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Are the UCI planning to undermine this year?s Tour de France?

Apart from today?s Floyd Landis decision, it has all gone rather quiet on the anti-doping front recently and you may be wondering why. The peloton is undoubtedly cleaner than it was only a couple of years ago but gossip has been circulating that the UCI is plotting to set off a doping scandal during the Tour de France, to deliberately undermine ASO?s most important race.

However Hein Verbruggen, the vice-president of the UCI, tried to put an end to these rumours last week during an interview with Jean Réveillon, the Director-General of the European Union of radio-television.

At a time when mutual trust between ASO and the UCI is at an all-time low, it is not only cynics who believe that that the UCI will wait until the Tour to release details of any positive tests, as with last year?s Patrick Sinkewitz case. Sinkewitz tested positive for artificial testosterone in an out of competition test on June 8 last year, the result of which was only released on the morning of the eighth stage of the Tour (a month later in the middle of the race), leading to the immediate withdrawal of German television channels ZDF and ARD.

?Verbruggen has assured me?, said Réveillon, ?that the teams will be warned before the start of the Tour of any anomalies concerning their riders? biological passports?.

According to the vice-president, undermining the Tour de France is simply out of the question. Verbruggen?s reign as UCI President during the 1990s was tainted by many scandals (including the Festina Affair in 1998). Any doping stories revealed during this year?s Tour could have disastrous consequences for cycling, which is only just beginning to rebuild itself after perpetual drugs problems.

?I was very happy to hear Verbruggen speak out like this?, Réveillon stated.

Although this is certainly good news for cycling, do not mistake this as any form of rapprochement between the two warring factions. The UCI released its extremely costly biological passport system at the beginning of this season, and after several setbacks at the hands of ASO, the UCI is eager to show its legitimacy as a governing body and an anti-doping authority.

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