Thursday, June 21, 2007

A correction and expansion

It turns out the original AFP story about the UCI targeting 6 or 7 riders for special attention was about twice as long as what was printed in the online L'Équipe story. Herewith is the rest of the story, as it appeared in eurosport.fr.

One consequence of seeing the whole story was to reveal that I'd made a mistake in translation. Mme Gripper used a word which I knew well enough meant "uniform" or "kit," but which in the context of the half-story I thought she meant metaphorically. So I translated it as "bizarre manners [of training]." It turns out that she meant "uniforms," as you'll see below. Sorry for the error. It doesn't change much, and certainly doesn't invalidate your comments.

A further consequence of seeing the rest of the story, it seems to me, is to put the UCI in an ever worse light that before. First, insofar as it makes their criteria for selecting their "targets" (their word) even more arbitrary. You could be singled out because you train in what they think is a weird jersey? Gimme a break. Second, because it reveals a vigilante mind-set that we've certainly seen before in WADA and the USADA. Mme Gripper said the DSs were informed their riders were targets . . . wait for it . . . two days ago, after they'd been targeted for months. If the UCI had really wanted to stamp out certain practices, they'd have let the DSs in on the secret investigation from the start. What the UCI wanted was to be sure they had evidence against certain riders, not to stop any practices. Third, with the further details included in the rest of the story, I'm surprised the riders haven't been identfied and named already. Really discreet, that UCI.


"Men in Black"

By the start of the Tour, the UCI will have performed some 160 unnannounced tests, that is, as many as they did in the whole of the 2006 season. This sampling zeal only made sense if it concentrated on the at-risk population. At the beginning of the season, the international federation (as had its opposite numbers at the World Anti-Doping Association, and using WADA's code) identified a target group, based partially on competition results, but also on other criteria like the presence of suspect parameters during blood tests, or the possession of a certificate for abnormally elevated hemocrit.

At the UCI, the target group of 60 riders also included those whose names were cited in the Puerto case. Little by little, as the Tour de France approached--a supersensitive race which was already facing starting without a current winner as long as there is no judgment in the Floyd Landis case--the UCI reduced its target to six or seven riders, belonging to several teams, who were particularly likely to shine in July. "We had information according to which they trained in strange places wearing bizarre uniforms"—which were not their team uniforms, Anne Gripper explained, adding that three of these riders were nicknamed the "Men in Black" [in English in the original].

Responsibility put on the directeurs sportifs

Two "men in black" recently went off to train in an unusual location at which the UCI performed unannounced tests, according to Mme Gripper. A little before the start of the Dauphiné Libéré, a persistent rumor in the peloton claimed that one team being watched trained in black jerseys on the roads of the Côte d’Azur. As far as some riders in the peloton are concerned, a black jersey is not a simple expedient for camouflage, but a rallying symbol for former clients of Michele Ferrari, nicknamed "Dr. EPO. "

Anne Gripper made clear that the directeur sportifs affected by this had been alerted Tuesday to the targeting of certain of their riders, during the meeting of the UCI and the teams of the Pro Tour in Geneva. "We shared our suspicions with them--without naming names--and we made a special request to them to themselves provide us their riders' locations," a task which normally falls to the cyclists and not their team directors. Bottom line: the days leading up to the Tour may turn out, as in 2006, to be filled with action.

4 comments:

N.B.O.L. said...

First before my comment, thank you Marc for your work in translating this for the people who didn't pass their french class many years ago.

The UCI's logic for picking people for special tests makes as much sense to me as the police along some of the drug belt interstate highways using the fact that a driver was driving exactly the speed limit, or a couple of mph below the speed limit as probable cause to pull them over and search the vehicle. After all if they are obeying the law they must be afraid of getting stopped and having their vehicle searched.

Glendora said...

If black shirts are the selection criteria, what would happen if the cyclists wore Floyd Landis kits? ... daily tests, more magnets on the mass spectrometer, and the baselines would be as flat as the L'Alpe d'Huez.

DaveK said...

My reading of the translation is that the UCI believed that they were trying to conceal their training by not dressing in team colors.

Sort of a "Hey! who are those masked cyclists?" approach.

pcrosby said...

The folks calling the shots at UCI must have grown up watching too many old U.S. westerns....black identifies the bad guys making life simple. Or maybe they have a Darth Vader obsession?

And they sorted 60 down to 6 or 7, using their fine tuning criteria? Not based on out of competition testing results?

Close focus on a few with repeated testing is certainly likely to suggest to even the mentally slowest rider that he might be under a microscope. Just might have an impact on any PED use.

If they really wanted to stamp out PED's then they would subject all of the potential riders to consistent, constant donations for testing and then do their sampling on whatever basis they want. Eye color, make of bike, training location, mother's hair color, music preference, etc. Maybe the black training kits are actually for Landis, or LNDD.
Pete Crosby