GENEVA - All ProTour cyclists will be asked to sign a declaration before the Tour de France saying they are not involved in doping and agreeing to pay a year's salary on top of their two-year ban if found guilty of drug use. The measures were announced Tuesday by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) following a meeting with leaders of all 20 ProTour teams to discuss the sport's doping crisis, less than three weeks before the start of the Tour in London on July 7.
"The UCI will not tolerate any individual or organization that causes damage to our sport," UCI president Pat McQuaid said. "There is no reason cycling and doping should be linked and no reason doping should overshadow our sport."
In the declaration, the riders also agree to let Spanish authorities use their DNA to compare it to blood samples seized in the Operation Puerto doping investigation.
T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish and Francaise des Jeux rider Sandy Casar each signed the document at a news conference that followed the meeting.
"It's better than nothing. It's a desperate step by a desperate sport," Team Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer said. "But it's an important step in the right direction because everyone can see cycling is not free from doping."
The UCI will publish a list of those cyclists who have signed the anti-doping declaration on its website.
"This will show those who are reluctance to sign it," McQuaid said.
Although the federation can't force riders to sign, UCI is asking team managers to take that into consideration when deciding whether to enter riders in a race. The UCI is also asking teams not to let riders involved in Operation Puerto or other doping cases start the Tour de France or other races.
"The riders who are cheating might hesitate when they see a one-year salary (as a sanction)," Holczer said. UCI is also asking teams to forbid their cyclists from seeking medical consultations outside the team staff.
"Illegal practices will not be tolerated anymore," McQuaid said.
UCI appointed a Spanish-speaking lawyer to work at its headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, on the Operation Puerto case. The scandal broke in May 2006 when Spanish authorities seized about 100 bags of frozen blood in the Madrid offices of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. More than 50 cyclists were implicated, but a judge ruled that Spain's doping laws couldn't be applied retroactively and threw out the case. However, the UCI has continued to pursue the matter.
The UCI recently received 1,000 pages of files from the investigation. It expects another 5,000 pages within the next few weeks. McQuaid said he was pessimistic that UCI's team of lawyers could get through the material before the start of the Tour de France. He said that UCI's lawyer in Spain had quickly reviewed the 6,000-page file and found no indication there were any new additional names in the investigation.
McQuaid, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme and Patrick Lefevere, president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), were open to the idea of hiring a team of lawyers to get through the documents more quickly. They would share the cost. McQuaid said he was unsure whether UCI would be allowed to use the documents for any disciplinary purposes, but said the federation would go ahead anyway, at the risk of being pursued by the Spanish judge.
"We will go forward and face the consequences," McQuaid said. "The fact we are getting the 6,000 pages means the judge is yielding to the pressure that things need to move on. I don't think the Spanish judge will interfere."
To learn more about an American team's solution to the stigma of cheating in cycling, read: The buck stops here: Team's plan to eliminate doping.