Cycling gets another Pound-ing

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound gives cycling another roasting, criticising the sport's at

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound gives cycling another roasting, criticising the sport's at

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After a couple of quiet weeks, World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound has given professional cycling's attitude towards doping another mauling, writing in The Guardian that even after the 1998 Festina scandal "drug use, within entire teams, continues unabated".

Pound's latest bout of cycle-bashing took place in the British newspaper's weekly 'debate' column, which asked the question "Does cycling take its drug problem seriously enough?". The WADA chief said that cycling does not take the issue seriously enough, while International Cycling Union health manager Dr Mario Zorzoli took the opposing view.

Pound explained that polls conducted in the main cycling nations suggested that 80% of the people in those countries selected cycling as the sport they most associated with doping. "This is a stunning indictment of failure on the part of officials, organisers and riders," said Pound.

Pound declared that cycling has a knee-jerk response to news of doping issues. "If [doping stories come] from riders, the riders are immediately denounced, marginalised, written off as cranks or sued. If from the media, they are dismissed as untrue, exaggerated, not representative or taken out of context," he commented.

Pound stated that cycling has not faced up fully to the problem of doping even after the 1998 Festina scandal, when "industrial quantities of drugs and related equipment and arrests were made by the French police. This should have served as a call to arms for cycling. Apparently not. Drug use, within entire teams, continues unabated."

Pound continued: "Get something straight. This drug use is not the accidental ingestion of a tainted supplement by an individual athlete. It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it. All this cheating goes on under the supposedly watchful eyes of cycling officials, who loudly proclaim that their sport is drug-free and committed to remaining so. Based on performance, they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs."

Pound suggested that cycling should outsource its testing programmes to an independent agency and that more random testing should be undertaken. He concluded: "Is cycling serious about doping? How about a biblical answer: there are none so blind as those that will not see. Until cycling itself acknowledges that there is a problem, it will not be able to find a cure. Ritual denial and organisational omerta are not solutions."

Zorzoli offered an extremely different perspective, saying that cycling and the sport's authorities are doing all they can to tackle the problem of doping. "At the UCI, we can be proud to have led the way with measures which other sports adopted and which are now seen as the norm. We see prevention as vitally important; after all, it is better to stop athletes using banned substances in the first place," Zorzoli explained. "With the information I obtain from our anti-doping programme, I am assured our sport, at the highest level, is a lot cleaner than our critics believe."

To read the full text of The Guardian's debate feature follow this link

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