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Tensions mount as UCI plans to abandon CADF agency

Officials are worried that cycling would abandon its most effective anti-doping tool if the UCI joins a new agency linked to the IOC.

There are alarm bells within the cycling community over UCI plans that could phase out its anti-doping agency and work with a new organization linked to the International Olympic Committee.

Last month, the UCI confirmed it is considering shuttering the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), its anti-doping agency created in 2008, and join a new umbrella group called the International Testing Agency (ITA) that’s aligned with the IOC. A change could come as soon as 2021.

On the surface, it seems like little more than a bureaucratic reshuffling, moving the anti-doping program from under the guise of the CADF, which has been independent from the UCI since 2013, to the ITA, a relatively new anti-doping program that works across various Olympic and professional sports with 40 associations under IOC control.

Officials from the CADF, which was founded under the World Anti-Doping Agency, have raised the alarm bells about losing what it calls its most effective tool in the fight for clean sport. Backers say the CADF has been at the forefront of the fight against doping, including the adaption of the biological passport, out-of-competition controls, the whereabouts program and stepped up testing.

Insiders worry that cycling would lose important intelligence and know-how on issues that are unique to cycling if the UCI decides to step away from the cycling-specific CADF and align its anti-doping efforts with the more generalized ITA, an umbrella group aligned with the IOC founded in 2018.

“The CADF had become a front-runner in anti-doping and it has become a big example for all other sports. Since its founding, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in that, between the teams, organizations and riders,” one team official told VeloNews. “Of all the problems in cycling, CADF is a front-runner and is doing a good job, and now the UCI wants to do something different. Again, without consulting anyone.”

According to a report in the French daily Le Monde, discussions of moving away from the CADF to ITA began with arrival of new UCI president David Lappartient in 2017.

“Since David Lappartient came to the presidency, he has demanded more control in our activities,” Rune Andersen of Norway, chairman of the board of the CADF, told Le Monde. “He has repeatedly called for power over this or that, and I have always said no. I think that surprised him, and he was unhappy about it. Since then, this little music of the ITA has been heard louder and louder, as a veiled threat.”

Lappartient denied meddling into the CADF’s independence, and said the UCI is only considering its options. He pointed out that cycling’s latest major doping scandal — the Aderlass blood-doping case involving Nordic skiers and cyclists — included multiple sports across international boundaries. Lappartient wondered if a larger body such as ITA would be better equipped and more efficient to grapple with such scandals.

“We are at the beginning of the process and we need to evaluate every aspect of it,” Lappartient told Le Monde. “I continue to say that the CADF is doing a good job. But we must ask a question: most of the doping networks today are ‘omnisports.’ Working within the ITA, within a larger research pool, could be more effective for all.”

Insiders, however, are chafing at what they say is more heavy handed moves by the UCI without taking in consideration the sport’s many stakeholders. The CADF is funded in part by teams, riders and race organizers, but stakeholders say the UCI is pressing forward with possible changes without consulting anyone else.

Backers say the CADF is doing a good job at handling the sport’s anti-doping efforts, and has pioneered new testing methods that have helped clean up cycling’s dirty image by working effectively with WADA. In 2013, CADF began working as a stand-alone, independent body — though it still shares office space inside the UCI headquarters in Switzerland — that erased doubts that the UCI might be covering up positive tests or protecting favored riders.

According to Le Monde, the breaking point came during when the Aderlass affaire broke earlier this year, and Lappartient was pressing CADF for details.

“They [the UCI] wanted information on the riders involved. They were like crazy, because they could not give them the information provided by the authorities,” Andersen told Le Monde.

For his part, Lappartient admitted he was annoyed that he read about cyclists’s names in the newspapers rather than being able to confirm information from an organization that he says is still part of the UCI’s orbit.

“I have never had and will never want access to controls. I never interfered. But that I am interested in what the CADF does,” he told Le Monde. “[CADF] is a foundation under Swiss law created by the UCI. It is the UCI that is a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code. If I happen to learn in the press what is happening, then that is a problem. The CADF had forgotten that it had a client called the UCI.”

This latest tension comes on the heels of growing aggravation from the top team’s association (AIGCP), which is trying to force the UCI to the table to open up a conversation about the governing role of the UCI over elite men’s professional cycling.