France's national anti-doping agency (AFLD) said it is once again ready to help play a role beating the drugs cheats on the Tour de France after independent observers called for an end to its spat with world cycling chiefs.
The AFLD was officially sidelined from working at any International Cycling Union-affiliated races in France this year after accusing the UCI in 2009 of favouritism towards some teams.
It was claimed, notably, that the Astana team of three-time champion Alberto Contador - with whom seven-time champion Lance Armstrong raced in 2009 - kept UCI doping inspectors waiting for nearly an hour as samples were sought.
Despite being France's national agency, it left the AFLD virtually outlawed. In order to carry out controls on riders at the 2010 Tour, for example, the AFLD had to make special requests to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
A report released Tuesday by independent observers who have been called to look into how the fight against doping can be improved hit out at the dispute, calling for a "quick resolution".
Now under the leadership of Bruno Genevois following the departure of Pierre Bordry in October, the AFLD said it was prepared to play a role again.
"The AFLD would be happy to join forces with those of the UCI for major races (Paris-Nice, the Dauphine Libere and the Tour de France) as of next season, as much as before as during the competition," Genevois said in a statement.
"The presence of observers on the Tour de France has helped increase the impartiality and efficiency of controls when they take place. This has also proved dissuasive to riders tempted to exploit the possibilities of doping."
Cancer survivor Armstrong, who has faced unfounded accusations of doping throughout his career, will bring the curtain down on his career at the Tour Down Under in January 2011. His comeback from retirement there in 2009 left the UCI facing criticism after the world governing body waived its own rules regarding the registration of retired or inactive riders to allow the American to return to the sport in Australia.
Contador meanwhile has been provisionally suspended by the UCI after a positive test for clenbuterol, a banned substance, during this year's Tour de France race which he won for the third time.
The 27-year-old Astana rider, who has signed a two-year deal with Saxo Bank for the 2011 season, insists he is the victim of contaminated meat brought in from Spain which he ate.
© AFP 2010