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Italy's top anti-doping prosecutor backtracks after claiming all cyclists are on drugs

Suggestion that doping be decriminalised meant ironically, claims statement on CONI website

Ettore Torri, the head of anti-doping at CONI, the Italian national Olympic committee, has apparently sought to backtrack on controversial remarks he made in an interview yesterday, when he said that he believed that all cyclists were using drugs and doping should be legalised, claiming his comments were merely him letting off steam.

Torri’s apology was reported in a statement published on CONI’s website after he was summoned to its Rome headquarters for a meeting earlier today with chairman Gianni Petrucci and general secretary Raffaele Pagnozzi.

The 78-year-old has been CONI’s chief anti-doping prosecutor for the past four years, during which period he has been involved in investigations of Italian cyclists such as Ivan Basso and Danilo di Luca, as well as 2009 Vuelta winner, the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.

According to CONI’s statement, Torri maintained that his statements, instead of suggesting that doping be decriminalised, were in fact meant ironically, a reflection of someone who has fought for years against doping letting off steam, although certainly his comments reported yesterday seem to leave little scope for misinterpretation.

In an interview with The Associated Press in which he set out his controversial views, Torri insisted: “I’m not the only one saying it. Lately, all of the cyclists I’ve interrogated have said that everyone dopes.

“The longer I’m involved in this, the more I marvel at how widespread doping is,” he added. “And I don’t think it will be eradicated. Because it just evolves continuously. There are new substances coming out that can’t be tested for.”

Torri suggested that legalising doping might be the answer so long as it did not adversely affect riders’ health, saying: “It’s not fair when we single out one rider in a 100. If the other 99 have doped, too, but are not prosecuted, it’s not fair.”

Last week, shortly before the storm broke over Alberto Contador’s failed test for clenbuterol at the Tour de France and the news that Xacobeo-Galicia’s Ezequiel Mosquera and David Garcia had both failed drugs tests during the Vuelta, Pierre Bordry, head of France’s anti-doping agency the AFLD resigned, citing a lack of resources and political will to combat doping as among the reasons for his departure.

Like Bordry, Torri believes that there is still too much of an incentive for athletes to take performance enhancing drugs, saying: “As long as doping is a viable economic option, it’s always going to exist. It needs to be made so that it’s no longer worth it economically.”

He added that the development of new performance enhancing products and the use of micro-dosing meant that the authorities were always going to be a step behind the dopers, citing the example of AICAR, the which increases endurance and converts fast-twitch muscles to slow-twitch ones, for which a test has only just been developed.

“Anti-doping is always behind the dopers,” maintained Torri. “For example, anyone who used (AICAR) until yesterday got off. Every time we develop a test, we’ve already lost 50 percent of those who have doped with a substance.”

“There are always ways to use micro dosages that are not discovered in tests,” he continued. “These trainers are really good at their jobs, and they’re able to prescribe just enough of the drug that it remains under the banned levels,” he added.

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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KirinChris | 13 years ago

He's absolutely right - I've said this for years.

It's the only way to decrease, if not stop doping.

Because it is illegal there is no chain of liability. It's all winks and nudges between doctors, soigneurs, managers and riders but they all have plausible deniability. All except the rider who gets busted.

Make it legal and make the teams responsible for their rider's health. As soon as one rider dies because his blood has turned to jam there will be such a world of insurance pain that no team could afford to let their riders dope - all their insurance policies would have to state that riders won't use harmful substances and that they are liable for it if they do. Break that clause and the insurer denies liability - something they have no hesitation in doing.

That leaves the team managers and owners facing any payouts for negligence - doping would stop within one season.

Aapje replied to KirinChris | 13 years ago

I don't see how legalizing doping is going to reduce it. Effectively we've had legalized doping in the 90's with controls being extremely poor and punishments being mostly symbolic.

The result:
- Clean riders and clean teams were driven out
- Riders died
- The rider won that risked his life most

Insurance isn't very important in cycling either, since teams are fairly poor and transient entities, with no real liability for team managers and owners. So if riders are harmed and try to sue, the teams can just liquidate and restart under a new name.

cozen | 13 years ago

funny thing is... he was kinda right.

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