VERSAILLES (AFP) — Tour de France organizers are in favor of an independent body to deal with anti-doping issues in professional cycling across the board, race director Christian Prudhomme said on Thursday.
Prudhomme said that for this year’s edition of Paris-Nice, which starts on March 3, they were keen to secure the services of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) as well as for other races in France.
“We would like the AFLD to be there and more generally but obviously it won’t just be for this year. We need to have a truly independent anti-doping body which has nothing to do with federations and which oversees all disciplines,” he said.
“It’s difficult to be both judge and jury,” said Prudhomme, without mentioning the sport’s world governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which has been at loggerheads with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its U.S. counterpart.
The issue of how to tighten doping controls in the sport has come to a head after U.S. rider Lance Armstrong’s admission last month that he took a cocktail of banned drugs to win the Tour de France a record seven times between 1999 and 2005.
The disgraced Texan was banned from the sport for life and stripped of his career wins back to August 1998, severely denting cycling’s reputation and casting a cloud over modern-day riders, despite efforts to drastically clean up the sport.
Prudhomme said it was “possible” that WADA could step in to oversee doping control in cycling, which would alter the current arrangement by which the UCI sets policy as well as organizes drug testing.
The AFLD, whose remit extends to all sports in France, has been brought in by organizers in recent years for international events held in the country, although the UCI has retained control of operations.
Prudhomme also rejected a French cycling federation (FFC) proposal to allow national teams to compete in the sport’s most prestigious race.
The director of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), Christian Prudhomme, said he was in favor of the system in place since the end of the 1960s, in which sponsored teams participate in the annual event.
On Wednesday, the head of the FFC, David Lappartient, put forward plans for a return of national teams as part of what he called a “revolutionary project” for the legendary competition, which has its 100th edition this year.
“I’ll say it again, we’re fond of our sponsored teams,” said Prudhomme. “There are now some sponsored teams that resemble national ones. For me, a return to national teams is a bit of an old chestnut.
“It was great, but I’m not convinced that it’s a solution for the future.