Conference On Doping In Cycling Opens

Monday, October 22nd 2007, 9:27 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Cycling risks becoming ``a travesty'' and ``a fraud'' if it doesn't unite to fight doping, the sport's top official warned at a conference Monday that brought together cycling's severely divided leadership.

International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid, who has been criticized by Tour de France and anti-doping officials, urged colleagues to move past their recent sniping and recognize that the sport's very survival is at stake.

``We are here because we share a common determination to stamp out doping in our sport,'' he said. ``There's been so much background noise in recent years, the fact that we all still agree on one major objective is a good start for this meeting.''

``Either we fix this beyond doubt or cycling as we have known it _ in all its glory _ will become a travesty of a sport, a fraud for the public, and a shame for us in this room,'' McQuaid said.

Team doctors, health officials, French police, anti-doping authorities, and sport regulators and administrators were on hand for the conference.

But the two-day conference _ at least for its opening _ was missing representation among those who may matter most: the riders themselves. None was on hand, and the one who had been scheduled _ British cyclist David Millar _ pulled out for personal reasons, organizers said.

The meeting was organized by French Health and Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, who has sensed the fallout of doping on the Tour de France and wants the differing sides to fight cheats.

``The first thing I'm expecting is to show how cycling can be at the forefront _ voluntarily _ in this area, and rebuild the image'' of the sport, Bachelot told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

``We want to make this summit a sort of pilot project for the fight against doping, which will be useful for the entire sports world,'' she said.

High on the agenda is a proposal by the International Cycling Union, UCI, made last week to set up medical profiles _ a so-called ``biological passport'' _ for riders based on blood and urine samples.

Cheating has dogged cycling for years, but this year more than most. Among the damage at this year's Tour, longtime leader Michael Rasmussen was sent home for missing pre-race doping checks, and pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov was expelled for testing positive for a banned blood transfusion.

Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour title last month _ though he is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport _ after he tested positive for using synthetic testosterone to fuel a dazzling comeback to win that year. Spain's Oscar Pereiro now holds that title.

Many in the sport have traded accusations over who is to blame _ and they'll be called upon to put aside their differences.

McQuaid is scheduled to sit on a panel Tuesday with World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound and Patrice Clerc, who heads the company that runs the Tour _ two men who have been sharply critical of the UCI over doping.

``I'm expecting people whose presence is indispensable, and who, for some time have hesitated, grumbled, or refused to talk with each other,'' Bachelot said. ``They have lost the habit of working together.''

Pound, for his part, is coming off a dispute with former French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour, who resigned as a WADA vice president last week and withdrew his candidacy to become Pound's replacement. Pound was expected to attend the conference Tuesday.

Lamour, once considered a strong favorite for the post, claimed Tuesday that WADA was ``discredited'' and ``in the process of regressing by 10 years.'' Pound responded by accusing Lamour of making ``false and defamatory'' remarks and suggesting he never should have been a candidate in the first place.