race gets under way in Rotterdam in a fortnight’s time.
"McQuaid asked us to keep our mouths shut because we are incompetent," explained Bordry. "Let's wait and see what WADA will say. I can understand that an international federation is in charge but it has to be transparent and to give guarantees."
Bordry continued: "I don't want to work with the UCI. The big risk is that the tests have no credibility. WADA now has to figure out if we can find a deal. But we need guarantees. Last year we had problems every day. We are not going to revive a situation like in 2009. But if we are not there, police forces will be there [to catch cheating riders]."
During the 2009 race, with UCI at loggerheads with ASO, the AFLD was in sole charge of the testing programme at the race, where riders including Italy’s Riccardo Riccò tested positive for prohibited substances, in his case, the EPO derivative, CERA.
Bordry added that the AFLD was now working alongside counterparts from the US in testing American riders based in Europe, including Armstrong, who last month was accused by former team-mate Floyd Landis of using EPO when the pair rode together for United States Postal Service.
"They gave us information about American riders training in France," explained Bordry. "They gave us the assignment to perform controls on them. This is a very good thing that national agencies can cooperate."
In the light of Landis’s allegations, it’s likely that the press, as well as the French authorities, will be watching Armstrong’s every move with particular interest over the three weeks of the event. French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot has stated that despite those accusations, the rider "won't be undesirable" at the race.
Last year, Bachelot had told Armstrong, returning to the race after a three-year absence, that he faced being "particularly monitored" as part of the drugs testing programme, saying: “I don't judge people on the basis of verbal accusations. But if he decides to race, and that is not for sure, Mr. Armstrong will have to respect all anti-doping procedures."
For Bordry’s part, the AFLD president highlighted that he was concerned by the continual revelations of new doping cases that are hitting the sport, saying: “If you look at all the judicial cases resulting from doping, most of them are related to cycling. There is a problem with this sport."
Certainly, no-one can deny that the sport has a problem, but it is one that the various governing and anti-doping bodies seem determined to address, hampered at times by internal politics, and it’s also a function of cyclists now being the most tested athletes in the world.
Even Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the man behind the doping ring uncovered by Spain’s Operacion Puerto which resulted in revelations of doping among a number of cycling’s biggest names including Jan Ullrich and Alejandro Valverde, banned just last month, was said to be taken aback at the time that the enquiry focused almost exclusively on cycling despite his admission that he also worked with leading tennis players and footballers.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde that received widespread coverage after the scandal broke in 2006, the doctor admitted that he had worked with a number of leading Spanish football clubs but denied that those included Barcelona and Real Madrid. he also disclosed that he had received death threats since news of Operacion Puerto broke.
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