A British academic who advised USA Cycling on anti-doping issues will no longer be working with the organisation due to comments he reportedly made about legalising EPO and non-emergency blood transfusions.
Dr Paul Dimeo of the University of Stirling, who was chair of the governing body’s anti-doping committee has claimed that his comments, made in an interview with The Times newspaper, were taken out of context and that he had been misrepresented.
In a statement, USA Cycling said that Dr Dimeo’s “recent comments advocating the legalization of certain doping practices made it clear that he does not share our fundamental views regarding eliminating doping from sport through the rigorous application of well-established anti-doping efforts."
But Dr Dimeo, who in the past has argued that Lance Armstrong was treated unfairly in being banned for life when his US Postal Service team mates who also used performance enhancing drugs received six-month bans, insists he was not calling for EPO and blood transfusions to be permitted.
Instead, he claims he was simply questioning why certain substances and methods are banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List, while others are not.
The academic told Cycling News: “The discussion of EPO and blood doping was a generic one. All I was really saying was can we go back and reconsider why these things are banned, and at the same time look at which are the most important ones that we want to ban. Is it about performance enhancement?
“Because there are some drugs that enhance performance that are not on the banned list. Is it about health? If it is, maybe there are better ways of managing peoples' use.
"It was a general discussion. But then the Times used this headline about legalising EPO and transfusions.
“As soon as I saw that I phoned the times and asked them to change it. It's not what I said. They agreed to change the headline, but that's what had been sent to USA Cycling, and that's what they've assumed to be the case."
Dr Dimeo says he was “misrepresented” by The Times, and that he is “disappointed” by USA Cycling’s decision to drop him from the committee. He added that as an academic, it is his job to ask questions that may result in what are, for some, “uncomfortable answers.”
He added: “It's a taboo area. I think that if you say something that is not part of the orthodoxy of anti-doping, it's either you're for us or you're against us."
In The Times article published last month Dr Dimeo, author of A History of Drug Use in Sport: 1876-1976, said that today’s anti-doping policies were rooted in the 1960s and the time had come to reconsider how appropriate they were in the modern world.
“What made sense then is no longer viable, practically or idealistically,” he maintained. “We now live in a world of technology, commerce and performance, where drugs could be safely used for recovery and performance if only the rules were relaxed.
“Of course, people will react with dismay. But it is time that we had a proper 21st-century debate on the issue, rather than sticking to what was set in stone almost 60 years ago.”
Regarding EPO, he said: “There are some studies which state that low doses of EPO improve cardiac function,” he insisted. “A whole generation of cyclists used a lot of EPO and they have survived to tell the tale.
“If we understood the dosages and the timing of dosages then maybe it would be relatively safe. Would an athlete mind taking a small amount of a drug that has been trialled and medically approved?”
On the subject of blood transfusions, he added: “It’s safe, of course, because it happens all the time in hospitals. They would help recovery between the stages of a bike race or rounds of a tennis tournament.
“What is the harm if we know there is a doctor on hand, that everything is clean and sterilised and the blood comes from the right place? People will say it’s cheating, because not everybody can get access to that, but that’s not the same as saying it’s harmful.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.