By Agence France Presse
UCI president Hein Verbruggen has launched a scathing attack on World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound over the extent to which they both perceive the problem of doping in cycling.And Verbruggen, also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, conceded that the UCI has taken to issuing “red card” warnings to cyclists whose blood test results appear suspect.Officials have confirmed, for example, that the governing body sentat least two warning letters to the Phonak team regarding suspicious testresults from Tyler Hamilton and other riders last spring.Pound has in the past voiced concern over the effectiveness of current tests in the sport, and has even come under fire from six-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong for his outspoken views. (see VeloNews’sinterview with Pound)Verbruggen, speaking at the world track championships in Los Angeles, sees things differently and has raised concerns over an assertion by Pound that WADA-run controls in cycling would probably be turned down by the UCI.”That’s a plain lie,” Verbruggen said. “I offered years ago to give WADA the money to do all the controls in cycling. They didn’t want to. So it’s a plain lie by Dick Pound. Anyway, they don’t have the staff, or the equipment – they don’t have anything.
“I don’t care about Mr. Pound because he is not objective,” said Verbruggen.”I don’t want to see him anymore. He <I>was</I> a good friend ofmine but he’s not now. WADA should be on the federation’s side but manyfederations have a problem with him. But we can’t solve the problem ofdoping without working with governments and that’s what WADA can do.”Recent doping issues in cycling have centered on blood transfusion methodsbecause testers now have a reliable test for the banned blood booster EPO(Erythropoietin), a hormone which boosts the oxygen-carrying capacitiesof the red blood cells in the blood and which was used regularly throughoutthe 1990s.A month after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where Tyler Hamilton won the time trial gold the American became embroiled in controversy when he tested positive for a blood transfusion.
His case is still ongoing, but it highlighted the possibility that cyclists had turned their back on EPO to adopt other blood doping methods.Verbruggen said that the efforts made by the UCI over recent years to combat doping were now paying dividends. And he added that blood transfusion tests, which he claims are not fully legal, are being used by the UCI to warn riders’ of potential misdemeanors.”We know that most riders that are winning races are clean. The blood transfusion method is not validated yet, but we do the tests for our own use.
“Say we do 30 auto-transfusion tests – maybe two will not be clean. We have the information, but legally we can’t publicize it.”Instead, Verbruggen said, teams and riders were contacted by the UCI.”It’s very effective – it’s almost a red card,” said Verbruggen.Verbruggen said that while Pound has done a “good job” at WADA, buthas recently taken to building a “war machine” and, because of that, lackscredibility.“Yes, WADA should criticize a federation when they’re not working well, but they are neither impartial nor objective,” said Verbruggen.”That’s not acceptable,” Verbruggen said. “Pound’s the sheriff who shootseverything that moves. WADA should be above all that and he should establishproof before he speaks.”We will still work with WADA, but not with Pound, because he is not impartial,” Verbruggen said. “Athletes have the right to defend themselves even if it’s with the cheapest excuse. You only punish when it’s proven – that’s when you hit them.”