The tour, which starts in Copenhagen on Friday, is fast approaching and, like the swallows heralding spring, doping and the police tactics to fight it, is back in the media headlines.
Bahrain, the team of Mohoric, Gradek, Tratnik or Luisle informs that the police coordinated by Europol visited some selected runners in Poland, Slovenia and Spain big loop, and team manager Milan Erzen, and searched their homes. Directly financed by the Emir of the Middle East, the team regrets that it still has no information on the progress of the investigation by the Marseille Public Prosecutor’s Office, which began with the search of his hotel in Pau during the last tour, and criticizes the fact that the operations always coincide with the tour together that gets on their nerves.
Surely those in charge of the team led by Landa and Pello Bilbao at the Giro d’Italia or any other team are not amused by the latest tactics used by the anti-doping authorities that the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced a few days ago.
“The fact that there are no positive results does not mean that there is no doping,” admits Amine Lanaya, Director General of the UCI, on the eve of the Tour, and the other participants in the seminar responsible for the fight against doping in cycling nod , and look at the poster with the title of the meeting: “Beyond Controls, an independent intelligence program to fight doping in cycling”.
And all those who are convinced that the usual controls, even the non-competitive ones, are only there to catch the very unwary or desperate, agree that knowing what’s at stake, it’s less about thieves to catch than to avoid robberies, the strategy needs to be changed. Fewer controls, more intelligence, more information. “We get a lot of scattered messages, a lot of little concrete information. We have to break them omerta [ley del silencio] of the train using information,” said Police Officer Nicholas Raudenski, director of intelligence for the International Testing Agency (ITA), the anti-doping office of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “We need proactive intelligence. Active agents, spies in the teams”. The decision is reminiscent of the action taken by the Spanish police, who placed some agents as fake waiters at the Parador del Teide when Dr. Michele Ferrari had reserved a room all year round and cyclists from all over the world swarmed through its facilities.
And Amine Lanaya goes even further. “We have to infiltrate the teams. Pay whistleblowers to learn what’s happening inside. We need that information,” says the UCI bureaucrat, an organization used to receiving information from dissatisfied cyclists or from dissatisfied workers and support staff. Lifelong spies, with many words and little evidence. Now they want information traffic professionals. “And let the runners know and spook: There’s a catch-up to come.”
“And for this we will increase the contribution of the UCI to the ITA,” promises David Lappartient, President of World Cycling, who recalls that cycling, the sport most affected by doping, is working hard to regain a credibility perhaps unattainable and lays the ban of all types of injections on the table, that of the opiate analgesic tramadol, that of corticosteroids, products and methods banned only in cycling. “This year we are donating eight million Swiss francs to the fight against doping. Regaining credibility has no price, but a very high price.”
“In fact,” says Benjamin Cohen, ITA’s director general, “perhaps we should be a little more optimistic. It’s true that there haven’t been any big cases or big names in the fight against doping in recent years, but if we don’t get the numbers, maybe it’s not because we can’t, it’s because they don’t dope. I think a lot of positive things have happened in the peloton. Our efforts have borne fruit.”
The fight goes on, and not just with intelligence, but with better use of good old controls, as announced by Olivier Banuls, director of cycling within the ITA. Until recently the controls during the Tour were divided between those made at the end of the stages to the winner, the leader and a few designated cyclists who were notified near the end of the race and in the world , blood and urine, which are made in the hotels for all drivers of all teams. The last tour already tried the tactic of not notifying the cyclists or the assistants waiting for them at the finish, whether they are in control or not. They are the so-called chaperones who approached the selected runners at the end of the stage and took them directly to the control center. This sometimes meant, says a tour official, that the escorts sometimes couldn’t find the chosen riders because they didn’t show up. “So,” this agent recalls, “sometimes we had to get on the team buses, where the runners were waiting to go back to the hotel, have a snack, shower, and get their urine samples there…”
“This practice of the bus without notice will spread,” warns Banuls. “The agent can board the team buses at any time in the morning before the stages and later at night to carry out checks. No runner can be sure of not passing the check… And there will always be checks aimed at the cyclists, whom we suspect most, thanks to information from our secret service.”
Although the only controls and tests and positives that have been talked about in the last three years have been PCRs, antigens and Covid 19, the fight against doping goes on, silently and, as its ideologues believe, intelligently, looking for credibility, which is still volatile and removed, beyond the proclamations of official announcements.
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