Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Cycling’s doping fight not over, report says

Reuters, PARIS

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski competes in the 6.7km individual time trial and prologue of the 73rd Paris-Nice in Maurepas, France, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Although doping has not been eradicated in elite cycling, it is less prevalent, with fewer teams and riders gaining from cheating, an independent commission report has found.

The Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), set up last year to look into the sport’s ugly past, including the Festina affair and Lance Armstrong doping scandal, said an environment existed “where riders can now at least be competitive when riding clean.”

“The general view was that doping is either less prevalent today or that the nature of doping practices has changed such that the performance gains are smaller,” said the CIRC report, published in full by the International Cycling Union (UCI) yesterday.

The CIRC interviewed 174 officials, team managers, doctors and riders during the course of its investigation, which also found that the previous UCI management teams led by Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid showed leniency, especially toward Armstrong, in the fight against doping.

It stated that “the main goal [of a report into allegations that Armstrong used EPO during the 1999 Tour de France] was to ensure that the report reflected UCI’s and Lance Armstrong’s personal conclusions.”

“UCI had no intention of pursuing an independent report. UCI leadership failed to respect the independence of the investigator they commissioned,” the report said.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from racing in 2012 after a US Anti-Doping investigation. He later admitted in a television interview to using performance-enhancing drugs during his championship run.

The UCI set up the biological passport in 2008, which led to significant progress in the fight against doping, but there were still ways to cheat, the CIRC report found.

“Despite improvements to the science underlying the ABP [Athlete Biological Passport], it is still possible for riders to micro-dose using EPO without getting caught,” the report said. “The influence on performance is however much less important.”

The use of corticoids, and the easy access to them, seems to be cycling’s biggest problem, according to two team doctors who were interviewed by the CIRC.

They said corticoids were taken to “lean out,” lose weight in order to improve the power to weight ratio, a use facilitated by the fact that therapeutical use exemptions are “too easy to obtain.”

It led riders to “discuss other riders’ top performances, or changes in appearance due to dramatic weight loss, and [being] unable to explain how they were achieved.”

“A common response to the commission, when asked about teams, was that probably three or four were clean, three or four were doping and the rest were a ‘don’t know,’” the report added.

However, teams are no longer setting up elaborate doping programs, the report found.

“There has been a move away from systematic, team-organized doping, and that riders now organize their own doping programs, often with the help of third parties who are primarily based outside the teams,” it said.


World champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland won the prologue of the Paris-Nice, a 6.7km time trial in Maurepas, southwest of Paris, on Sunday.

Riding in his first Paris-Nice, the so-called “Race to the Sun”, Kwiatkowski timed 7 minutes, 40 seconds to finish ahead of world hour record holder Rohan Dennis of Australia, who was credited with the same time.

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