French anti-doping chiefs (AFLD) said Wednesday they were surprised at the lack of positive doping tests at this year's Tour de France and said they won't collaborate with world cycling's ruling body next year.
And the AFLD maintained its claims that the Astana team of Lance Armstrong and eventual winner Alberto Contador were among the most "blatant" when it came to delays during doping controls.
"What is surprising is that the UCI does not organise the controls in a regular manner, which can create opportunities (for teams or riders)," said AFLD president Pierre Bordry at a news conference. "I am astonished that there were no positive doping tests at this year's race."
The AFLD's shaky relationship with cycling's world ruling body the UCI (International Cycling Union) crumbled some more this week when newspapers, citing an AFLD report, claimed that some teams, including Astana, were given special treatment at this year's race.
"For some teams, the unexpected nature of anti-doping tests did not exist on the Tour," Le Figaro said, adding that the 10-page AFLD report was to be sent on Monday to the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Although the UCI has vehemently denied those allegations, Bordry appeared to maintain those claims Wednesday when he also claimed that UCI controllers lacked "rigour".
He said that on the 2009 Tour de France some blood samples were not always kept refrigerated, some riders were difficult to locate and that testers had to sometimes wait up to an hour for a rider to appear after being notified of an impending control.
Jean-Pierre Verdy, who is chief of the team which carries out the controls, said: "It was mostly Astana. For the other teams it wasn't quite as blatant. Where is the 'random' factor in all of that?"
Bordry indicated that as a consequence he would not volunteer to work in conjunction with the UCI next year.
"I won't be asking to work with the UCI doing the controls in 2010," added Bordry. "The international (sports) federations must understand that when it comes to anti-doping you have to be rigorous and transparent, otherwise doubts are raised which may not be founded but which are justified by the absence of transparence."
After Spain's Contador won the Tour, his teammate Armstrong, the seven-time Tour champion, promptly quit and has joined new American team Radio Shack.
Several riders at the 2008 Tour de France were snared for CERA, a new variant of the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), during and after last year's race.
Bordry's team decided to again carry out similar back-up tests on samples belonging to 17 suspect riders from 2008, but on Wednesday he said all the tests "were negative".
How the UCI sees things
However Britain's Barry Broadbent, a UCI doping inspector, says the AFLD claims are wide of the mark. He also believes Astana were among the most scrutinized teams on the race.
"If I were to make a report on the Tour de France, I would say they were the opposite," said Broadbent when asked what he thought of a damning report by the AFLD which criticised the UCI's anti-doping system at the race.
"The AFLD were subjecting them to more controls at more inconvenient times than anyone else," he added. "To say that one team had privileges when clearly they were tested more than any other team seems quite ridiculous to me."
Broadbent played down the influence of the UCI inspectors at the three-week race. And he believes Bordry's allegations stem from his body's reluctance to collaborate with the UCI.
"We are only observers for the French doctors who do the samples, appointed by the AFLD. We identify the riders, we take charge of the situation, that is we make sure we've got the right people," he added. "But from then on the actual procedure of taking the urine sample is conducted by the doctors, in this case appointed by the AFLD and of course ratified by the UCI that they were suitable people.
"The only tests conducted without AFLD doctors were on rest days. Other than those rest days, all other tests conducted were by AFLD doctors."
He added: "I don't understand where the AFLD is coming from. Whether there's some inherent problem with the UCI conducting tests in what is the territory of the AFLD, I don't know.
"It would seem that the AFLD don't want to work with us, they want to work against us and I would have thought that in the fight against doping it's essential that all agencies work together. It must be some political thing.
"I can't understand anyone criticising the work of two inspectors who seem to be accepted by the riders and teams in the race, despite that we had what was a very demanding job for us and the riders."
© AFP 2009
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