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UCI, WADA deny disagreement

8/18/2010

GENEVA -- The International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency have denied claims they clashed over how to manage the biological passport program to catch drug cheats.

The UCI said WADA is "very satisfied" with its handling of the project, which costs $6.2 million annually and has led directly to disciplinary cases against eight riders since its launch in 2008.

"WADA has never expressed any particular concerns on this subject and has taken no measures against the UCI," the cycling body said in a statement.

WADA director general David Howman said the international doping watchdog had no reason to criticize cycling officials.

"We don't have any difficulties with UCI at the moment. I don't see any current tension," Howman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The UCI issued the response Tuesday to a recent Wall Street Journal report, which said WADA was concerned that some cases against racers under suspicion had been dropped.

In May, the UCI identified three riders who faced charges even though they never failed a drug test after analysis of their blood profiles suggested they had used banned substances or doping methods. They included Franco Pellizotti, who won the best climber category at the 2009 Tour de France and has been banned for two years by Italian authorities.

The newspaper reported that five other cases were dropped by the UCI, and WADA wanted to inspect those riders' biological passport results.

Howman said it was working with the UCI to "ensure the process is working."

"It's not a situation we are reacting to. It's one we are doing as part of our day-to-day work," he said.

The UCI responded Tuesday that it examined three cases, not five, and has been monitoring those riders. One racer, who it did not name, has since been banned after testing positive for doping.

Cycling's governing body said the time to build and open a disciplinary case was "sometimes longer than one would like."

"That is mainly because the biological passport is an avant-garde, sophisticated tool, which the UCI is the first federation to have introduced," it said.

About 850 professional racers have given blood samples for their passport, which is analyzed by the WADA-accredited laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Suspicious profiles are presented to a UCI-appointed independent panel of nine experts that advises if the results and the rider's explanation can be justified medically or scientifically.

Ultimately, the anti-doping and legal departments of the UCI decide whether to take on a doping case. The UCI can issue the provisional suspension and request national federations to prosecute the case.

"I think the panel, when it was initially comprised, felt that they were the body -- or potentially the body -- that was going to decide whether it was a doping case or not," Howman said. "That's just not the situation."