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Verbruggen rejects independent panel of doctors for Tour

A proposal to introduce further transparency in the Tour de France by allowing independent doctors to rule on the use of medically-prescribed products by riders was rejected by the president of the sport's governing body Tuesday. It effectively means no new anti-doping measures will be introduced for this year's Tour de France. "We have ruled out accepting the idea of such a (doctor's) panel exclusively for the Tour de France," Hein Verbruggen, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), told AFP following a meeting Tuesday with the French sports minister

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2002

A proposal to introduce further transparency in the Tour de France by allowing independent doctors to rule on the use of medically-prescribed products by riders was rejected by the president of the sport’s governing body Tuesday.

It effectively means no new anti-doping measures will be introduced for this year’s Tour de France.

“We have ruled out accepting the idea of such a (doctor’s) panel exclusively for the Tour de France,” Hein Verbruggen, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), told AFP following a meeting Tuesday with the French sports minister Marie-George Buffet.

Buffet, who seems keen on the eventual use of an independent panel, reiterated that current measures at the world’s biggest bike race would be upheld. Currently, all riders undergo blood tests prior to the first stage to determine if they are in any condition to compete. A high hematocrit (red blood cell volume) reading might suggest the use of banned endurance enhancer EPO that in extreme cases can cause blood clots.

Urine tests are also carried out daily on at least six riders from the peloton, and 70-90 tests specifically for EPO will be carried out throughout the Tour, according to a statement by the French sports ministry.

The much-discussed proposal of an independent doctor’s panel could help promote further transparency.

Riders, many of whom use products that under normal circumstances they would not be allowed to use, would be forced to undergo scrutiny to prove declared illnesses or conditions. Buffet admitted the “need to pursue the (independent panel) idea after discussions with experts which will meet very quickly (10-15 days) in order to study the feasibility of such a step on the Tour de France 2002.”

However, Verbruggen underlined various problems, mainly judicial and disciplinary, with the proposal.

“What would happen if a doctor from such a panel refused to recognise as valid a (medical) prescription, supplied by the doctor of the (wearer of the) yellow jersey, for a cortisone cream?” asked Verbruggen.

On last year’s Tour organizers and the UCI came under fire from Michel Boyon, president of the France-based anti-doping organization CPLD, who was quoted in the newspaper, Le Monde as saying eight of the 16 urine samples analyzed by a French laboratory after two Pyrenees stages had tested positive.

According to Boyon, far too many riders had been using medicines that have been prescribed by doctors but which are classed as doping products by several sports bodies.

However, on Tuesday the president of the company which runs the Tour – Amaury Sport Organisation – fully supported Verbruggen’s stance.

“Trying to see if there is general abuse of medicines can only be done in the context of a global effort which would apply to all sports, and not just cycling,” said Clerc.

Copyright AFP2002