Two unions of professional cyclists raises serious objections to list, while cyclists decry the media and government focus on cycling as prejudicial.
By Jen Benepe
After conducting its own investigation into doping in professional cycling in 1998, the French Senate has released a list of names of
cyclists who have been found positive for banned substances using new retrospective testing.
Some of the biggest names in cycling at one time or another are on the list, including French cyclists Laurent Jalabert and Jacky Durand, and Australian cyclist Stuart O’Grady.
The new tests use modern methods of detection which are more than 95 percent reliable for detecting certain banned substances such as Erythropoetin (EPO) as compared to tests conducted during the 1990’s which were deemed to be less than 85 percent reliable.
The association of professional cyclists, CPA based in Italy has raised serious objections to the release of the information which it claims is both impossible to confirm as accurate, and also incomplete, only focusing on a sample of riders.
That’s because the list of names is among some of the pro cyclists who were taken as a sample from a larger group—others who also could potentially be positive, but who are not identified in the Senate’s report because their samples were not chosen for retesting with the newer tools now available to scientists in 2013.
A complete list of the riders in the Senate’s report is as follows:
Lance Armstrong (USA), Manuel Beltran (Spain), Jeroen Blijlevens(Pays-Bas), Mario Cipollini (Italy), Jacky Durand (France), Laurent Desbiens(France), Bo Hamburger (Denmark), Laurent Jalabert (France) Jens Heppner(Germany), Kevin Livingstone (USA),
Nicola Minali (Italy), Marco Pantani(Italy), Abraham Olano (Spain), Fabio Sacchi (Italy), Marcos Serrano(Spain), Andrea Tafi (Italy), Jan Ulrich (Germany), and Erik Zabel (Germany).
In a statement issued prior to the release of the Senate investigation, the Cyclistes Professionels Associes, said, “Such a list is not reliable: the tests were performed since many years, on condition of anonymity, for purely scientific purpose and not for anti-doping control.”
“The conditions under which the tests were realized are different from those applied for an anti-doping control, as the laboratory that performed the tests recognized,” wrote the CPA on July 18.
“Under these conditions the results are absolutely not guaranteed and it is impossible to guarantee the absence of errors including the nominative assignment.”
The Union Nationale des Cyclistes also objected to the list because, ” it is an accusation of doping without any method of defense [for the riders being accused,] because they would not have the possibility of demanding a counter analysis which they would normally be able to request under a standard disciplinary procedure, said Pascal Chanteur, the union’s president.
That is, similar to a public court proceeding without a lawyer and jury. Similar if not nearly identical to the intent and effect of the U.S. anti-doping investigator’s public pronouncement of Lance Armstrong.
The CPA also said the Senate’s action was unfair: “the tests of that time involved only a small number of riders of the 1998 Tour de France…[and] under these conditions, in addition to possibly incriminate riders not doped, the list “could whiten” others who might have doped,” said the CPA.
“Such a publication would be doubly unfair, unfairly condemning some riders while others would escape.”
Originally the list of names was held in strict confidence without reference to the names associated with the urine and blood samples.
But under the new senate investigation that was conducted this year, a relationship between the samples and the names of the riders, was demanded.
A new laboratory was used to test the old samples. In 1998, the testers did not have the ability to detect the presence of EPO in riders’ bodies.
Originally the Senate had hoped to release the list of names just prior to the Alpe d’Huez stage of the 2013 Tour de France.
But the UNCP said that doing so would have a negative impact on current riders’ performances, and billed it as unfair. So the release was held off until Wednesday, July 24, two full days after the ceremonies were held in Paris, when the entire results of the report were made public.
On Wednesday, Senator Jean Jacques Lozach who is leading the investigation defended the report “in the interest of conserving the functioning of the retrospective controls.”
“In light of Christopher Froome’s performance in the 2013 Tour [where he won the Yellow Jersey,] the suspicions were broadcast. Today they are not justified,” he said. “But these doubts could be legitimate in two or three years with retrospective controls.”
Reactions among cyclists were mostly negative, seeing no continued purpose in the revealing of names other than to besmirch the sport of cycling, which when compared to other sports is much more heavily tested.
Wrote one fan Albert-Jean Morazzani, to Le Monde newspaper:
“The Tour de France finishes and with it your daily necrological notice taking an inventory of the victims of doping in cycling. What are you going to do from now on? Are you interested in doping in other sports? Some lines about the athletes recently caught? Tennis, football, rugby? I doubt it because you are focused on cycling. Denounce drugs in sports? Assuredly, a worthwhile piece of work, but why two pounds and two measures? Without doubt because the Tour is the only big sports spectacle free and popular, and for example, it would be shocking to talk about tennis and to tarnish the elitist Roland-Garros. Indignation cannot be selective without the likelihood of becoming extremely intellectually limited. “