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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Two teams hold back (Guardian)

Two teams hold back on legal validity of drug declaration
William FotheringhamWednesday July 4, 2007The Guardian

The bulk of the Tour de France field looks likely to sign the International Cycling Union's declaration on doping although there are reservations about the legal validity of the document. Last night two of the teams outstanding on the list, CSC and Quickstep, said they expected their riders to sign soon.

In the document riders declare that they are not involved in the Operation Puerto blood doping inquiry, they are not involved in other police investigations, they will surrender DNA for testing if required and will give a year's salary to the anti-doping fund of the union (UCI) if they test positive.

CSC's spokesman, Brian Nygaard, said last night that the team's riders would sign "within 24 hours" while Patrick Lefèvre of Quick Step said his charges would "probably" put their names to the document soon. The list of signatories on the UCI's website includes all five Britons in the race: Mark Cavendish, David Millar, Geraint Thomas, Charlie Wegelius and Bradley Wiggins.
Lefèvre and Nygaard said part of the delay was down to logistics but they also had doubts that the document was legally watertight and they resented a lack of consultation on the part of the UCI.

"Everyone is calling me and asking if we are signing, the answer is probably yes because we have no choice," said Lefèvre, whose views carry weight given that he is the head of the team's umbrella body, the International Association of Professional Cycling Groups (AIGCP).
"We are not happy but we understand the need to come to London with a clear message. We were not happy to participate in the UCI's one-man show. The AIGCP and the riders could have seen the letter before the press conference but we didn't see it until one hour before. We are not against the principle of the letter but the way they did it."

Lefèvre said he feared the document may not be legally watertight and, if that were the case, "if a rider tests positive, he might just laugh at us". He said the letter undermined the ethical code put in place by the teams, which forbids them from fielding any riders who are involved in police inquiries. The enforcement of the ethical code was what prompted a clear-out of riders involved in Puerto shortly before the start of the 2006 Tour.

He was echoed by Nygaard, who said: "They make it sound as if not signing means you are pro-doping. People are not against what it means but the way it was put forward. Even the UCI is doubtful that [the document] will hold in court. It is not a [legally] valid document but it serves a purpose. It is strange to compel the riders to sign a document when you know it is not legally valid."

Their reservations were echoed by Millar, who has become a leading light in the fight against doping since his return in 2006 from a two-year ban. "The bottom line is we have to sign it but, if you take a step back and look at it in the real world, it's a complete fallacy.

"It's another thing they're doing to help the fight against doping, and maybe it'll scare some guys, but the bottom line is that the guys who cheat now don't care, do they? You're already risking everything if you dope, so what do you care? As if they're going to be able to get a year's salary off you anyway. I wouldn't say it's lip service, it's just an extreme measure but a short-term one. It's a big gesture before the Tour but that's all it is."


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