Tygart blasts UCI over refusal to let USADA do tests at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and other top events
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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Tygart blasts UCI over refusal to let USADA do tests at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and other top events

by Shane Stokes at 9:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
“They want to control the results. They want to control who is tested and they want to control what is tested for, so they don’t have any issues”

Travis TygartUSADA CEO Travis Tygart has spoken of his frustration with what he believes is ongoing, inadequate testing at the top US cycling events, suggesting that the UCI is deliberately holding back on the type and number of tests in order to avoid awkward positives.

The claim comes sixteen days before the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, with Tygart saying that requests to carry out testing at that race have been denied.

“We are going to have the USA Pro Cycling Challenge happen here in a couple of weeks. It’s one of the biggest races in the United States, and absolutely the biggest race in Colorado. Yet the independent agency based in Colorado [USADA - ed.] - which runs the programme for the Olympic movement which is also based in Colorado - is not doing the testing, because the UCI refuses to give up the control.

“We are confident, just like in seasons past, there won’t be CIR testing [a more precise screen for testosterone – ed.], there won’t be human growth hormone testing, there won’t be EPO testing. It is a charade,” he told VeloNation.

The UCI and USADA have had an uneasy relationship over the years, with the UCI unsuccessfully seeking to assert its jurisdiction over the Lance Armstrong doping investigation in 2012. In previous years there were also similar claims by USADA and others that the UCI was impeding full anti-doping measures at major American events, with a lack of blood testing being done at the Tour of California and other races.

Tygart states that he has made clear to UCI President Pat McQuaid that the agency feels that the sport is suffering as a result.

“We have had multiple, multiple efforts on our part to do all of the testing that happens in the United States for cycling. Back in 2011, I personally had a conversation with Pat McQuaid by telephone and said to him, ‘we need to do the testing. The Tour of California wants us to do the testing, there is a climate right now in the US that cycling is under siege because of your inaction. The best thing for sport and the best thing for clean athletes is for us, the independent agency, to do the testing.’

However he said that, plus subsequent requests, have all been turned down. USADA had sought to do the testing at the Tour of California this year but this request was not approved.

“We had sought to do it, and the event organisers wanted us to come in. But the UCI did the event competition testing,” he said. “We did do some pre-competition testing, but the rules of the UCI don’t let us do controls immediately prior to events. We have to stop 72 hours, 48 hours or 24 hours beforehand, depending on the level of the event.

“There has never been any good reason for us not to be the agency doing the samples. The reason is that they want to control the results. They want to control who is tested and they want to control what is tested for, so they don’t have any issues… It is not by surprise that there hasn’t been any positives from the Tour of California.”

Tygart’s claims illustrate a recognised problem with the current situation; the UCI is both the promoter and the policeman of the sport. Even if it is intent on catching as many riders as possible, there is an apparent conflict of interest between those two goals. If it tests as much as possible, there is a risk of the negative publicity of doping stories.

If it reduces the testing, the danger of such stories decreases. However this raises the likelihood that riders will take chances and used banned substances, or that those already exploiting such products won’t be caught.

Either way, there is a question mark over the tests due to the lack of confidence it creates.

UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson has recognised this issue, and has pledged to had testing over to a fully independent body if he is elected. Current president McQuaid initially denied this was possible, saying that the WADA Code does not permit such a structure, but had to back down when WADA made clear that was not the case.

Tygart suggests that as long as there are links between the governing body and testing, that uncertainty will remain. He feels this raises unfair doubts about the races and also about the riders who are performing well there.

“I think we all have to be highly suspect of the testing that is done at those events,” said Tygart. “And that is unacceptable and unfair to the athletes and to the organisers who are running those events. Those athletes deserve to be held to the highest standard, because when they have a good performance and they say ‘well, we are subject to the UCI’s testing,’ everybody knows that is a charade.

They need to be able to say ‘we are held to independent testing by the gold standard testing regime in this country.’

Tygart said that the lack of confidence in the system is not just seen in US races, but also in worldwide events. He suggests that people have lost faith in the governing body due to the lingering questions over the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service affair and the scrapped Independent Commission that could have cleared the UCI of wrongdoing.

He in turn believes that those lingering questions plus the promoter/policeman conflict undermines the work that is being done.

“The whole conversation and dialogue around the races, just like we saw at the Tour de France this year, is suspicion about riders which is unfair to those riders. It detracts from the beauty of the sport. It is all happening because of the lack of leadership that back in November said they were going to take decisive and transparent action to put the sport on a new foundation for clean competition. Yet they have done nothing since.

“We are not doing our job if we don’t speak about the problem this causes. Decisive and transparent action was promised, but nothing has happened. We have been saying this since October 10th 2012. We are approaching a year pretty quick and both clean athletes and those that love this sport are sick and tired of the inaction.”

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