Small amount of drug no excuse, says cycling chief

The ability of only select laboratories to detect the small amount of clenbuterol in Alberto Contador’s samples was not sufficient reason to clear the rider, International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid said.

The Tour de France champion was provisionally suspended on Thursday for having a concentration of anabolic agent clenbuterol 400 times less than what anti-doping laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) must be able to detect.

The Spanish rider, who gave the sample on a rest day at the Tour in July and has blamed contaminated meat, has called for authorities to put baselines on the amounts of banned substances athletes can present before they are regarded suspicious.

“That really isn’t an excuse, because the UCI has the capacity to send samples to any laboratory we wish to send samples,” McQuaid told reporters at the road world championships in Geelong on Saturday.

“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.”

“I’m not by any means casting any reference on what Alberto Contador had to say in relation to that or not, but in principle we will do anything we can.”

“It’s not our role [to set baselines]. It’s Wada that controls that. We work within the rules that are there.”

McQuaid declined to comment directly on Contador’s case but confirmed that at least two laboratories—in France and in the German city of Cologne—had been used to analyse the Spanish rider’s test results.

Not finished
He also denied that the UCI had dithered in its investigations into the high-profile Spanish rider, when questioned as to why the findings had taken so much time to be made public when the initial sample was taken in July.

“[It’s] because the results management process is not finished.

“We didn’t put [the case] in a grey zone.

“The problem with this situation is that a leak appeared halfway through the results management process and that is what’s complicated the system here.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take ... It is in our interests and it’s in the sport’s interests that this thing comes to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

“That is something that which I will be discussing with [Wada director-general] David Howman over this weekend and trying to find out exactly where it’s at.”

“They need to understand, and I think they do, that we need to draw a conclusion fairly quickly.”

The UCI on Thursday announced it had provisionally suspended Olympic cross country medallist Margarita Fullana for returning a positive test to banned blood-booster EPO, the fourth Spanish cyclist to be suspended for positive drug tests in the last three days.

Tour de Spain runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera and fellow Spaniard David Garcia Da Pena’s suspensions were announced on Thursday shortly after Alberto Contador’s.

The results have cast a pall over the road cycling world championships in the port city of Geelong this week and harmed cycling’s fight to cast off its image as a sport of drug cheats.

“Cycling has taken a big hit and cycling has taken a worldwide big hit as well,” McQuaid said. - Reuters

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