Confirmation, if any were needed, that UCI's so-called "index of suspicion" leaked to the French newspaper L'Equipe is indeed authentic came this evening when the UCI issued a statement strongly condemning the leak and reiterating that "suspicion is not the same as guilt".
In the statement, reproduced below in full, the UCI condemns the leak as "highly irresponsible" and warns that the index is likely to be misinterpreted in an "an incorrect and prejudicial manner" and at it contains only "an initial summary assessment of the results of the analyses for the sole purpose of establishing an order of priorities for testing". Basically this is a first attempt to establish a priority list for testing at the Tour based on comparing the results of the pre-Tour blood tests with each rider's biological passport. However it is "is far from the examination of haematological data by biological passport experts" says the UCI.
Variation between the values in the two do not necessarily imply that the rider has done anything wrong, The UCI statement emphatically states that "the list does not justify any suspicion or condemnation."
The UCI goes on to point out that compiling such an index does help it to target it's testing more effectively and that it shows that the UCI's system of biological passports is having an effect. In what might be seen as an attempt to have its cake and eat it too the UCI points out that the article it "deplores" does also say some good things about the UCI and WADA's work in fighting doping within cycling, and that, to quote "L'Equipe, this list “reveals a reality that is very remote from the notion that ‘they all resort to doping’ and puts paid to the idea of organised team doping”.
It is however worth noting that while there is a difference between suspicion and guilt there is also a difference between compiling an index of suspicion and acting up on it – WADA' largely favourable Independent Observer report on the UCI's operation of doping controls at last year's Tour noted that a number of riders known to have suspicious profiles were tested "on surprisingly few occasions" and that UCI focused too much on collecting urine samples for its biological passport program and not enough on collecting samples for analysis of banned substances.
The WADA IO report also criticised the UCI for the small number of un-announced tests it conducted (in contrast to the AFLD's testing regime at previous editions of Le Tour) a mere 15 per cent, and even those were preceded by UCI anti-doping officials making a very visible entrance to team hotels at times more suited to riders and teams and less suited to those trying to uncover suspicious activity. The also pointed out that the UCI also failed to target a rider who was under suspicion in his own country for using a new type of drug and whose identity they knew.
While the leak of the index is no doubt an embarrassment to the organisation - the UCI has had long and painful experience of dealing with such embarrassments and must surely have long ago achieved a state of unembarrassability. They do like a good feud though in Zurich –so will be consulting their colleagues at WADA and launching an in-depth investigation to find the source.
How successful that will be we will find out in due course, but given the time that has elapsed since the index was compiled, the numbers of people that will have seen it and the opportunities to leak will have multiplied. The list of those that might wish to leak this list is potentially embarrassing in itself: a disgruntled UCI official, ditto from WADA, the AFLD, or even an insider at ASO – organisers of Le Tour and by coincidence also publishers of L'Equipe.
While UCI officials may console themselves with the fact that the leak of he Index shows the UCI to be taking action to target possible doper, the organisation's criticts will suspect that it merely shows that while the UCI may be committed to a system of rigorous testing for anomalous blood values that is not quite the same as a rigorous regime of catching of those using banned substances.
The French newspaper L’Équipe published an article in its edition of 13 May about the anti-doping test procedures employed at the 2010 Tour de France.
To ensure that the information that has been published is properly understood, the UCI wishes to point out that a blood test is performed on all participants before every major Tour. The UCI’s Anti-Doping Service then draws up a “testing plan” on the basis of the results of these tests and the athletes’ biological passports. This testing plan defines the priorities, frequency and features of the tests to be performed during the race.
It is essential to note that the list published by L’Équipe, entitled “Index of suspicion”, is liable to be interpreted in an incorrect and prejudicial manner: it contains only an initial summary assessment of the results of the analyses for the sole purpose of establishing an order of priorities for testing and therefore cannot under any circumstances prejudge the possible guilt of the persons whose names appear on the list. Whatever the assessment of the appropriateness of testing a specific rider, the list does not justify any suspicion or condemnation.
This superficial but practical procedure has been made possible within the framework of the biological passport programme – launched by the UCI in 2008 in cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – under which the sophisticated targeting of testing is a major focus. However, the information published by the French newspaper is far from the examination of haematological data by biological passport experts.
While condemning the potential exploitation of the situation and the inevitable distortions of the truth to which the L’Équipe revelations will give rise – as well as the possible unfortunate consequences for the riders and the teams – the UCI wishes to highlight a number of fundamental issues raised by the article in question.
While advocating the principle that “suspicion is not the same as guilt”, it can however been seen that the system enables anti-doping tests to be targeted more effectively and therefore also enables the fight against doping as a whole to be enhanced.
Acknowledged as a “unique document, unprecedented in any sport” this list “reveals a reality that is very remote from the notion that ‘they all resort to doping’ and puts paid to the idea of organised team doping”.
Thanks to the “tremendous work done by the UCI in recent years (…) the proportion of riders who cross the red line has reduced.”
Of course this does not in any way imply a denial of the existence of the problem. It does however demonstrate the fact that the UCI’s anti-doping services have the situation under control and that their monitoring – via the biological passport in particular – will become increasingly effective. Through its daily commitment, the UCI is showing its determination to oppose the scourge of doping by all the means at its disposal and will always continue to play the role of the Federation that leads the way in this field.
Finally, the L’Équipe publication confirms that the UCI is using all possible resources to fight for an increasingly clean sport of cycling (which the statistics prove is happening).
On the other hand, the UCI deplores and strongly condemns the breach of confidentiality which allowed this list to be sent to the press. A leak of this kind is highly irresponsible and unacceptable. The UCI will consult WADA in order to launch an in-depth investigation of the matter.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.