by Justin Davis
PARIS, June 10, 2009 (AFP) – The International Cycling Union (UCI) said several riders currently under suspicion of doping will be named publicly next week, and will subsequently face sanctions.
UCI chief Pat McQuaid, here Wednesday to announce plans for the fight against doping at next month’s Tour de France, would not give any details on the riders involved.
But, a day after Spaniard Anton Colom was revealed to have tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) – a test borne of suspicious blood readings on his biological passport – more riders are set to fall victim to the efficiency of the sport’s newest weapon in the coming days.
“Following a meeting of experts in Geneva last week, the UCI has decided to start disciplinary actions against a certain number of riders on the basis of evidence taken from their biological passports,” said McQuaid.
“They will be informed early next week, we will inform their teams and national federations and then we will make a public statement, naming the riders. The process has already started.”
As well as a question mark over who is suspected of cheating, it remains to be seen how the UCI deals with the riders involved — none of whom have, as yet, tested positive.
However because of the growing influence of the biological passport, a scheme to which all 800 professional riders around the world have adhered, the UCI is still able to use its evidence to strongly advise the relevant national federations to mete out sanctions to the riders involved.
The UCI has already suspended riders despite a lack of positive tests for banned drugs.
Two years ago Ivan Basso, then Italy’s biggest cycling star, was handed a two-year ban for his implication in the ‘Operation Puerto’ doping affair, which was said to have involved many athletes, not just in cycling.
McQuaid affirmed Wednesday that in the absence of positive tests the riders would still face sanctions.
“Basso was suspended on the basis of suspected blood levels. So action can be taken,” he told AFP, highlighting the case of autologous blood transfusions, when one’s own blood is taken out then re injected and for which a validated test does not yet exist.
“If there’s a decrease of certain (blood) values on a certain day, then there’s only one reason for that and that will be that the rider’s blood has been taken out.
“On that basis we can proceed with an anti-doping violation.”
On Tuesday Colom was provisionally suspended ahead of a hearing with the Spanish cycling federation.
Inconsistent blood readings led to him being targeted with an out of competition test on April 2, and this tested positive for EPO at a laboratory in Madrid.
The UCI said Tuesday that Colom had been tested due to information gleaned from his biological passport.
“This abnormal result is the direct result of a targeted test based on information taken from his blood profile and knowledge of his competition schedule,” the UCI said in a statement.