Gerard Vroomen interview part II: Cycling should not be WADA’s only whipping boy
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gerard Vroomen interview part II: Cycling should not be WADA’s only whipping boy

by Shane Stokes at 7:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
 
‘If the information comes out that shows that McQuaid has been screwing this whole thing up, then that day he is gone’

Gerard VroomenWhile he has been outspoken by what he feels are signs that the fight against doping has not been treated as seriously as necessary by the UCI and by the teams and riders themselves [see part I of this interview], Gerard Vroomen also raises concerns about WADA’s own attitude to cycling.

The Dutchman feels that while cycling rightfully is under the microscope, that other sports do not have the same level of scrutiny nor of criticism.

“How does Mr. Howman know the situation is so much different from other sports? He makes that statement, but he has no clue because he hasn’t looked at other sports the same way as at cycling,” he said in a long interview with VeloNation.

“Is he really saying that tennis is cleaner than cycling when tennis does twelve out of competition tests per year? The only way he can make that statement is either by making sure that all the sports that are associated with WADA test to the same standard, and then you can compare, yet he hasn’t even started that process yet.

“WADA knows nothing about the prevalence of doping in other sports relative to cycling, yet cycling is a convenient whipping boy. Justifiably so, but WADA should have about 150 whipping boys, not just cycling.”

Vroomen believes that the current Operacion Puerto case is an example; the doping affair dates back to 2006 and beyond, yet cyclists remain the only sportspeople named thus far, even though Fuentes has himself said he treated football, basketball and tennis players, as well as athletes.

“They know it themselves,” he states, again referring to WADA. “On the one hand they say that cycling is so much more rotten than everything else, then on the other hand they say ‘we know that there are 200 athletes connected to Fuentes…we only know the 50 cyclists, we are trying to figure out the 150 other sportspeople but we can’t. So in their own statements they are acknowledging that other sports have problems that are equally large.”

Vroomen, who is co-founder of Cervélo and Open Cycles, was the owner of the Cervélo Test Team and is the publisher of the new 2r magazine, discusses the WADA issue at length in the interview below and also weighs up the notion of having a completely independent anti-doping body in cycling. The UCI’s Independent Commission is also debated, with Vroomen suggesting that mistakes were made by all the parties concerned.

“The Independent Commission saga was quite unbelievable, on all sides,” he states. “It is hard to keep respect for anybody involved, to be honest.”

The scrapping of that commission and its effect – or not – on the UCI presidential election is also something that Vroomen weighs in on.

Read on for the rest of the interview; click here for Part I.


VeloNation: Some people have suggested that there needs to be a completely independent anti-doping body, something set up along the lines of USADA or the AFLD. Would you accept that?

Gerard Vroomen: Well, what is completely independent? Somebody has to fund it, somebody has to initiate it. And as we have seen, how something gets initiated can have a huge impact on the credibility, as with the Independent Commssion. So how do you start this? Frankly, a lot of the anti-doping organisations right now aren’t exactly credible either.

We have our friends at WADA saying that because of the extraordinary situation in cycling and how doped-up it is – I forget the exact wording – but that maybe a Truth and Reconciliation is a good way forward. But how does Mr. Howman know the situation is so much different from other sports? He makes that statement, but he has no clue because he hasn’t looked at other sports the same way as at cycling.

Is he really saying that tennis is cleaner than cycling when tennis does twelve out of competition tests per year? The only way he can make that statement is either by making sure that all the sports that are associated with WADA test to the same standard, and then you can compare, yet he hasn’t even started that process yet. Or he can do it by anonymously testing the samples from the Olympic Games from eight years ago and see how much EPO is in there from the various sports. The interesting part is that the IOC is not willing to do that.

The only testing that has been done – the only reason we know about Armstrong in the 1999 Tour – is that cycling was the only sport willing to have their things tested for scientific purposes. So WADA knows nothing about the prevalence of doping in other sports relative to cycling, yet cycling is a convenient whipping boy. Justifiably so, but WADA should have about 150 whipping boys, not just cycling.

They know it themselves – on the one hand they say that cycling is so much more rotten than everything else, then on the other hand they say ‘we know that there are 200 athletes connected to Fuentes…we only know the 50 cyclists, we are trying to figure out the 150 other sportspeople but we can’t. So in their own statements they are acknowledging that other sports have problems that are equally large.

But yes, to go back to the first point, there should be an organisation that takes care of the doping testing in cycling. It should be an organisation that is not controlled by the UCI. Okay, in the end the funding has to come from somewhere so there is always a connection somehow, but it has to be an independent body.

It has to be taken away – not so much from the UCI – from the national federations…because it takes a lot of time and the outcome is not credible. That is a concern or should be a concern also for clean riders. If your federation declares you innocent, nobody believes you. So it doesn’t help the rider either.

If you have an independent body, it means you can immediately look at this. You can get to a much quicker resolution of the situation because you don’t have to go through the whole charade of pretending to ban and then changing your mind.

You would be able to make a decision in two months or three months… If you don’t agree, you go immediately to CAS. And is a maximum six months you have a solution, instead of 18 months. That is nothing unique for cycling – this should happen for every sport.

That would certainly be a step in the right direction.

VN: In general, in this situation post-Armstrong, there is a lot of stuff happening in terms of repercussions and reactions. The UCI set up the Independent Commission, it started to look into the sport, but then it was cancelled by the UCI. What is your interpretation of that?

GV: Well, the Independent Commission saga was quite unbelievable, on all sides. It is hard to keep respect for anybody involved, to be honest. Of course the UCI set it up thinking it could control it pretty well, and got a less than enchanted when the Independent Commission turned out to be quite independent.

But on the other side of course, you have WADA, you have Change Cycling Now, both people who were screaming as loud as they could that the Independent Commission was of no value whatsoever. Then when it was cancelled, which they had been calling for all along, they say ‘oh, look at what the bad UCI is doing now, they are cancelling the Independent Commission.’ I mean, they can’t also have it both ways.

I fully agree that the way the Independent Commission was set up was connected to the UCI. The fact that people were initially hesitant to put their faith in that commission is fair enough, but I think it would also have been fair to say ‘let’s wait and see.’ I think in the last couple of weeks when you see what the members of that commission had done, it would have been probably a prudent move to not criticise them to much, but to show your support for what they were trying to do.

For WADA it doesn’t matter, WADA has a whole different agenda…it doesn’t matter to WADA if cycling is sacrificed to save soccer. But for people who really love cycling, that is an issue. And so of course the UCI didn’t cancel the Independent Commission because WADA or Change Cycling Now asked them to. However of course they were given a good excuse to do so. It would have been better if they hadn’t had that excuse.

VN: There is vague talk that the UCI might accept a Truth and Reconciliation process. They are not making firm promises. But does it concern you that all this will happen after the UCI elections? Essentially with the commission gone, Pat McQuaid won’t have any assessment of his role in the Armstrong and US Postal situation prior to the votes being held.

GV: No, I don’t think it really matters, in the sense that eventually – be it through people from Change Cycling Now, or through WADA or through the UCI internally, or through Armstrong speaking up or whatever – eventually all the information will come out. If that information indicates that Verbruggen and McQuaid should leave, then at that point they will leave.

It doesn’t matter if McQuaid has just been re-elected…even if it is just one day after re-election, if the information comes out that clearly shows that he has been screwing this whole thing up, then that is the day he is gone. I don’t think it really matters where the election sits in all this.



In part I of this interview, Vroomen speaks about what he believes are shortcomings in the UCI’s biological passport, questions the lack of expert analysis of Lance Armstrong plus Hein Verbruggen’s confusing stance on the issue, and also considers why teams and riders have not been as vocal as expected about the reduction in bio passport testing.
 

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