MILAN (VN) — The International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) is in standby mode in the wake of the Lance Armstrong investigation, but insists the UCI needs to distance itself from anti-doping controls.
Like many, the AIGCP is waiting for the UCI to announce the full scope of a planned commission, charged mainly with looking into internal corruption and anti-doping reforms.
“The press release seemed to mention a few little things in passing, but it didn’t really get into what this is going to be,” AIGCP head Jonathan Vaughters told VeloNews. “I would like an independent audit on all the anti-doping efforts that are going on … [and] this would be great use of WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency].”
The Switzerland-based governing body said its Management Committee would announce this week which sports body will nominate members and define the commission’s scope. WADA’s director general, David Howman, said in a recent interview that the UCI had not yet contacted his organization.
Before the UCI announced its plans for a commission, AIGCP members voted to support a proposal for an independent review of cycling’s anti-doping program. Pressure is mounting after Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found Armstrong doped for much of his career, using testimony from 11 of his former teammates, including Vaughters.
Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis alleged the UCI had a part in Armstrong’s doping legacy. They claim Armstrong bragged that the governing body helped cover up an alleged positive doping control from the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
UCI president Pat McQuaid denies the claim. However, the Management Committee gave the green light to a commission to examine it. In an October 26 press release the UCI stated that the commission’s scope would be “to look into the various allegations made about UCI relating to the Armstrong affair [and] to find ways to ensure that persons caught for doping were no longer able to take part in the sport, including as part of an entourage.”
Vaughters said the UCI has yet to respond to the AIGCP’s proposal, but that he hopes the commission would examine the current anti-doping structure. Ideally, he explained, the commission would recommend separating the governing body from anti-doping operations. The proposal, also suggested by several European newspapers in a joint manifesto, would lessen the chances of cover-up and bribery claims.
“I think (UCI’s) Francesca Rossi’s and Mario Zorzoli’s work has been excellent. My desire is that you should take those components, people like Rossi and Zorzoli, and separate them out from (the UCI),” added Vaughters. “They shouldn’t be under the same roof.”
Vaughters wants to see that group moved to a different office, funded directly by teams and race organizers, with WADA having the ultimate authority and auditory power.
The 18 first-division teams each pay 120,000 Swiss francs annually to the UCI for its anti-doping system. Vaughters said that teams could fund the new group directly.
“(It would be) a separate company, the ultimate executive control is with WADA, but with the same execution and process that the UCI has now. It’s the case of not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, because there are some excellent people working at the UCI on the biological passport.”
Newspapers in Europe – The Times of London, L’Equipe, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Het Nieuwsblad and Le Soir – issued a joint manifesto with eight points to re-shape cycling. Vaughters himself has been a proponent of a cycling league and distributing TV revenues differently. However, he is currently pushing for small tweaks rather than sweeping changes.
“The first mistake is that somehow this scandal has served as catalyst for something to be done, but this scandal is dealing with one decade ago, it isn’t a current scandal. There are components that may be ongoing, like with (Michele) Ferrari, but … we are not dealing with a current scandal like when the Festina Affair and Operación Puerto happened.
“The biggest thing it calls into question is credibility. Are the results being read correctly? Is there the possibility of cover-up? … A lot of those problems can be solved by moving the anti-doping under a different roof.”
The anti-doping funding needs to increase drastically, he said, and that teams may be willing to do so if the UCI agreed to separate with its anti-doping branch.
“You can have gentlemen’s agreements, manifestos, you can yell. … All of it is great and wonderful, but the enforcement has to be more effective and keep up with the science because at the ground level, the reason why EPO became so effective was due to the lag time from when it started until when there was an effective test for it. That’s down to funding and research.”
The Management Committee this week will indicate the commission’s direction and just how much the UCI is willing to change. It has asked the commission to report back by June 1, when it could force Vaughters’ proposal.