By Agence France Presse
The head of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) said Wednesday that his organization won’t work with the UCI again until it takes steps to correct testing and procedural “failures” he observed during this year’s Tour de France.
In press conference in Paris, AFLD director Pierre Bordry said he was bothered by the absence of positive test results from this year’s Tour, particularly in light of what he characterized as serious lapses in protocol by anti-doping testers from the UCI.
“What is surprising is that the UCI does not conduct its controls in keeping with its own rules, which can create opportunities (for teams or riders),” said Bordry. “I am astonished that there were no positive doping tests at this year’s race.”
However Britain’s Barry Broadbent, a UCI doping inspector, says the AFLD claims are wide of the mark, adding that Astana was among the most scrutinized teams at the race.
“If I were to make a report on the Tour de France, I would say they were the opposite,” said Broadbent when asked what he thought of a damning report by the AFLD which criticized the UCI’s anti-doping system at the race.
“The AFLD were subjecting them to more controls at more inconvenient times than anyone else. To say that one team had privileges when clearly they were tested more than any other team seems quite ridiculous to me.”
Bordry said that despite UCI claims to the contrary, he stands by earlier charges that the Astana team was among the most “blatant” when it came to delays during doping controls.
In addition to allegations of “easy treatment” of Astana, Bordry said that UCI testers failed to properly preserve blood samples taken from several teams during the course of the Tour.
He said that during this year’s Tour blood samples were not always kept refrigerated, some riders were difficult to locate and that testers had to sometimes wait up to an hour for a rider to appear after being notified of an impending control.
Jean-Pierre Verdy, director of the team which carries out the controls, said that the latter problem was apparent with one team in particular.
“It was mostly Astana. For the other teams it wasn’t quite as blatant,” Verdy said. “Where is the ‘random’ factor in all of that?”
Broadbent, however, said that AFLD doctors were directly involved in most of the testing that took place at this year’s Tour.
“We are only observers for the French doctors who do the samples, appointed by the AFLD,” he noted. “We identify the riders, we take charge of the situation, that is we make sure we’ve got the right people.
“But from then on the actual procedure of taking the urine sample is conducted by the doctors, in this case appointed by the AFLD and of course ratified by the UCI that they were suitable people.
“The only tests conducted without AFLD doctors were on rest days. Other than those rest days, all other tests conducted were by AFLD doctors.”
Broadbent suggested that the AFLD objections may be motivated by the French agency’s territorial concerns more than they are by scientific or legal considerations.
“I don’t understand where the AFLD is coming from,” he said. “Whether there’s some inherent problem with the UCI conducting tests in what is the territory of the AFLD, I don’t know.
“It would seem that the AFLD don’t want to work with us, they want to work against us and I would have thought that in the fight against doping it’s essential that all agencies work together.
“It must be some political thing,” he added. “I can’t understand anyone criticizing the work of two inspectors who seem to be accepted by the riders and teams in the race, despite that we had what was a very demanding job for us and the riders.”
Bordry indicated that as a consequence of his concerns he would oppose the AFLD working in conjunction with the UCI during next year’s Tour.
“I won’t be asking to work with the UCI doing the controls in 2010,” added Bordry. “The international federations must understand that when it comes to anti-doping you have to be rigorous and transparent, otherwise doubts are raised which may not be founded but which are justified by the absence of transparency.”
“The way UCI organized the controls was not quite in accordance with the regulations,” Bordry said, adding that such errors may account for the absence of positive tests from this year’s Tour.
The press conference is the latest salvo in a war of words between Bordry’s agency and the UCI that began when the contents of a critical report on anti-doping practices in the race were released to two French newspapers on Monday.
2008 given “all clear”
Bordry also noted that retests of 17 riders’ samples from the 2008 Tour de France showed no signs of the third generation EPO drug, CERA.
At the end of the 2009 Tour, Bordry said the agency wanted to retest samples from 2008, to ensure that no potential positives had not been missed.
“Our aim was not to find something suspicious,” said Bordry. “We wanted the security of knowing the truth. That has been achieved.”