WADA to probe UCI leak

2011-05-16 12:08

Montreal - The World-Anti Doping Agency will conduct its own independent investigation to determine the source of the leak of an International Cycling Union document that ranks riders at last year's Tour de France on a scale of doping suspicion.

WADA Director David Howman informed the agency's executive committee and foundation board at Sunday's meeting that he pledged its "full support" of the UCI's own investigation into the leak of what it termed "an internal working document."

On Friday, French sports daily L'Equipe published what it said was UCI's "index of suspicion" for all 198 riders from the 2010 Tour on a grade of zero to 10.

Howman said he felt he had no option but to proceed with his investigation to rule out the possibility that the leak came from someone within the agency.

"I don't think there's any possibility that there is a WADA person involved," Howman said. "I have already conducted an initial inquiry as soon as I received a phone call to suggest that it might have come from us. I just can't stand that sort of thing, so let's wait and see what comes out."

The index rated professional cyclists, with 10 the highest level of suspicion and zero the lowest, on how likely officials felt they were to be using banned substances, based on information taken from blood tests and the athletes' biological passports.

"There's a fundamental issue of confidentiality which we are bound to protect and we owe that to athletes, otherwise athletes start losing confidence in the system," Howman said. "Our job is to monitor and guard that system so I think we've got a fundamental decision to make about protecting it."

The UCI noted that the information in the document was "liable to be interpreted in an incorrect and prejudicial manner" when it announced its own investigation into the leak Friday.

Riders reacted angrily to the existence of the list and demanded an explanation from the UCI.

"Well I think the information that's in the report can be misconstrued in a way that it's not fair and therefore if somebody is outraged, I can understand it," Howman said. "What I think there needs is a bit of calm so that at least the principal issue can be addressed, the one relating to the leak, and then we can deal with the substance, if necessary, but let's get on with finding whether confidential material came from WADA."

The ratings were based on readings drawn from each rider's biological passport profile before the Tour, including the latest blood tests on July 1, two days before the start of the race.

Two riders were listed at 10 - Carlos Barredo of Spain and Yaroslav Popovych of Ukraine, one of Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team-mates; one at 9 - Denis Menchov of Russia; and several more at 8, including Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Belgium. Most of the riders scored below 4.

Armstrong and team-mate Levi Leipheimer were listed at 4, while another team-mate, Christopher Horner, got a zero.

Most of the riders scored below 4, including 49 at 0.

Last year's winner, Alberto Contador, was listed at 5.

Contador was the only rider who tested positive during last year's race. He blamed the positive clenbuterol on eating contaminated beef and was cleared by the Spanish cycling federation.

UCI and WADA have appealed Contador's acquittal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Their previous combined appeal to CAS led to Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde's two-year global ban for his connection to a blood-doping ring after his national federation refused to sanction him.

CAS has not picked a date to hear Contador's case, but plans to issue a ruling before the Tour de France begins on July 2.

Contador took the Giro d'Italia leader's pink jersey Sunday with his first stage win of this year's race.

WADA president John Fahey declined to single out the Spanish body or comment on the appeal.

"We don't comment about one country versus the other," Fahey said. "We're a world body and we're responsible for doing whatever has to be done, whatever the country of origin of the cyclist. One might argue that the biggest case we ever had was the Floyd Landis case. He was an American, so we didn't comment then on where he came from or otherwise. It's not appropriate to say anything about any individual country."