Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), world cycling’s governing body, says the biological passport programme introduced in January 2008 will help bring an end to doping problems in the sport.
Years of high-profile drug scandals moved UCI to introduce the passports, which contain a personal record of each cyclist’s drug-testing history, to 850 pro riders.
“I genuinely and honestly think we are at a very good stage now,” McQuaid said at the Tour of California on Thursday. “The various stakeholders and teams have invested in this programme and we are at a stage now where we have biological passports on all of the riders that are riding at the top level.
“I do believe that this whole programme is going to be the future of anti-doping, or at least one item in the arsenal in the fight against doping.”
Last year’s Tour de France was rocked by multiple drug scandals, with stage-winners Riccardo Riccò and Stefan Schumacher both kicked out of the competition after testing positive for a new strand of the blood booster EPO.
The major Tours, including the Tour de France, have since made it an entry stipulation that all teams must follow the rules concerning the biological passport.
“We are bringing back the credibility of cycling,” McQuaid said. “We’ve suffered over the past four or five years, but I do believe that this will be a good year for cycling. I don’t think we are going to have the same types of scandals.”
This year’s Tour de France is likely to come under even greater scrutiny as seven-time champion Lance Armstrong bids to win his eighth Tour after a four-year absence.
McQuaid believes the world-famous Texan, himself the subject of persistent rumours about doping, can play a key role in the rejuvenation of the sport.
“Look at what has happened this year, with the return of Lance,” McQuaid said. “When you see the impact that he had on the Tour Down Under and his involvement here and the increased publicity, it’s because of his return, and it has been nothing but good for cycling as a whole.”
© BikeRadar & AFP 2009