Spain should be doing more to prevent doping in cycling, International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid said on Saturday.
McQuaid was speaking two days after Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was provisionally suspended after a positive test for clenbuterol, which the Spaniard has blamed on food contamination.
While Contador’s case gives the UCI a dilemma because of the tiny amount that was found in his urine sample from July 21 this year, he has not been the only Spaniard to hit the headlines.
This week alone four top riders were revealed to have tested positive for banned substances – Oscar Sevilla, Ezequiel Mosquera, David Garcia da Pena and women’s mountain biker Margarita Fullana.
And while McQuaid was at pains not to point fingers at any of the Spaniards competing at the world cycling championships, he said the Spanish government should be doing more to address the issue.
“The government needs to first of all recognise there is a problem and I don’t know that they’ve actually recognised it as a problem,” McQuaid said on Saturday.
“I don’t know what the percentage is but a large percentage of our doping cases come from Spain and there doesn’t seem to be – so far – the will to tackle that in Spain and that will need to come from the government down.
“But I hope that they would take note and realise that something needs to be done. Cycling is an important sport in Spain. The sport deserves the support of the government into trying to ensure they can completely clean their act up.
“Cycling has taken a big hit and cycling has taken a worldwide big hit as well.”
Although the UCI has upped the ante in the fight against dope cheats by introducing what it claims is a revolutionary ‘blood passport’ programme, it does not seem to be stopping some riders from taking the risk.
McQuaid said that while the UCI is doing its job by spending thousands regularly testing and targeting suspected riders, some cycling teams must play a bigger role.
“By and large the teams have learned,” added the Irishman.
“But the management of some teams have not taken the problem seriously enough. They need to control their athletes more. If a rider is blood doping, they have to know about that.”
The sample from Contador was tested in a laboratory in Cologne which is able to detect the tiniest traces of certain substances. In another laboratory, it may not have been noticed.
Contador on Friday hit out, claiming there should be a baseline level at which certain positive tests are reported.
But while McQuaid said the authorities would try to clear his case up as “quickly as possible” in the interests of the sport, he hit back: “That really isn’t an excuse, because the UCI has the capacity to send samples to any laboratory we wish to send samples.”
“If we feel that by sending samples to particular laboratories it benefits us in the fight against doping – that we catch cheats that we mightn’t catch if we send them to other laboratories – we send them.”
“It’s not our role (to set baselines). It’s WADA that controls that. We work within the rules that are there.”
© AFP 2010