UCI, French anti-doping agency resolve dispute, work together on Paris-Nice

The UCI and the French anti-doping agency are working together on this year's Paris-Nice after two years of squabbling.

A thaw in relations between the UCI and the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) is clearing the way for the French agency to resume anti-doping controls at French races, but it comes too late for Alberto Contador.

The UCI and AFLD announced Saturday that the two agencies have buried the hatchet over their long-running spat, which forced a split during last year’s Tour de France.

Under an agreement announced Saturday (see release below), the AFLD will handle the anti-doping controls during this year’s Paris-Nice and could resume its full duties during the 2011 Tour if things go smoothly during the “Race to the Sun.”

Relations between UCI and AFLD grew strained two years back when the AFLD openly questioned anti-doping controls during the 2009 Tour and even suggested that the Astana team of Lance Armstrong received preferable treatment in anti-doping controls. Things reached a boiling point last year when AFLD wanted to conduct dozens of secret controls during last year’s Tour without notifying WADA or the UCI before the tests were conducted.

The UCI rejected that proposal and eventually cut a deal to work directly with WADA, leaving AFLD out of the loop on anti-doping controls during the 2010 Tour.

The UCI-AFLD quarrel had huge implications for Contador, who tested positive for minute traces of clenbuterol during last year’s Tour.

Because the French agency was not handling the anti-doping controls during last year’s Tour, samples were shipped off to laboratories outside of France.

Most were sent to the WADA-sanctioned lab in Lausanne, Switzerland. Only 10 were sent to Cologne, Germany, one of the few labs in the world that has equipment sensitive enough to detect minute levels of clenbuterol.

Among those sent to Cologne for analysis were Contador’s samples taken after a steak dinner on the Tour’s second rest day. Contador tested for 50 picograms per milliliter and is fending off a possible two-year racing ban.

Had those samples been sent to Lausanne or one of the WADA-approved labs in France, Contador’s story would have a very different ending.

The official release from UCI

The President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Mr. Pat McQuaid, and the President of AFLD (French Anti-doping Agency) Mr. Bruno Genevois, signed a protocol agreement in Paris today concerning the anti-doping arrangements that will be set up for the Paris-Nice race.

In particular, the agreement states that AFLD will provide the UCI with sample collection and analysis services in accordance with the UCI Anti-doping Regulation.

The number of tests carried out between the 6th and 13th March 2011 will equal that of 2009, in other words around 70. The UCI itself will take around 50 blood samples under the Biological Passport. The blood profiles pertaining to these will be used for targeting.

The Tour de France is not included in the agreement signed today: After an evaluation that will be carried out following Paris-Nice, the UCI and AFLD may renew or modify the agreement as necessary for the July race.

During the press conference that followed the signing of the agreement, Mr McQuaid emphasized, “the importance of this understanding, which revives the collaboration on the best possible terms between the two organizations for the effectiveness and therefore the success of the anti-doping fight”.

“The misunderstandings which had troubled relations between the UCI and AFLD,” President McQuaid said, “are now in the past. We are extremely happy to be able to work alongside AFLD once again, in a calm atmosphere where we have restored confidence in each other.”

AFLD President, Mr. Bruno Genevois, stated: “I am very pleased with this agreement for anti-doping tests and analyses at Paris-Nice. This understanding opens new possibilities for cooperation between the UCI and AFLD.”

On the same day, Mr McQuaid, Dr. Mario Zorzoli and Professor Marcello Faina, President of the UCI Medical Commission, met with doctors of UCI ProTeams and Professional Continental Teams. The aim of this meeting was to carry out an evaluation of the Biological Passport, review the new additions to the list of banned substances updated by WADA and come up with a proposition aiming to regulate the use of injections.