Top-tier teams call for biological passport to be introduced for all

WorldTour and Professional Continental teams are part of UCI's anti-doping passport scheme, but Continental squads are not

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A third-division rider winning ahead of the WorldTour and Professional Continental riders caused some squads to call for biological passport anti-doping controls at all levels. Yesterday, Iranian Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour won the queen stage of Malaysia’s Tour de Langkawi and positioned himself to take the overall win in five days.

Last spring, local third division rider Mustafa Sayar won the Tour of Turkey. Two months later, tests showed he did so with EPO in his system. Pourseyedigolakhour already failed an EPO test and served a suspension. Immediately after he came back to racing, last July, he won the Tour of Qinghai Lake. After a winter in Iran’s cold north, he returned to take control in Malaysia and raised eyebrows.

The 28-year-old from Tabriz, whose team receives support by Petrochemical from the same town, leads by eight seconds over Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka). Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare) trails by 11 seconds, Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) 20 seconds and Petr Ignatenko (Katusha) 36 seconds. The top eight, spots two through eight, race for second or first division teams.

“I’ve never raced against him before. I saw on the internet yesterday that he was banned before for doping,” Kudus said. “Can we trust him? It’s hard to explain. We have to accept that he’s strong. I’m a first year professional and young. This guy has more power than me, that’s the difference.”

“To pass judgement on another cyclist is difficult, it’s a delicate subject. At this moment, we need to have faith,” Chaves added. “It’s normal that some riders cheat, whether it’s for first or 80th place. It happens. We are going to have to just wait and see.”

Ignatenko said the peloton has to trust riders like Pourseyedigolakhour and allow the tests to explain. Team directors, however, said they should all play by the same rules.

“You don’t want to accuse anybody because I’d hate for any young guy like Merhawi, for example, to be accused of doing something illegal,” said MTN sports director, Kevin Campbell. “Unfortunately that rider does have a history. Where there’s smoke there’s bound to be fire. We’d prefer a level field when it comes to testing and the biological passport. It’s too easy for someone to fly under the radar at this level.”

“Last year, we raced the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. Joaquím Rodríguez and Alberto Contador were there but Daniel Diaz won. A continental rider who beat great champions,” team Androni general manager, Gianni Savio said.

“It’s not right that first and second division teams race against third division teams that are not under the biological passport. The UCI needs to put them under the biological passport so that way we’d remove all doubts.”

He explained that his team, in the second division, pays €80,000 a year to the UCI to manage the biological passport. He suggested that the third division teams could join at a discounted rate.

Savio added: “You have to do it.”