By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
Hein Verbruggen, the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has resigned from the board of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) in protest at Dick Pound’s leadership, he told AFP Monday.
The UCI president strongly criticized WADA and its Canadian president for what he termed recent “irresponsible” statements concerning cyclists and said that future association with the UCI was uncertain.
“Pound maybe thinks that he can run the WADA presidency like a sheriff in the Wild West, firing with a revolver at all targets,” complained the cycling chief, one of WADA’s founding members.
Verbruggen said that in particular he was furious with the handling of the case of Spanish rider Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano who tested positive while leading the Tour de France but was not punished because he suffers from asthma and had a prescription.
However, Dr. Alain Garnier, who heads the Lausanne bureau of WADA, claimed the rider’s regular use of asthma medicine should not normally return as high a reading as was reported.
“WADA, through Garnier and Pound, declared a rider positive and this based solely on a press article,” claimed Verbruggen of the publicity surrounding the case.
“Galdeano was innocent and for me it’s an absolute disgrace that WADA should make such statements. I find this an attitude of terrible irresponsibility which you don’t expect from an authority like WADA.
“They were wrong, from both a legal and scientific point of view,” said Verbruggen. Verbruggen said he had not appreciated the “sarcastic” statements by Pound concerning the Spanish rider’s anti-asthmatic drugs. “Pound is always making sarcastic comments about the taking of anti-asthmatic products.
“He gives the impression that the whole world is doping by making very general statements on the use of Salbutamol.
“I think it’s inappropriate and discriminatory in so far as certain athletes need these products,” said the Dutchman, adding that the percentage of riders in the Tour de France suffering from asthma was below that of the population in general.
He added that he was outraged that “a rider and a sport could be blacklisted in this manner.”
Verbruggen also denied claims that the UCI had not wanted independent observers to examine proceedings during this year’s Tour.
“WADA requested nothing,” said Verbruggen. “UCI was a very loyal partner, putting all its experience at the disposal of WADA. I’m fed up letting my athletes be discredited by Pound. That he studies the problem first, gives the figures and then makes his statements afterwards….”
Verbruggen, who is also president of the organizing committee for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, said that he informed IOC president Jacques Rogge and Pound of his decision two months ago.
“What is particularly cutting is that not later than last week Pound called on me to stay because WADA needed Verbruggen and the UCI,” said the Dutchman. Verbruggen said that he was not sure what would be the future association between the UCI and WADA. “I don’t know if the collaboration with the UCI is still appreciated,” added Verbruggen.