AFLD threatens to involve judicial authorities after UCI snub
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Saturday, March 06, 2010

AFLD threatens to involve judicial authorities after UCI snub

by Ben Atkins at 8:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping, Paris-Nice
 

The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) has fired the latest shot in its current war with the International Cycling Union (UCI). In a statement released yesterday the agency threatens to involve the French judiciary of suspected doping in this week’s Paris-Nice race, raising the possibility of a repeat of scenes last seen at the 1998 Tour de France.

The AFLD statement, released yesterday, was in reply to the refusal of the UCI to work in co-operation with the agency in the collection of anti-doping samples.

According to the statement, the latest UCI proposal would mean that the AFLD would inform the UCI if it had information suggesting that a particular rider should be tested. The AFLD had apparently been agreeable to this providing certain assurances were made concerning “confidentiality and proper use of information”.

The AFLD claims that the UCI refused this proposal, causing the agency to take a whole new course, threatening to involve the French judiciary.

“Therefore the AFLD will not cooperate with the UCI over the Paris Nice race 2010,” the statement read, “and make the information available to it to appropriate judicial authorities under the Act of the 3rd of July 2008 relative to the fight against the trafficking of drugs.”

Should the authorities feel there is sufficient evidence, there could potentially be police and customs raids of team hotels and vehicles during the race.

War on doping, or against each other?

The war between the AFLD and the UCI dates back to last October when a report by the French agency criticised the way that the UCI had handled sampling and testing at the 2009 Tour de France. It was particularly critical of apparent preferential treatment given to the Astana team of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, the eventual winner and third place.

It also expressed surprise that there were no positive tests during the race.

In 2008, when Tour de France organiser ASO was also involved in a dispute with the UCI, the AFLD was in sole control of sampling and testing at the race. There were a number of high profile positive tests during that Tour, including Manuel Beltrán, Moisés Dueñas and double stage winner Riccardo Riccò.

Stage winners Leonardo Piepoli and Stefan Schumacher, as well as third place finisher and king of the mountains Bernhard Kohl were also found to be positive in retrospective tests of their Tour samples.

“The AFLD questions the motivations behind the UCI,” it said, “to control Paris Nice race which takes place at the heart of France and mobilizes large public resources, to forego the sworn and independent samplers of the AFLD.”

The return of the Festina raids?

If the French judiciary do become involved, it would not be the first time they have been at the forefront of the anti-doping movement. The Festina scandal of 1998 was sparked by the arrest of Willy Voet, one of the team’s senior soigneurs, on the border with Belgium as he drove a team car full of doping products. The subsequent team hotel raids and arrests were as a result of police and customs investigations rather than those of anti-doping authorities.

The Cofidis scandal of 2004, which led to the retirement of Philippe Gaumont and the suspension a number of riders including David Millar, was also as a result of police action.

In addition to its threat to involve the French judiciary, the AFLD also confirmed that it has requested that the matter be investigated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“The AFLD has decided to ask the World Anti-Doping Agency to initiate an in-depth enquiry into the difference of approach in the fight against doping between national organisations and certain international federations,” the statement concluded.

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