Elite road cycling

ARTICLE SUMMARY

  • This article shows how, on a number of important issues dealt with in its report (EPO test, Pantani, TUEs, Kimmage), the CIRC has ignored relevant facts that demonstrate the UCI’s firm stance on anti-doping and the flaws in the CIRC’s findings.
  • This methodology has also enabled the CIRC, for example, to conceal how little Lance Armstrong was tested by WADA and USADA
  • It also enables the CIRC to blame me, without any grounds or explanation, for the conflicts that arose between UCI and both WADA and ASO.
  • Without carrying out the slightest investigation into its truth, the CIRC sends out a message – one that has predictably attracted world-wide attention – that 90% of the peloton is still doping.

 

FULL ARTICLE

The following analysis concerns the first chapter of the CIRC report (pages 20-89). The aim of the CIRC was to provide an historical overview of the problem of doping in cycling, paying special attention to the period between 2008 up to the present day.

I will comment on some of the issues covered in this chapter, but not on all. In this chapter, the CIRC also offers opinions about doping and about the fight against doping in general – and it is, of course, perfectly entitled to hold these opinions. Some of the CIRC’s opinions I share, others I do not.

 

Introduction (page 20)

The CIRC writes that “doping and cheating remain evident in the peloton, though it is probably not as endemic as it used to be”.

What is the proof for bold statement, other than the knowledge that there is no sport without doping? The fact that there are still riders that are found positive?   The statement by a respected rider that 90% of the peloton is still doping (page 56)?

And what does the CIRC mean when it says that it is “probably” not so endemic as it used to be?   Does it mean that there is probably less doping in cycling, or that doping in cycling is probably less endemic? And how did the CIRC find that out?

In the same vain, the CIRC writes that “a good number of individuals, teams and team personnel are striving to participate in the sport without doping…. Yet there a a number who continue to cheat”.

If only the CIRC could tell us who it is that is continuing to cheat.

 

Historical section (pages 26-52)

For obvious reasons, the CIRC could not cronicle the entire history of doping in cycling. Similarly, I will not provide an extensive commentary on this either. This is not the place to detail that long history. I will therefore limit my contribution to making a number of observations and I will revisit other issues, such as the haematocrit test, in more detail later.

I can’t help wondering, however, to what extent the history of doping in cycling is different from the history of doping in other sports, or in sport in general. Of course the problem of doping in other sports, or in sports in general, should not be used as an excuse for cycling’s problems, or for any mistakes that may have been made in the fight against doping in cycling.

And yet taking a global perspective would have illustrated better the huge challenge that cycling faced in its fight against doping, as well as the many achievements made by cycling compared with other sports.

It goes without saying that every sport must be held responsible for its own good housekeeping, but in matters of anti-doping (as well as many other difficult social phenomenons) the magnitude of the task and the value of a particular sport’s achievements can be better understood by looking at the broad picture and using it as a yardstick, rather than focussing on individual details.

It is too simple to declare that ‘perfection’ should be the only relevant benchmark, rather than instead assessing the scale and difficulty of the task, as well as the great strides that have been along the road towards this ideal, especially with more than 10 years of hindsight.

In addition, the CIRC report signally fails to give credit for what the UCI achieved back in the nineties and in subsequent decades. I will offer here only the examples that relate to the issues mentioned in the report, without mentioning the great many other achievements that the CIRC should have been found noteworthy, even praiseworthy. Nevertheless, the examples below show how the CIRC report tells only part of the story and leaves out the part for which the UCI should be given some credit.

 

Pedro Delgado

On page 31, the CIRC writes that Pedro Delgado who was found to have used probenecid “received no penalty and was permitted to complete, and win, the Tour of 1988”. This falsely implies that the UCI had given permission to a doper to continue racing. On page 32, however, the CIRC goes on to note that probenecid was not on the UCI list of banned substances, which was of course the real reason why the UCI could not sanction Delgado and take him out of the Tour.

 

EPO test

The CIRC mentions, on page 42, that in August 2000, the IOC announced it had developed a test for EPO which it would use at the Sydney Olympic Games. It was a two-part test and relied on both a blood screening and a urine analysis to detect EPO. The CIRC also mentions that, in 2001, at the Tour of Flanders [which is correct: on page 161 the CIRC goes on to contradict itself by saying it was at the Flèche Wallonne – just one of a number of other factual inaccuracies all the way through the report] the UCI “carried out its first EPO testing” and that this test had been developed by the French laboratory of Châtenay-Malabry.

The CIRC does not mention that:

  • the two-part blood and urine test was not used at the Sydney Olympics. Samples were certainly taken and analysed, but I was later informed that it had been discovered the test did not work and no EPO findings were therefore officially reported by the laboratory;
  • the EPO tests introduced by the UCI at the 2001 Tour of Flanders (8 April 2001) were the first genuine EPO tests that resulted in official laboratory reports;
  • some days later, the EPO tests introduced by the UCI led to the first adverse analytical finding for EPO at the Flèche Wallonne (Roland Meier, 18 April 2001), followed by another adverse analytical finding following an out-of-competition test on 19 April 2001 (Bo Hamburger);
  • the UCI had the ‘sole urinary EPO test’ validated at its own cost and its own risk;
  • the UCI, with the help of Prof. De Ceaurriz of the Châtenay-Malabry lab and Martial Saugy of the Lausanne lab, defended this test successfully before CAS in the Hamburger and Meier cases, where CAS (in January 2002) accepted the reliability of the EPO test that the UCI had introduced in the Tour of Flanders 2001.

All of the information above was made freely available to the CIRC. But, perhaps because including the real facts would have shown the UCI in a positive light during the period while I was President, the CIRC conveniently omited to mention it.

 

Pantani

On page 43, the CIRC refers to the Italian anti-doping legislation and the raid by the Italian drug squad (NAS) on the hotel rooms of riders competing in the 2001 Giro d’Italia.

The CIRC does not mention that:

  • one of these riders was Marco Pantani and a syringe was found in his room containing a forbidden substance;
  • Marco Pantani was acquitted by the Italian cycling federation on the grounds of uncertainty surrounding the contents of the syringe;
  • The UCI appealed the Italian cycling federation’s decision to CAS;
  • at the UCI’s request and after complicated discussions resulting in a 58-page award, CAS found Pantani guilty of possession of a prohibited substance and he was suspended for six months and fined CHF 3,000 pursuant to the then rules (TAS 2002/A/403/408 of 12 March 2003).

All of this information was available to the CIRC.

This determined action by the UCI, taken against one of its star riders, is not mentioned at all by the CIRC. Once again, it has been omitted because it does not fit into the negative picture that has been painted of me and of the UCI prior to Mr Cookson’s reign.

This action taken by the UCI also does not fit into the negative judgment given by the CIRC concerning the fact that Pantani was taken out of the Giro in 1999 by UCI for a haematocrit level above 50% , something which, according to the CIRC, was not seen by the UCI as a “success” (page 128).

The CIRC suggests that Pantani had been caught because of “a break from usual practice according to the ranking of the riders”. This is double nonsense!

In the first place, haematocrit tests were not carried out depending on riders’ ranking, but through a selection of teams, all of whose riders had to undergo the test.

Secondly, when the CIRC states that there was a break from the practice according to the ranking of the riders, the CIRC knew that the morning of the blood test, 5 June 1999, Pantani, who had already won four stages including the day before (4 June), was so far ahead of the general classification that in normal circumstances it would no longer have been impossible for him to lose the Giro.

So the CIRC makes this totally wrong and absurd assumption solely to put this action of the UCI in a bad light.

Look at it from the opposite perspective: imagine how the CIRC would have lambasted the UCI if Pantani, after four stage victories and with an advantage of 5’38” and only two stages left to go, had not been tested for his haematocrit levels. In that case, it would surely have been seen as irresponsible, if not as an act of ‘protection’, if the UCI had not tested Pantani based on his ranking.

Clearly, whatever actions the UCI took before Cookson took office as UCI president, the CIRC would do its level best to find a way to discredit it.

But there is more.

The CIRC also states that “according to former UCI staff” this “incident was not considered to be a success because they caught someone (which is telling about UCI’s attitude to anti-doping)”.

This is actually more telling about the CIRC’s attitude towards me and towards the UCI in the period before Cookson became President.

It is apparently sufficient that one single person provides a negative opinion for the CIRC to highlight this in its report.

The CIRC does not bother to find out:

  • Is this one person’s opinion correct?
  • Does anyone else hold a different opinion?
  • What is Lon Schattenberg’s opinion, who was, after all, in charge at the time? The CIRC posed written questions to a number of different people, so why not to Lon Schattenberg?
  • What is Hein Verbruggen’s opinion?

It is also very possible that some people did provide the CIRC with more positive opinions about this “incident”, but that they were not reported.

Both possibilities are equally improper.

The exclusion of Marco Pantani from the 1999 Giro, although not based upon a doping test, was certainly considered by the UCI to be a success in the fight against doping. However, the CIRC gives credence only to one single opinion (that the UCI did not consider it as a success) and to report this opinion as ‘fact’.

Perhaps the interviewee only meant that it was not seen as a success for cycling because Pantani, who was such a high profile rider at the time, had been caught breaching the rules?

 

CIRC ignores other relevant facts

On page 44, the CIRC writes about the test for homologous blood transfusion which was used for the first time at the Athens Olympic Games. The CIRC naturally fails to add that the UCI was the first international federation to use that test. The CIRC also fails to add that it was UCI which caught Tyler Hamilton and Santi Perez using this test. There is no credit given to the UCI in the CIRC’s report. It is also strange that, when referring to these cases, the CIRC only makes reference to the CAS decision in the Ekimov case and to a single press article. Meanwhile, the full UCI file relating to both of these cases was made available to the CIRC.

The CIRC makes a comment that both riders, Hamilton and Perez, were in the Phonak team at the time. What the CIRC does not say, however, is that because of the doping problems in that team, Phonak was refused a ProTour license for the first year of the ProTour, i.e. 2005.

Phonak appealed to CAS and UCI defended the decision of the license commission vigorously. However, CAS ruled that Phonak should be granted a ProTour license.

The Phonak case is just one more illustration of UCI’s determined stance against doping at that time. I can only suppose that this, and not objectivity, is the reason why the case is left out of the CIRC’s report.

Similarly where, on page 46, the CIRC lists a number of riders who were suspended because of their implication in the Puerto affair (incidently, forgetting Jan Ullrich – sloppy again!), there is no mention of the actions taken by the UCI to have these riders sanctioned. There is not a word about the excellent collaboration between UCI and WADA, especially in the Valverde case. There is no word about all the work done in opening dozens of files against other riders (cases that subsequently had to be suspended due to Spanish legal impediments).

Similarly, where the CIRC mentions the case of Floyd Landis and Alexander Vinokourov (on page 46), it carefully avoids mentioning that it was UCI that caught this Tour de France winner. There is not a word on the fact that – as has since been admitted by USADA – if this had not happened, Lance Armstrong’s cheating would never have been discovered. Landis only started to talk because Armstrong refused to include him on his team after Landis’s return from his suspension.

No word either about the fact that it was UCI that caught Alexander Vinokourov. No word that UCI went after the whole team to test all of the riders. No word about the UCI going after Andrey Kashechkin (who was not staying with his team) by sending two doping control officers from Belgium to Turkey to test Kashechkin in his gated holiday resort late in the evening. Indeed, these must be the officers who had a ‘lack of education, experience and support’ that the CIRC refers to on page 122.

Finally, there is not a word about the huge civil proceedings in Liège (Belgium) when the UCI defended the whole antidoping system under the Code, including the role and position of CAS, in the case against Kashechkin who was challenging each and every aspect of the Code under the European Convention of Human Rights. (The case eventually ended with the court ruling that it had no jurisdiction).

In each of the cases mentioned above, there is a huge file from the UCI. It is simply impossible that they could have been overlooked by accident.

 

One last remark

On page 47, the CIRC writes that testosterone was widely used during this time period, as illustrated by the Floyd Landis case. I will certainly not contest that testosterone was used. However, as I have no knowledge of any reliable prevalence study, I will not make a wild guess about how widespread this was – unlike Dick Pound, who suddenly decreed, out of the blue, that 30% of NHL players doped. I can’t help but wonder how a supposedly independent commission can deduce on the basis of a single rider that testosterone was ‘widely used’.

 

 

2008 – Today (pages 52 – 89)

USADA’s reasoned decision

On page 55, the CIRC mentions USADA’s reasoned decision regarding Lance Armstrong. I have no wish to detract from USADA’s efforts and achievements in this case, but I do want to point out yet another example of how the CIRC has systematically tried to show the UCI in a negative light, up to the moment that Cookson took office.

As mentioned before, the CIRC conveniently ignores any instance where the UCI had put significant efforts to prosecute doping cases (such as the case aganst Johan Museeuw and others, which was a good example of the UCI working with national judicial and antidoping authorities; Michael Rasmussen and his false whereabouts information; Iljo Keisse, where the UCI defended the CAS decision before the Belgian courts; and many, many others).   The CIRC clearly wants to suggest a difference with the UCI when it refers to USADA’s decision demonstrating that “sporting legacies can be dismantled, even years after an athlete’s retirement, where there is the will to pursue dopers, supported by science and improved investigation techniques”.

I wonder what “science and improved investigation techniques” the CIRC is referring to here, as the case against Lance Armstrong resulted directly out of statements made by Floyd Landis and the investigation by the US federal investigation authorities, as the CIRC itself goes on to acknowledge on page 56.

The CIRC also conveniently forgets to mention the UCI’s request (in May 2010) to the national federations and to USADA, asking them to investigate the accusations made by whistleblower Floyd Landis.

The CIRC also keeps silent on the fact that neither WADA nor USADA (the national antidoping agency for Lance Armstrong and his US teammates with US Postal) have ever seen any ground to pursue Armstrong and indeed made no attempt to do so before the statements made by Floyd Landis on 30 April 2010 – not even, it should be added, after the Vrijman report and the SCA case.

 

CIRC conceals WADA’s and USADA’s extremely low testing numbers for Lance Armstrong

What is particularly symptomatic of the CIRC’s bias against the UCI is the frequently repeated statement, first made on page 56, that “USADA, WADA and UCI (note the order) cumulatively tested Lance Armstrong around 200 times”.

By lumping all these tests together into one total, the CIRC avoids mentioning that the overwhelming majority of these tests were carried out by the UCI – and obviously also glosses over the astonihingly low number of tests carried out on Lance Armstrong by WADA and USADA. This is relevant information, but because it could (and should) give credit to the UCI (before Cookson took office), this is information that is ruthlessly suppressed by the CIRC. Incidentally, it goes without saying that the CIRC was in full posession of all of these figures.

Between, 1995 and June 2001 the UCI tested Lance Armstrong 65 times.

Between June 2001 and July 2005, when Lance Armstrong retired, the UCI tested him a further 75 times – and more than half of these tests included the EPO test that is not part of the standard testing menu.

The UCI had an agreement with WADA, which authorized WADA to conduct out-of-competition tests on cyclists.

According to the statistics that UCI received from WADA and which were made available to the CIRC, WADA tested Lance Armstrong two times in the four-year period between 2002 and 2005. One test was carried out on 12 January 2002, the other on 3 June 2005.

This means that there was a period of three-and-a-half years during which Lance Armstrong was not tested even one single time by WADA.

Both of WADA’s tests were negative. I don’t know whether any suspicion was reported by the laboratories to WADA. Only WADA knows.

Notwithstanding all of the anti-UCI and all anti-Armstrong rhetoric by WADA and by Dick Pound in particular, Armstrong was clearly not very high on WADA’s priority list, to say the least.

And what about USADA?

USADA started testing in the fourth quarter of 2000. USADA tested Lance Armstrong for the first time one year later, on 20 November 2001. Between then and the end of 2003, USADA tested Armstrong a further three more times, in other words two tests a year. In 2004-2005, when suspicions about Armstrong had been published more prominently (such as in ‘LA Confidentiel’, and the SCA case), USADA tested Armstrong a further eight times: five times in 2004 (of which four tests were conducted in four days at the 2004 Tour of California) and another three times in 2005. All of the tests were negative. I don’t know whether any suspicion was reported by the laboratories to WADA. Again, only WADA knows.

Lance Armstrong is ranked 29th, out of riders who were most tested by USADA in the years 2001-2005.

It should be noted – something the CIRC would almost certainly have done if this had been relevant to the UCI – that USADA is supposed to be the responsible national anti-doping organization for the United States (but it did not test any of the major professional sports in its country) and that Lance Armstrong was the US star rider and he lived in the United States for at least half of the year, when he was not competing in Europe.

So, before his retirement in 2005, Lance Armstrong was tested a 154 times, of which 140 of these tests were carried out by the UCI, two by WADA and 12 by USADA. It would only be fair to calculate these figures based on the period in which WADA and USADA had been created and had started testing. In this case, the division of testing would be: 75 tests carried out by the UCI, two tests by WADA and 12 tests by USADA.

If those low numbers had been tests carried out by UCI and not those of WADA or USADA, the CIRC would certainly have concluded that the UCI had been protecting Lance Armstrong.

After Armstrong’s return in 2008, the situation changed, as the introduction of the blood passport entailed an increase in the number of blood samples being taken. Although these samples are not stand-alone doping tests, they have been counted into the test numbers.

USADA, after the reduction of Armstrong’s waiting period was announced publicly on 8 October 2008, tested Lance Armstrong only once more before the start of the Tour Down Under, on 13 November 2008. USADA did not test Lance Armstrong between 13 November 2008 and 20 January 2009, when the race started.

So USADA did not even test Armstrong once during the two months prior to his return to competition.

As for WADA, after Armstrong had announced his return to competition, WADA tested Armstrong just once, on 8 October 2008.

After that test, including during his competition period which was from January 2009 until January 2011 when Armstrong retired from international cycling – in other words, a period of two years – Armstrong was not tested at all by WADA.

In the time between Armstrong’s announcement that he would return to competition until his retirement from international cycling in January 2011, USADA tested Armstrong 17 times, the last time on 20 December 2010.

After January 2011, Armstrong continued to compete in national races in the US and also in triathlon races until 2012, during which time he remained under the jurisdiction of USADA. During this period and even while Armstrong was under investigation by the US federal authorities, USADA tested Armstrong just one more time, on 30 April 2012.

And in this same period, from August 2008 until January 2011, UCI tested Armstrong 45 times. This figure represents the number of testing sessions, not the number of samples taken, as at some testing sessions more than one sample was taken, for example a blood sample plus a urine sample.

This brings us to a total of 217 tests carried out on Lance Armstrong, of which 185 by done by UCI, 3 by WADA and 29 by USADA.

According to USADA’s own statistics, in the whole relevant period that USADA has been testing, from 2001 until 2010, Armstrong was the sixth most tested rider out of all the US riders that have ever ridden for the US Postal Team with Armstrong.

This also means that, from 2002 until 2010, Lance Armstrong was tested by WADA only three times over a period of nine years!

Amidst all the controversy that WADA and USADA have stirred up against the UCI, because (they say) UCI didn’t catch Lance Armstrong, it should not be forgotten that WADA and USADA, despite their claims that they “always had known” and their suggestions that the UCI was somehow protecting Armstrong, did far less than UCI when it came to trying to catch Lance Armstrong. If they had always known, as they say, then it is truly shameful how little these two supposedly responsible organisations did about it.

But what is also shameful is that, despite all of this information being fully available to the CIRC, it then deceitfully concealed all of the relevant details of WADA and USADA’s failings behind the single aggregate figure that its report quoted of 200 tests.

 

“90 % of the peloton is still doping”

On page 56, the CIRC gives credence to the unsubstantiated conjecture by one “respected” rider that 90% of the peloton is still doping. This individual opinion is then backed up by the statement in the CIRC report that any discrepancies in the estimations (anywhere between 20% and 90%) may be caused by the different definitions of doping used by individuals. If one takes the very narrowest definition of being clean, which is, in fact, the only correct one (in other words, not taking any of the substances on the prohibited list), then logically the CIRC is giving credence to the estimation that only 10% of the peloton are riding clean.

This is simply speculation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with responsible scientific research, or fact-finding. A study has been published on the prevalence of doping in track and field athletics. From reliable sources, I am informed that, based on the same analytical methods this study uses, the prevalence of doping in cycling is less. However, for CIRC it was of course far easier to include speculative guesswork in its report rather than proper fact-finding.

 

TUEs

On page 60, CIRC mentions TUEs and the abuse of TUEs. I certainly do not contest that TUEs are abused in a number of cases.

Yet the CIRC carefully avoids mentioning that WADA is allowed to review any TUE (article 4.4 of the WADA code). I would not be surprised if WADA had reviewed all TUEs in cycling, yet I am not aware of the number of TUEs that WADA may have overturned. Apparently the CIRC has not checked either, however this does not prevent it somehow confirming widespread abuse of the system.

UCI and WADA, working together in excellent collaboration, defended the refusal of a TUE to a rider in two lengthy legal procedures, which proceeded all the way up to CAS. This of course is not mentioned by the CIRC either.

In footnote 123, the CIRC, by way of an exception, actually makes a reference to figures. It states that between 2008 and 2014, a minimum of 550 TUEs were registered with UCI.   That amounts to an average of 80 TUEs per year. I don’t know precisely how many riders were included in the UCI’s registered testing pool, but it would have been close to 800. So, assuming no rider had registered a TUE more than once, a simple calculation would suggest that a maximum of 10% of the riders had a TUE. The CIRC naturally reports the opinions of one solitary rider (on page 61) that 90% of the TUEs were used for doping purposes. If this were so, then it would amount to 9% of the total number of riders registered in the UCI’s registered testing pool which includes all riders in the ProTeams. Even in this somewhat unrealistic calculation, 9% is still a world away from the 90% of the riders that the CIRC seems to believe – and publicly alleges – are still doping. Logically, this then means that 81% of the peloton must still be doping without using faked TUEs.

Of course, reporting guesses is a lot easier and more convenient than carrying out any fact-finding, or even making a simple and logical calculation.

This also reminds me of another story concerning TUEs and figures. In August 2000, CPLD, the French NADO, made the world believe that 45% of the riders who had been tested during the 2000 Tour de France had doped. It did this by making public that, in 45% of the samples, a prohibited substance had been found. As several riders had actually delivered more than one sample, the number of riders involved was less than 45%, but that is not the point. The point is that afterwards CPLD carried out an examination of all of the medical justifications for the use of these substances, which were all corticosteroïds and beta-2 agonists. CPLD accepted all of the medical justifications and, in doing so, confirmed that no abuse had been found.

This did not however prevent the CPLC stating the following year, in an interview with the French newspaper Libération published on 24 September 2001, that the number of riders in the 2001 Tour that had doped under cover of a medical prescription was almost the same as in 2000. To my knowledge, no medical justification that related to one third of the participants in the 2001 Tour de France was rejected by CPLD. (Until 2006, all testing in France was governed by French legislation and the French authorities had jurisdiction).

This information, which was readily available to the CIRC, was not mentioned in its report. This certainly does not preclude the abuse of medical prescriptions, but it provides the correct perspective to the overall picture and so makes it more objective. This is not something, apparently, which the CIRC wishes to do.

There may be another reason why this was not mentioned in the CIRC report. Further in its report, the CIRC reproaches the UCI for being in conflict with WADA, USADA and also the French NADO. I cannot imagine any sports governing body passively allowing a NADO to declare publicly that half of its athletes are doping and then, some months later after examining the case properly, acknowledging (without publicizing the fact) that in fact no athlete had been found positive. I ask: who created the conflict here?

 

Corticosteroids

I do not contest the effects of corticosteroids listed by the CIRC on page 59, but I would simply point out that scientists’ opinions and knowledge have evolved. A decade ago, most would have doubted the performance enhancing effect of corticosteroids and were even in favour of removing corticosteroids from the prohibited list. Other people have also suggested this for one of the reasons which is cited by the CIRC: it is simply not possible to tell from a sample that contains corticosteroids whether these have been administered through a permitted route of administration, or not. So aside from exceptional cases, where there is other evidence available, one can only rely on an athlete’s word, or that of his/her doctor.

The experience of the UCI (and also of the IOC at the Olympic Games) has also shown that in some teams and in some countries corticosteroids are not used, while in other teams and/or countries there is a substantial use of corticosteroids: it is also a medico-cultural phenomenon that varies geographically and it makes no sense to put all riders into the same box.

The CIRC admits that the problem of TUEs for corticosteroids and beta-2 agonists remains a significant problem even today. But this problem has existed since tests were first introduced that could detect these substances. The regimes of these substances and of their medical justification have been different from sport to sport and from country to country – and have also changed many times over the years. The regime has also changed several times under the Code.

In summary, the reality of corticosteroid use is far more complex and nuanced than the conclusions in the CIRC report.

 

Investigation into clandestine doping programmes?

An interesting section in the CIRC report concerns the “Sources of PEDs” and the “Modus operandi”, on page 64-68. The CIRC explains that there are clandestine doping programmes involving sophisticated external doping teams, expert doctors, anti-aging and wellness-type clinics operating as doping facilities.

I can’t help but wonder whether these are simply rumours and stories that were told to the CIRC, or whether perhaps the CIRC has managed to collect concrete information detailed enough to enable UCI, or WADA, or other ADOs, to start proper investigations. I understand that, if the latter were the case, the CIRC would have made a confidential report to the UCI. However, in that case the CIRC would also have mentioned that it had made such a report. The CIRC does not mention it, so I have to conclude that there is no such report. If so, the CIRC now runs a risk that riders who had provided these stories will complain to the CIRC that there has been no follow-up to the evidence that they provided.

The point I want to make is clear: not all information that riders give is solid enough to justify launching an investigation, even if the rider calls himself a whistleblower. But perhaps this distinction only applies to Brian Cookson, not to me or to Pat McQuaid.

In any event, I am curious to know whether Mr Cookson and WADA will launch an investigation into the facts – or lack of them – surrounding this section of the CIRC report.

 

Missed tests

On page 68, the CIRC reports that riders felt that they had the comfort of being able to have a missed test. This I fully understand. I also understand, given the biased attitude adopted by the CIRC, that it did not bother to mention that the UCI had opposed amending article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code on filing failures and missed tests.

Under the 2009 Code, there was an anti-doping rule violation if there were three missed tests and/or filing failures within an 18 month period. Under the 2015 Code, this has become a 12-month period, allowing an athlete to miss two tests in a 12 month period without consequences, which is 50% more lenient than the 2009 Code with its 18-month period.

The UCI had opposed that change. One of the considerations for the UCI’s opposition was that many athletes (although not riders) are not even tested three times a year. As a result, they would hardly have to worry about missing two tests in 12 months.

However, because this attempt to prevent a relaxation of the Code was made by the UCI during the pre-Cookson era, it is naturally finds no place in the final CIRC report.

 

Youth cycling

That being said, I share the CIRC’s concern about doping in youth cycling. The report, however, contains no criticism of NADOs in this respect. The CIRC perfectly understands their budgetary constraints (page 69).   But the same understanding is not extended to the UCI’s budgetary constraints, not even when the federation was still an extremely small organisation under my presidency. And, unlike NADOs, the UCI is not funded by governments.

I was also happy to read that the CIRC acknowledges that “some managers try to identify good quality amateur riders in their mid-teens to sign them clean before they got exposed” (page 69).   Even if this statement is as vague and abstract as the majority of statements in the CIRC report, it at least strikes a positive note: there are indeed teams that make considerable efforts to keep riders away from doping. My question to the CIRC, then, is how this fits with the allegation that 90% of riders today are still doping (page 56) and that doping is still endemic in the peloton, although probably not as endemic as it used to be (page 20). One vague and unsubstantiated statement is in complete contradiction to the other vague and unsubstantiated allegation.

 

Women’s cycling

On page 70, the CIRC report states its belief that “women’s elite road cycling is under-developed and potentially offers a great opportunity for cycling”. It goes on to report other considerations about “poor support for women’s cycling in the past”. This obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with doping, or with the CIRC’s Terms of Reference, however it very conveniently corresponds to one of the major elements in Cookson’s election manifesto.

 

Doping and the big Tours

On page 72, the CIRC deals with the often-heard argument that the points system, the busy race calendars and the three big Tours are factors that may incite riders to dope.

This is very interesting. The CIRC writes that it was told so “on a number of occasions”, or by “a number of interviewees”, or that a suggestion was made by “some riders”.

It is generally known, although apparently not to the members of the CIRC, that not only riders and riders’ organisations such as CPA, but also that many cycling observers have repeatedly noted that the points system, the busy race calendar and the three big Tours incite riders to dope.

More specifically, what I learned (but who am I to know) is that riders may be doping in the big Tours not to enhance their performance as such, but instead simply to survive the third week and complete the Tour. It is not only riders who are advocating that the three big tours be reduced to two weeks.

But how does the CIRC report this?

For the CIRC, it seems to be sufficient that one “respected” rider alleges that 90% of the peloton is still doping for the CIRC to give this allegation complete credence and so to confirm that doping is still endemic.

But then “a number” of riders come before them to offer ideas which, in their view, would reduce the recourse to doping, or at least the risk of doping.

Apparently these riders, who clearly outnumber the one respected rider, were not respectable enough to be taken seriously and so their opinion was dismissed forthwith.

Instead of examining this, instead of looking at studies on the subject, instead of checking with other people the CIRC simply says the following:

‘…However, rearranging a calendar is a complex business for many sporting, financial and other reasons. Furthermore, the Commission is of the view that the race calendar and the point system have a negligible impact on doping and consequently are not an excuse for doping.’

That’s it.

The CIRC is of the view that the race calendar and the point system have a “negligible impact on doping”. It don’t say why, but simply spouts this opinion.

And then comes a key point: “…consequently the calendar and the point system are not an excuse for doping.” Logically, then, if their impact were to be judged “not negligible”, they would then be an excuse for doping?

This is simply not serious. These riders did not testify to the CIRC looking for an excuse, but they were trying to seek a solution to an existing problem.

However, the CIRC is only too aware that the organizers of the three big Tours are vehemently opposed to any change in the calendar (or at least to any change in their domination of the calendar) and they are certainly vehemently opposed to shortening the big tours.

On page 227 of the report, the CIRC details that it spoke to Patrice Clerc and Angelo Zomegnan, former directors of the Tour de France and of the Giro d’Italia respectively. I cannot imagine that these issues were not brought up with them. They were not brought up with me.

On page 73, the CIRC writes that “it is clear that the need to obtain results to keep sponsors happy encouraged doping” (note the past tense here: apparently, this is no longer the case under the Cookson presidency) and that “one of the main ways to keep sponsors happy is to win races” (page 74) and that “riders are also aware of the general pressure to keep sponsors in the sport” in order for the sponsor to have “a stage win and podium exposure, perhaps putting off the withdrawal decision”.

So does this not apply to the big Tours then? It takes less to obtain results to keep sponsors happy in a big Tour than in a one-day race?

I don’t see the logic. But I do see opinions that are aimed to please those in power: Brian Cookson, WADA, who, by coincidence, are not very friendly towards Hein Verbruggen.

This also relates to what is written on page 74 of the CIRC report: “Firstly, participation in the Tour was and remains critical for many sponsors. The impact on doping attitudes can be seen in the French teams, which have over the last 10 years generally been thought of as clean; because French teams know that they will be able to participate in the Tour, they are able to provide exposure for the sponsor without the pressure to dope to obtain results.”

Here the CIRC admits – and apparently is quite comfortable with – not just an example of discrimination based solely on nationality, but also an apparent link between doping and the Tour de France. However, there is another point to make. The original purpose of the ProTour introduced in 2005 was that all first division teams had the right to participate in the big Tours (and the other major races) for the duration of their ProTour license, ie for four years in principle. This was also aimed to reduce “the pressure to dope to obtain results” in the big Tours, including of course the Tour de France. However, this system which the CIRC believes is a factor that could potentially reduce the risk of doping, caused the major conflict between myself and Patrice Clerc, the then director of ASO (and not, as is wrongly reported on page 93 of the report, the TV rights. Clearly Clerc got his revenge when testifying to the CIRC, and the CIRC’s report reflects the view of Clerc, without checking facts and of course without hearing me on the issue.

Similarly, the ProTour licence enabled longer term contracts between sponsors and teams, and in turn allowed teams to sign longer-term contracts with their riders (according to the CIRC, on page 73, short-term contracts had also put riders under an additional pressure to dope).

Despite all of this, the CIRC continues to maintain that I was the ‘villain’ in the conflict with ASO – and all of the elements which the CIRC considers helpful in the fight against doping are not mentioned in relation to this conflict.

 

Doping and sponsors

In the section on sponsorship (page 73-76), the CIRC makes some general observations on the link between doping in cycling and decisions by sponsors to leave the sport, or to enter the sport. Only a couple of examples are provided, although throughout the past 20 years many sponsors have come and gone for a great variety of reasons. In my view, if the CIRC is not prepared to study all of these comings and goings, it is hardly in a place to provide informed comment on the issue.

My point is that no one should be surprised when the CIRC writes that “the significant risk for cycling is that the number of doping scandals and damage to the sport’s reputation will cause both existing sponsors to leave the sport and deter new sponsors”.

Gosh! Did the UCI really need to establish an independent commission, at vast expense, to come to that momentous conclusion?

 

Miscellaneous points

On page 76, the CIRC writes that the financial benefits from the sale of broadcast rights go to the UCI and/or event organizers. Where the UCI is concerned, this applies only to a small number of races that are owned by the UCI, such as the world championships in road cycling and a few world cups in other cycling disciplines.

Also on page 76, the CIRC reports that it had been told better sharing of information about riders would enable teams to make better informed decisions when deciding whether to hire riders. One of the main goals of the CIRC was to give recommendations to the UCI to improve its fight against doping in cycling. But the CIRC does not comment on the suggestion of better information sharing, obviously skirting round the issue of riders’ privacy rights. This is not very helpful.

On page 79, the CIRC deals with the issue of former riders/dopers returning to the sport. No mention is made of UCI’s proposals to WADA for amending the Code in this respect, so that dopers could be prevented, at least for some time, to come back as managers or on the staff of a cycling team.

The CIRC also ignores the rule that was introduced by the UCI in 2011, which prevents former dopers being hired on the staff of a team, or limits the possibilities of being hired if reduced sanctions were imposed (article 1.1.006.2 of UCI’s cycling regulations).

Surely these issues should have been considered important by the CIRC, emphasizing as they do the importance of a sound team environment for the riders: “Clearly it is harder to create a ‘clean culture’ if riders are not together in a team environment…” (page 71).

There is another somewhat ambiguous sentence on page 81 of the report: “He [Francesco Conconi] was apparently being paid to develop a test to detect EPO and was simultaneously being paid to provide elite athletes with EPO to enhance their performance. It took perhaps 9 or 10 years before a test for EPO was produced.

Is the CIRC suggesting here that it “perhaps” took 9 or 10 years to develop a EPO test because Conconi, who was working on developing an EPO test, was at the same time doping athletes?   I cannot confirm whether he did and I could understand that Conconi may have had an interest in slowing down his research. However, there were a number of other scientists who were also trying to find a method in that same timeperiod – and it is by no means certain that Conconi would have succeeded before these other scientists even if he had been working as fast as possible (assuming, of course, that he didn’t). I was informed that it had taken the scientists five years to develop the EPO test that the UCI introduced in 2001.

On page 82, the CIRC correctly notes the important point that law enforcement and anti-doping organizations must be able to share relevant information. However, the CIRC then ignores the requests made by the UCI to WADA, asking the world’s anti-doping body to try to make governments adopt regulations for that purpose.

 

Media and Paul Kimmage

The CIRC only offers a few generalities about cycling and the media (page 83). Not a single one of its statements has even the slightest attempt at substantiation. When the report makes serious accusations, such as “…the environment was openly hostile, highly litigious and deeply protective” the least a reader might expect is that it would offer some basis, or evidence, to support its accusation.

But, as is clear from so much of the report, providing any substantiating evidence is clearly not a high priority for the CIRC.

Similarly, the CIRC writes that “…journalists who did investigate and sought to inform the public of the extent of the doping were often confronted with law suits.” If that had happened “often”, one might at least have expected some examples to have been provided.

Probably the CIRC is hinting at the court case that the UCI, Pat McQuaid and myself instigated against the journalist Paul Kimmage. However, the CIRC is certainly very well aware – but naturally avoids mentioning to any readers of its report – that Paul Kimmage had been completely free to criticize the UCI and its presidents for many years. Indeed, he had made ample use of this freedom. The law suit against Kimmage was not instigated because he was investigating doping stories, but simply because he had falsely accused the UCI, Pat McQuaid and myself of having covered up tests and taken money to do that – in other words, he had accused us of corruption. This sort of completely false allegation is an offense, as the CIRC should well know. Indeed, the CIRC itself has found no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the accusations made by Kimmage that were, in fact, the reason for the CIRC’s very creation.

And the CIRC self-servingly adds that “efforts to protect riders and ignore stories which raised strong suspicions of doping activity was another factor that allowed an open culture of doping to exist for so long”. Once again, the CIRC throws out general accusations without a shred of substantiation.

 

Education

Reporting on education, MPCC and technical cheating (on pages 83-86), the CIRC pays no attention to (and makes no mention of) the UCI’s many initiatives regarding education, the rules for granting licences, the support of the UCI for the Code of Ethics for professional teams, the technical rules and technical tests.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the CIRC report offers a relentlessly negative picture, but one based almost entirely on a series of biased assumptions, generalities and opinions. For what was supposed to be an authoritative report on doping in the sport of cycling, facts are in woefully short supply.

At best, the CIRC has simply made no effort to look for any element that might correct, or even refute, the negative picture painted of the UCI up until 2013; at worst, any element that might have contributed to a more balanced perspective has been carefully and ruthlessly painted out of the picture by the CIRC.

Either scenario surely has no place whatsoever in what was supposed to be an independent and objective investigation.

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