Never before in the histroy of competitive sport has one event thrown up so much controversy.
Over the last three-weeks the Tour de France has been mourned in headlines and pictures across the globe.
Cycling is quite literally under the microscope.
Pat McQuaid is the president of the International Cycling Union he’s the man charged with bringing the sport back from the brink.
“ The latest news from the Tour de France a big cycling star has tested positive for EPO, Iban Mayo…what is the UCI’s response to that?”
“ One of shock and sorrow that once again another big star has been caught, but by the same token we have to take some comfort in that it shows that the system is working, that the tests and controls that we put in place are catching guys and catching cheats and getting rid of them.”
“ It seems unlikely that somebody with such a knowledge of the sport, ie Mayo would take something as easily detectable as EPO in this day and age.”
“ It does indeed and it shows how silly these guys can be it also shows that the pressure of the Tour de France, the biggest race in the world..it’s the one event where every rider wants to get a result in and it’s the one event particularly for these older riders, it may be there last chance to get a good result in the Tour de France. So they are prepared to risks.”
According to the UCI, Michael Rasmussen was fit and ready to race in the Tour de France. What brought about the decision to omit him from the tour while in the yellow jersey, and about to win the race.
“That decision, was quite simply because his team found out that at the time he told them he was in training in Mexico..he was seen by an Italian ex-cyclist a TV commentator, David Cassini, training in the Dolomites in Italy..So he had given incorrect information to his team about his whereabouts and likewise to the UCI as well..he had told a lie to the team and in that sence it is the same as cheating, so the team decided they cannot accept that they had lost confidence in him and they took him out of the race.”
“ At the weekend in front of millions of TV viewers, the ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, called the UCI “ incompetent” and requested your resignation…what’s your response to such public criticism.”
“ I don’t accept it at all, I don’t accept it on my part nor indeed on the part of the UCI and I cannot understand why they should come out with that.
I do believe they were under a lot of pressure and there was a lot of emotion being spoken at the time because of everything that was happening at the time in the final days of the Tour de France and that maybe influenced them. But, how thay can claim the UCI is incompetent when the UCI put in place the controls the anti-doping controls on the Tour de France and the UCI caught the cheats and got them out of the sport. They were looking for a scapegoat. They had a strategy make no mistake about it the UCI has been, over the past years, developing the sport and developing it very well worldwide…this is a threat to ASO…they feel it as a threat to the Tour de France, incorrectly, I might say.
“ The UCI has been criticized recently by the ASO and also WADA, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound has said that your testing is inadequate…you test the yellow jersey, the stage winner and a few other riders from a peloton of 150-200 riders, what’s your response the Dick Pounds accusations .”
“ Well first of all Dick Pound critisised us last year for not doing enough out-of-competition controls because he stated and WADA stated that the best place to catch the cheats is in the preperation period…so this year we have instituted a lot more out-of-competition controls, in actual fact we did 180 in the six weeks before the Tour de France started this year, which was more than we did in the whole of last year..So that is the major part of the control. On the event itself we test the stage winner, the race leader and a couple random riders. We also every morning go round the hotels and we test four or five teams..something like 40 riders per day for blood testing, and from those blood tests, the results we can get immediatley…if we see any abnormalities in the blood we then target those riders for testing after the stage finishes.”
“So in the case of, for example, Iban Mayo something in a previous test might have triggered some clue that he may be involved in doping.”
“That could have been the case , yeah:”
“ Will you be involved in next years Tour De France”
“ I would hope so, I would think so and hope so I know there were a lot of statements made during the Tour de France which were, to some extent, a part of a strategy by the ASO to undermine the UCI, but also a lot of them were made in a very strong emotional period and I would think in the weeks to come when everybody calms down and settles down they will realise that we need to work together for this sport.”
“ Do you feel that cycling is the battleground in which the war on doping is going to be concentrated.”
“ I think it is certainly the battleground where it is being concentrated at the moment, because we are the one’s in the forefront, we are the ones getting the huge publicity and the fact that we have a couple of doping cases, double positive cases in the Tour de France last week when you have probably 1200 media there on the race it blows it all out of proportion.”
“So cycling is being dragged from this dark world into the light..so to speak.”
“ I completley agree with you and I stated when I was elected president of the UCI two-years ago I straigthtforwardly stated that there has been a doping culture in the sport of cycling.”
“ OK Pat, I am a young cyclist. I am losing races, I want to get involved in some products, taking some products, to improve my performance, what’s the usual way we go about these things.”
“At the highest level, you have situations like Dr Fuentes in Spain who had clients they reckon of 60 or 70, not just cyclists but other sports as well, and he was charging something in the region of 30 to 40 thousand euro per client for a treatment where he was taking their blood out…adding bits to the blood…and this, that and the other doping product and then re-injecting them or providing them for you know…. re-injection into the system. That is a very sophisticated form of doping…doping in sport is no different from doping in society. There is a mafia group behind who are prepared to provide the drugs for the kids on the street corners and it is the same in sport.
“It’s been a cathartic year for the Tour de France do you think cycling will come out of this dark cloud in a better state.”
“The Tour de France has had black periods in the past and they have always come out of them…it is over 104-years old and it is an institution in France. Cycling itself will certainly improve, there is lots of evidence there…we see lots of evidence that it is improving, that things are changing, we have to continue to ensure that that change happens and I think, you know, between this year and last year cycling has taken such a hard blow..because of all these scandals that everybody and I mean now everybody in the sport realises that it is over we cannot turn a blind eye to anything…we have got to have 100 percent zero tolerence.”
So parents whose 12-year-old kid is engaged in cycling will have no need to worry about there kid getting involved in any illegal activity.”
“No I think within a couple of years time it will be gone completly out of the sport, I firmly believe that. It is a beautiful sport a wonderfull sport for any kid to come into and they will get nothing but enjoyment out of it and if they get success and make a career out of it all the better as well.