Cycling's voluntary anti-doping group, the MPCC, is losing ground. In three just months, three teams have pulled out of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), saying that its rules no longer make sense alongside the mandatory set cycling's governing body enforces.
Dutch WorldTeam LottoNL-Jumbo pulled the plug today on its membership. It joined WorldTeam Lampre-Merida and Professional Continental team Bardiani in saying 'au revoir' to the movement headed by former Crédit Agricole manager, Frenchman Roger Legeay.
Team Sky and other top teams never joined the movement that gained ground in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal of 2012. Without LottoNL and Lampre, the movement now only counts nine of the 17 WorldTour teams in cycling.
"With the MPCC, it was impossible to adjust the procedures. LottoNL cannot conform to a procedure that is not a 100% accurate," read a LottoNL statement.
"The team supports the MPCC’s standpoints and, for this reason, regrets this difficult decision."
LottoNL's decision followed the case of its New Zealand cyclist George Bennett. The team had to start the Giro d'Italia with only eight cyclists after Bennett's failed test for low cortisol levels. Had it been Sky or another non-MPCC member, obliged to only follow the UCI's rules, it could have raced Bennett.
Lampre faced the same situation on the eve of the 2014 Vuelta a España, when it was unable to race defending champion Chris Horner. It was Diego Ulissi's case, however, that finally broke off Lampre's relationship with the MPCC.
Ulissi served a nine-month doping ban for over-using asthma drug Salbutamol in the 2014 Giro d'Italia, but when his ban ended on March 28, his two-year contract to the end of 2015 with Lampre was still valid.
MPCC's voluntary rules read that a team should not hire a rider for the two years following his return and created a situation for Lampre. The same rule blocked MPCC member Astana from signing Franco Pellizotti in December 2013.
"The situation was complicated," Lampre-Merida team manager, Brent Copeland told Cycling Weekly. "We can follow the MPCC's rules, but there's a much higher set of rules that we have to take into consideration, those worker liability laws in Switzerland where the team is based."
LottoNL's top brass met with Legeay and the MPCC board over the winter to discuss its rules on low cortisol values, which it said is not always the result of doping.
The team also had to stop Theo Bos from racing the 2013 Vuelta a España for the same reason. In both cases, with Bos and Bennett, the team's tests showed reasons other than doping resulted in low values.
LottoNL-Jumbo general manager Richard Plugge explained, "we cannot justify a rider being excluded from entering a race any longer."
The MPCC counts only nine WorldTeams now: AG2R, Astana, Cannondale, FDJ, Giant, IAM, Katusha, Lotto-Soudal and Orica. Sky along with BMC, Etixx-Quick Step, Lampre, LottoNL, Movistar, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek are not members.
Had Sky been a member, it would have had to bench Chris Froome for eight days last year ahead of the Tour de Romandie. Froome had to take cortisol Prednisone to treat a chest infection ahead of Romandie, which he raced and won.
Cycling's governing body, the UCI, is working with the MPCC to eliminate the overlapping rules. Already this season, it introduced new rules that the MPCC had already enforced.
"It's confusing with teams running under other rules," UCI President Brian Cookson said in September. "It'd be easier if they are all under the same rules."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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