The French national anti-doping agency, Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD), said it is once again ready to help play a role beating the drugs cheats on the Tour de France after independent observers called for an end to its spat with world cycling chiefs.
Earlier this year, the UCI sidelined the AFLD and kept the agency from working at any of its sanctioned races in France this year after accusing the UCI in 2009 of favoritism towards some teams.
Former AFLD director Pierre Bordry charged that the Astana team, for whom Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong raced in 2009, kept UCI doping inspectors waiting for nearly an hour as samples were sought.
Despite being France’s national agency, the dispute left the AFLD virtually out of the sport. In order to carry out controls on riders at the 2010 Tour, for example, the AFLD had to make special requests to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
A report released Tuesday by independent observers who have been called to look into how the fight against doping can be improved hit out at the dispute, calling for a “quick resolution.”
Now under the leadership of Bruno Genevois following the departure of Bordry in October, the AFLD said it was prepared to play a role again.
“The AFLD would be happy to join forces with those of the UCI for major races (Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France) as of next season, as much as before as during the competition,” Genevois said in a statement.
“The presence of observers on the Tour de France has helped increase the impartiality and efficiency of controls when they take place. This has also proved dissuasive to riders tempted to exploit the possibilities of doping.”
Armstrong, who has faced accusations of doping throughout his career, will bring the curtain down on his career at the Tour Down Under in January 2011.
His comeback from retirement there in 2009 left the UCI facing criticism after the world governing body waived its own rules regarding the registration of retired or inactive riders to allow the American to return to the sport in Australia.
Contador meanwhile has been provisionally suspended by the UCI after a positive test for clenbuterol, a banned substance, during this year’s Tour de France race which he won for the third time.
The 27-year-old Astana rider, who has signed a two-year deal with Saxo Bank for the 2011 season, insists he is the victim of contaminated meat brought in from Spain.