BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — A week after drawing heavy criticism for its drug-testing policies, cycling’s governing body declared itself “entirely satisfied” with the number of blood tests it conducted on riders in 2010 as part of its “biological passport” program.
Skeptics blasted the Union Cycliste Internationale last week after the pressure group Change Cycling Now released old UCI meeting minutes indicating that the world governing body had cut back on testing due to budgetary restrictions.
Asked if it in fact cut tests due to financial issues, the UCI issued a release sharply dismissing the concerns, voiced by Gerard Vroomen, who co-founded the Cervélo bike brand and sponsored a professional team. At the time, the UCI stated that Vroomen showed “a very weak understanding of this complex subject.”
On Monday, UCI Communication Services said the organization wished to “make clear the valid reasons” why it tested certain riders less frequently in 2010 than in 2009.
“Firstly, the UCI conducted more tests in 2008 and 2009 than the numbers required to maintain a robust blood passport,” the release states. “In 2010 the number of tests for riders who were in the passport for more than a year could be reduced without impairing the validity of their passport because their profile had been established as a result of the high number of tests conducted in 2008 and 2009 when the passport was first introduced.”
While it was initially reported that the testing was reduced for “older riders,” the UCI said it only appeared that way because those riders had been in the program long enough that it was acceptable to test them less often, as they had existing blood profiles.
“A sufficiently high number of tests were conducted on riders who were new to the program in 2010 in order to establish their profile,” the UCI release reads. “The UCI is entirely satisfied that more than enough tests were conducted in 2010 in order to maintain a robust blood passport program. No decision was ever taken to suspend testing.”
The UCI did note that financial constraints led to fewer tests, but argued that because the organization had conducted more tests than necessary in 2008-09, testing less frequently wouldn’t undercut the validity of existing blood profiles.
“The issue raised by Mr. Vroomen and the UCI response to that has also been conveniently taken out of context. It is also worth remembering that it was the UCI that led the way as the first organization worldwide to introduce the blood passport,” the release reads.