WADA joins cycling body in support of latest anti-doping
Cycling officials embarked on a new effort to clean up their doping-marred sport, pushing ahead with plans to create medical profiles of riders as a way to deter drug cheats.
With cycling's survival at stake, the World Anti-Doping Agency set aside a long-running war of words with the International Cycling Union and gave its support to the "biological passport" program billed as an unprecedented crackdown that could be a model for other sports.
WADA president Dick Pound, who has been sharply critical of the UCI's handling of the doping crisis, hailed the effort and said it was time to reach "a new page" in the sport's future.
"There has been a lot of harsh language back and forth about how cycling got to where it is today," Pound said. "This is a new day. We are trying to work with cycling to help in insofar as we can to get cycling back to where it should be."
Pound said he hoped that some day, historians would look back on the 2006-07 seasons as the years that cycling officials "looked over the edge of a very deep chasm, pulled back, and said, 'No, enough.'"
The passport program, first announced by the UCI last week, would monitor a series of blood parameters of a rider over time to create the medical snapshot that could be compared to results of doping tests.
Riders would need to present the passport to be able to ride in next year's Tour de France. If successful, the experimental program could become a model for use by other sports.
"The blood passport doesn't follow products, but the athlete," French Health and Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said at the end of a two-day Paris conference on doping in cycling which she organised as a way to stem the damage in the sport.
Asked what the accomplishments of the conference were, Bachelot said, "First, the fact that we are all here together" acknowledging that mutual attacks had hampered efforts to crack down on doping.
The UCI has promised reform before - notably, with last year's "100 percent against doping" program involving more urine and blood tests, and requiring riders to make their DNA available if asked for it. Before this year's Tour, riders signed an unprecedented statement promising that they were not involved in doping.
Those measures came after Floyd Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone on his way to winning the 2006 Tour. He was officially stripped of that title last month.
But it didn't stop the 2007 edition from becoming one of the most doping-marred Tours in recent history. Race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was sent home for missing pre-race doping checks, and pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan was ousted for testing positive for a banned blood transfusion.
WADA and the UCI signed an accord yesterday to create a working group next week to flesh out the details of the biological passports in time for a January launch.
UCI president Pat McQuaid cautioned that the initiative will not cure the doping problem, but serve as a new element in the anti-doping "arsenal" along with blood and urine tests.