French question validity of UCI-issued therapeutic exemption

By Agence France Presse

Pereiro in the 2006 Tour, after taking the yellow jersey from Landis on Stage 13

Pereiro in the 2006 Tour, after taking the yellow jersey from Landis on Stage 13

Photo: AFP (file)

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), who finished second to Floyd Landis in the 2006 Tour de France, twice tested positive for the banned substance salbutamol during the race, French newspaper Le Monde alleged Thursday on its website.

Salbutamol, a substance often prescribed for asthmatics, was discovered in Pereiro’s urine samples after the 14th and 16th stages, the newspaper alleged. Landis also tested positive, for a skewed testosterone-epitestosterone level, following Stage 17.

Pereiro defended himself in an interview with Radio Cadena Ser in Spain, saying he used Ventolin— an asthma medicine that contains salbutamol — “because the UCI allowed me to do so.”

“I believe that Le Monde has made a big mistake,” he added. “I hope everything will be solved.”

The UCI had granted Pereiro a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the substance, but the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) is arguing that the Spaniard had not provided the proper documentation as required, Le Monde reported.

In October 2006, French anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry told Agence France Presse that the number of cyclists taking authorized doping products on the Tour de France was “suspicious.”

The AFLD has three times asked Pereiro to provide the proper documentation showing that he needs the asthma medication and has also asked the UCI to justify the exemption granted to the Spaniard. The third letter warned Pereiro that he would be banned from racing in France if the agency did not receive the information it required.

UCI president Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press he was not aware of Le Monde’s claims and would not comment.

“I haven’t heard anything about this,” he said.

But McQuaid added that “there always have been differences of opinion” between the UCI and the French agency on the medical waivers. UCI waivers follow WADA guidelines, he said, “and the French agency has a different view of this.”

Francis Lafargue, a spokesman for Pereiro’s Caisse d’Epargne team, said the rider’s failure to respond to the AFLD’s requests for documentation was a simple oversight.

“Oscar received two letters from the AFLD in October and November,” said Lafargue. “He had the documents but he forgot to respond to the agency. It is carelessness.”

Lafargue said the AFLD would receive “all the documents required” by the end of the week.

But he added that the tests amounted to “false positives” that showed only a negligible amount of salbuterol, and he chided the French anti-doping association for leaking the information to the media.

“Once more, confidentiality is not respected and that is most serious,” Lafargue said.

An official of the Spanish cycling federation, meanwhile, told AFP that his organization had heard nothing of the positive test and did not know whether Pereiro had a therapeutic exemption.

“The Spanish federation did not receive any notification on behalf of the UCI on this subject,” said secretary general Eugenio Bermudez. “The federation was not informed of the existence of these analyses or their result and is unaware of if Mr. Pereiro had or did not have a therapeutic authorization.”

Le Monde added that six other riders who tested positive in the 2006 Tour would also have their therapeutic exemptions examined during the next meeting of the AFLD, scheduled for January 25. The agency has professed itself satisfied with the TUEs of five other riders who tested positive during the race.

Meanwhile, Landis has been called to appear before the French anti-doping agency on February 8.