By Agence France Presse

Were the two former Tour winners given special treatment by the UCI?

Were the two former Tour winners given special treatment by the UCI?

Photo: Agence France Presse – file photo

The UCI has rejected charges that its doping testers showed preferential treatment to the Astana team at this year’s Tour de France.

The governing body’s response was in reaction to published reports that the team of Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and third placed Lance Armstrong were given an easy ride during dope tests at the 2009 event.

Both Le Monde and Le Figaro published stories on Monday quoting a report by the French anti-doping agency AFLD accusing the UCI of failing to apply the rules properly to Astana.

“For some teams, the unexpected nature of anti-doping tests did not exist on the Tour,” the Figaro said, adding that the 10-page AFLD report was to be sent on Monday to the UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

In a statement also issued Monday, the UCI said the accusations were “totally unfounded” and evoked the possibility that it would seek to work “with a neutral partner for anti-doping tests on French soil”.

“UCI considers the method of procedure adopted by (AFLD president) Mr Pierre Bordry and his associates completely inacceptable, having published a unilateral report even though UCI and AFLD had agreed to work together on the testing programme for the Tour,” the statement noted.

The AFLD report details allegations that the Kazakh-backed Astana team was allowed to “always have the last tests in the morning, more time to go to the tester.”

AFLD doctors alleged that on the morning of July 11 in the Astana team hotel, UCI inspectors intervened allowing Astana riders an extra 45 minutes before testing, which was supposed to be carried out immediately under the rules.

“Such tolerance, granted without proper justification, in the absence of escorts, does not follow the faultless regularity of the procedure, particularly ensuring that no manipulation took place,” the report said.

Other failures to follow the rules concerning all riders are contained in the report.

The report also charges that UCI inspectors incorrectly labeled tests carried out in team hotels in the mornings and evenings as “outside competition.”

“This error alone is full of serious consequences,” the report said, noting that the list of substances banned “in competition” is much more extensive than those banned outside.

Astana has had a stormy year with its financial future often in doubt.

While Contador won the Tour, he has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave the team, despite the fact that he has another year remaining on his contract. Armstrong, a seven-time Tour champion, has left Astana to form the new American RadioShack team, whose ProTour application is currently under review by the UCI licensing commission.