Seem the UCI deems a 2 year mandatory suspension as to harsh, and wants it reduced to 6 months.
Many see this as finally some proof that the UCI is not really serious about getting rid of the doping issues. It is after all, been going on for over 100 years now.
By VeloNews Interactive
This report filed January 29, 2004
The international governing bodies of soccer and cycling remain the two most prominent and vocal holdouts when it comes to embracing new anti-doping rules the World Anti-Doping Agency suggested on Thursday.
Four of the 28 summer Olympic sports, notably football and cycling, have still not accepted the world anti-doping code, the cornerstone of the fight against perfomance-enhancing drugs in sport, WADA officials said during a media seminar in Lausanne, Switzerland. Soccer's world governing body FIFA still has qualms about two-year doping bans despite its announcement that it is ready to sign up to global rules by May, the officials noted.
WADA officials said they continue to slowly broaden the anti-doping effort but were still struggling to gain wider acceptance for harmonized global rules, just seven months before the start of the Olympic Games in Athens, the deadline for acceptance of the code. The International Basketball Association (FIBA), for example, signed its formal acceptance of the world anti doping code to WADA in Lausanne Thursday.
While only procedural delays are holding up approval by badminton and volleyball until April or May, FIFA and the Union Cycliste International still object to some of the rules, especially the levels of sanctions - including a minimum two-year ban for first offenders - WADA chairman Dick Pound said. Both governing bodies insisted the world anti-doping code allowed a statutory two-year international penalty for a first offense to be reduced if athletes were able to prove "exceptional circumstances."
"We have no difference in principle on this," said Pound a day after he reached an accord with FIFA president Sepp Blatter paving the way for world football to join the code in time for the Athens Games.
But WADA warned it was ready to wield its powers this year if it felt that doping sanctions taken by international federations were not up to par.
"We have the authority and responsibility of challenging and appealing any decision to the Court of Arbitration of Sport. Our task will be to look at any decision that deviates from the code." said David Howman, WADA director general.
The code recognizes only two instances where the two year penalty for a doping offense can be reduced: if athletes can prove that they took a substance inadvertently, or if they showed there was "no significant fault", according to WADA officials. That outlook appears to be narrower than FIFA's.
"As a first step, I'm very confident," Pound said of the "road map" set out with FIFA on Monday. He expected it would take another two years for the system of penalties to come into full swing.
Pound hit out at UCI chief Hein Verbruggen this week in an interview in Le Monde.
"They know Tour de France cyclists and others have been taking prohibited substances," Pond told Le Monde. "It's the same thing in the United States with American football."
But officials suggested Thursday that with more than 85 percent of Olympic governing bodies now accepting the code, no federation could afford to turn up in Athens without being fully in compliance with WADA policy.
"This will be the first major event, a major stage where the anti-doping code will be in place," Howman said.
Pointing to the pioneering roles both sports have played in the history of anti-doping - they were the first to introduce drug tests in 1966 - Pound was confident both would sign up in time.
WADA is also waiting for governments to sign up to an international convention against doping by 2006, a key step to make doping tests and other measures legally enforceable in some countries. It also complained that funding for the agency from governments and Olympic movement was still short of target.
WADA was created in 1999 at the end of an international conference on doping called after the infamous Festina scandal tore apart the 1998 Tour de France. Even at that initial conference, cycling and soccer were the most vocal opponents of the WADA approach to testing and penalties.
French paper Le Monde has printed extracts of a letter written by Armand Mégret, the doctor of the French Cycling Federation (FFC), and sent to FFC president Jean Pitallier and Professional Cycling League president (LCP) Thierry Cazeneuve in which Mégret warns of an apparent increase in EPO use among professional and amateur riders in France.
The letter was sent on September 16th last year and warns of concern within the French cycling establishment about an increase in doping practices even before the recent ‘Cofidis affair’ when two riders and a soigneur on that team were held and questioned by police as part of a investigation into doping.
In his letter Mégret says that "the current situation seriously reminds me of 1997 and makes me fear the worst. The health of the French peloton, both professional and amateur, is becoming worrying." Mégret’s inference is that the situation now in terms of doping is as serious as it was before the Festina scandal of 1998.
Mégret bases his concerns on medical tests undertaken at three different points of last season on a group of 700 French or foreign riders based in French teams. In particular, Mégret highlights the increase during the season in the number of riders whose tests showed the presence of reticulocytes (immature red blood cells). Among the pros, Mégret writes, "the numbers pass from 1.8% when the first test was done in 2003 to 29.2% when the third was done." That third test was done on June 28, just before the French road championships and a week before the start of the Tour de France.
"It is clear that there was some external stimulation of the production of red blood cells among 29.2% of the 154 riders tested," Mégret says, adding: "The hypothesis that stimulation has been via EPO must be considered." Mégret also states that the abnormal level of ferritin, a protein that stores iron in the body, in 30% of riders tested indicates use of EPO. Chillingly, he explains that an excess of iron can lead to liver problems, including cancer.
Mégret also indicates in his letter that 6-7% of riders tested show signs of damage to the adrenal gland and in 90% of cases this is due to "taking corticoids in either a licit or an illicit fashion." This type of damage, says Mégret even more chillingly, could lead to death at any time.
Last week Philippe Gaumont accused Mégret of giving him an injection of corticoids when they were both employed by the Castorama team in 1994.
In a response nine days after Mégret’s letter, the FFC and LCP presidents declare: "Neither the implementation of medical controls nor the introduction of new dope tests – notably for EPO – seem to have convinced riders to change their tack… The moment has come for us to turn towards the government, the ministry of sports and the council for the prevention of doping."
In a subsequent letter to French minister of sport Jean-François Lamour, Pitallier and Cazeneuve ask for the ministry to organise random tests on riders with abnormal health readings and for the federation’s doctors to be allowed to stop riders from competing on health grounds.
In January, and in the wake of the Cofidis revelations, Lamour declared that abnormal medical tests could lead to licences being withdrawn and added that the majority of dope tests would in future be totally random. However, points out Le Monde, the fly in the ointment is that the identity of all riders tested is secret.