The International Cycling Union (UCI) have threatened sanctions against riders and teams competing in this year’s Tour de France after organisers announced Tuesday that the race will take place under the jurisdiction of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
The decision follows a long-running dispute between the two bodies which stems from whether race organisers including Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who organise the Tour de France, or the sport’s governing body, the UCI, have the final say over who rides in their races.
As with the Paris-Nice race earlier this year, the 2008 Tour will be organised under the authority of the FFC with the country’s anti-doping agency French Agency for the fight against Doping (AFLD) in charge of doping controls.
“We have asked the FFC that the Tour be organised under their authority. The AFLD will therefore be in charge of the doping tests before and during the race,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said.
The UCI, meanwhile, slammed the move as “a bad decision for cycling” and judged it as “extremely regrettable for the sport and the unity of the cycling family.
“It is not correct that ASO leaders, backed by the FFC, preferred to make the annoucement during a press conference before warning the international federation beforehand,” the UCI said in a statement. “It constitutes additional evidence of the ASO’s wish to no longer take into account the authority of the UCI concerning international cycling.”
And they warned that riders and teams could face sanctions for competing in a race being run outside the UCI authority.
“Riders and teams by competing will expose themselves to sanctions through the fault of ASO leaders,” the UCI said. “ASO have shown that they intend to follow their own rules in the framework of a structure created by themselves. This year they are going to deprive the titleholder (Alberto Contador) of defending his title. UCI regards the fight against such tendencies as fundamental,” the statement added.
Prudhomme, meanwhile, said he was confident that doping scandals which have rocked the world‘s most famous cycling race in recent years could be avoided in 2008.
Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen was last year thrown off the race by his team, Rabobank, while wearing the leader’s yellow jersey for lying about his whereabouts the previous month when he was being sought out for doping tests, a situation not communicated to Tour organisers by the UCI.
Prudhomme said: “I find it hard to imagine that the UCI will keep this type of information to themselves and not to pass it on time to the concerned parties. We’re not judge and jury. We want simply that the people who need to know do know.”
And Prudhomme said that the door was open for the Astana team of reigning champion Contador to rejoin the race in 2009 after being barred this year as a result of doping scandals over the previous two years.
“We’ve said from the start that we have nothing against Alberto Contador. If Astana have good results and no worries in 2008 we will without doubt take another decision next year,” Prudhomme added.
AFLD president Pierre Bordry said that the blood passport scheme which was introduced last autumn would not be used during the Tour because the UCI were refusing to pass on elements to organisers of races outside their calendar.
But he said: “I have the direct support of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) president.”
Secretary of State for Sport Bernard Laporte said: “It’s out of the question that the Tour de France be taken hostage,” adding that he hoped that contact could be reopened with the UCI concerning the blood passport.
The Tour starts from Brest on July 5 and ends in Paris on July 27.