LONDON (AFP) — World cycling chief Pat McQuaid is convinced there will be no repeat of the aftermath of the 2008 Olympics when Italian Davide Rebellin tested positive after winning the silver medal in the men’s road race.
Rebellin finished second behind Spain’s Samuel Sánchez, only to be stripped of his medal when a sample taken from him at the Games later tested positive for EPO (erythropoietin).
Since 2008 cycling has been, according to UCI president McQuaid, the most proactive sport in the fight against doping.
Its pioneering blood passport program has proved such a success that other sports, including track and field, have partly adopted it, and so great a deterrent, McQuaid believes, that riders will think twice about cheating.
He now believes there is little chance any of the podium finishers at these Olympics will later be unveiled as drugs cheats.
“Since then (2008) the biological passport has come in and the products that they were using at that time were new products that they didn’t think were being tested for, but they were being tested for and they ended up getting caught,” McQuaid told AFP on Thursday.
“Today, it’s much more difficult for a rider to come in with a new product because the new product, whatever it might be, will show parameter changes in the blood.
“And the passport deals a lot with that particular issue.”
The blood passport program acts, theoretically, as a deterrent because the blood samples given by riders are registered, analyzed and charted over a period of time. Any changes or spikes are then examined further, and if any are suspect those riders involved can be specifically targeted by additional controls.
Going into the Games, however, McQuaid says the UCI has made an extra effort to make sure cycling emerges from London unblemished.
“We’ve certainly done more testing on the Tour de France this year than we’ve ever done before, particularly in the last week,” he added.
“And we’ve also been doing more out of competition controls on riders who we know weren’t riding in France or (the Tour of) Poland, and who we know will be coming to London.
“It was a double-pronged approach… partly for the Tour, and partly for the London Olympics.”
With doping cases being announced recently in track and field, McQuaid says he is satisfied that cycling’s efforts — largely thanks to the passport program — are beginning to pay off. At the same time, one of sport’s top stars, Fränk Schleck, is facing a sanction after testing positive at the Tour for banned diuretic Xipamide. He has declared his innocence.
“It’s been recognized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), it’s been recognized by my colleagues in the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that cycling is the most advanced sport in the fight against doping,” he said.
“With the passport, the UCI is certainly ahead. The others (sports) are playing catch-up, but I don’t think they’re too far behind.”