International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid has called for Tour de France bosses to reflect on the consequences of trying to end all collaboration with the sport's ruling body.
McQuaid, the UCI president, has come under fire from organisers following the affair which led to the eviction of former race leader Michael Rasmussen. The Dane's ejection by his Rabobank team followed a week of speculation that he had been doping and revelations that he had missed four random dope tests in the past 18 months.
Tour chiefs believe the UCI, who knew about Rasmussen's missed tests but could do nothing legally to prevent him from racing, had deliberately set out to harm the race's reputation by not informing them of the Dane's situation. The Rasmussen affair was followed by two positive doping controls, leading to the eviction of the Astana and Cofidis teams and calls worldwide for the Tour to clean up its image.
Tour bosses say they have lost all faith in the UCI, and on Saturday called for those higher up to be sacked. "There's only one solution (in such circumstances), and that's resignation," said Patrice Clerc, the president of the race's parent company Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).
McQuaid rejected such calls, and told AFP he hopes the organisers would return from their vacation with a more pragmatic attitude. The Irishman, who suffered a tirade from Tour chief Christian Prudhomme when the Rasmussen case emerged, said that ASO should examine its own conscience.
"The Tour de France organisation needs to step back and look at the bigger picture. The problem now is that ASO has become purely money-orientated," he told AFP after the race's 19th stage on Saturday.
McQuaid feels that, ultimately, the Tour could be the real reason behind the doping affairs which have sullied this year's race, and led to what he feels is unfounded criticism for the UCI. "ASO are refusing to look inwards. Maybe the Tour is the cause of it (doping)," he added.
McQuaid said that cheating, in one way or another, had been more or less accepted by organisers until fairly recently. "Doping has nearly always been part of the Tour, and for many years the organisers did nothing about it. Now that society as a whole is changing, and things are becoming more transparent, it (cheating) can't be hidden so easily.
"But people still believe that to win the Tour, you have to be on something."
He said the organisers' criticism of the handling of the Rasmussen affair, as well as the positive test of German Patrik Sinkewitz, was irrational. Sinkewitz, of T-Mobile, had tested positive for testosterone from a test run by the German Anti-Doping Agency in June.
Prudhomme believes the timing was deliberate.
McQuaid said the UCI did not even know about the positive test until the German cycling federation announced it. "Sinkewitz was tested by the German anti-doping agency, and the laboratory which found the result then informed the German federation.
"The federation then sent a statement about Sinkewitz's positive without informing the UCI. So I can categorically say the UCI had no part in that at all.
"It was the same with the Danish federation, when the news on Rasmussen came out during the Tour. Rasmussen has not even tested positive and his reputation could be irreparably damaged," added McQuaid, who said he could disprove the Tour organisers' complaints with evidence.
"I've got the facts to prove that they are wrong (about Rasmussen and Sinkewitz)."
© AFP 2007