Russian WorldTour team Katusha announced Tuesday that it would leave the voluntary Mouvement Pour Un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC) immediately.
Citing a discrepancy between the sport’s international governing body, the UCI, and the MPCC, the voluntary anti-doping organization of professional teams, regarding Katusha’s multiple doping offenses within 12 months, the Russian team opted out of its membership rather than face a voluntary, rather than mandated, team suspension.
MPCC regulations state that squads that have had more than one positive test must voluntarily step back from competition for a period of time. Under its rules, two positives equal one week on the sidelines, three positives equal four weeks and four result in a five week sanction.
Citing a “duality of rules” between the UCI and MPCC, and that a self-suspension from WorldTour events would violate the UCI’s regulation of mandatory participation at WorldTour events, Katusha stated that it “has no other choice but to leave the MPCC with immediate effect.”
Earlier Tuesday, Australian team Orica-GreenEdge announced that it, too, was leaving the MPCC, stating that UCI rules are sufficient. With Katusha and Orica pulling out, only seven of 18 WorldTour teams remain in the MPCC: AG2R, Cannondale, Dimension Data, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, and Lotto-Soudal.
The MPCC holds some power over Pro Continental teams, however; the Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes (AIOCC) has agreed that MPCC members will be given priority on wildcard invitations to their events.
Other WorldTour teams to have been involved in the MPCC, but later abandoned it, include Astana, LottoNL-Jumbo, and Lampre-Merida.
Katusha’s sprinter, Alexander Kristoff, has won five races thus far in 2016, including a pair at the Tour of Qatar and a pair at the Tour of Oman. Last year’s Tour of Flanders winner, Kristoff is a top favorite for this weekend’s races, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
“In 2013 Team Katusha decided to become a member of the association Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC). At that time, the cycling world needed to send a strong message in favour of a clean sport after a succession of doping scandals. All the members of the MPCC decided to adopt supplementary and stricter rules in addition to the WADA Code and the UCI Regulations.
In the course of the years, the UCI adopted some of the MPCC rules such as the no-needles policy or the collective sanction against teams in case of multiple doping offenses, demonstrating MPCC’s usefulness as a pioneer in professional cycling.
Considering the clear changes and the evolution of the UCI in its approach to the fight against doping, an evolution and adaptation of the MPCC rules would have been necessary. In particular, considering the fact that a similar rule was introduced in 2015 by the UCI, one would have assumed that the MPCC rule imposing a collective sanction against team in the case of multiple doping offenses was to be withdrawn. However, no amendment to the MPCC rules were adopted, creating a duality of rules with the UCI Regulations which would undoubtedly lead to a conflicting situation.
Now Team Katusha is facing a very difficult position: on the one hand the Disciplinary Commission of the UCI decided not to impose any team suspension following the cases of Luca Paolini and Eduard Vorganov but on the other hand the MPCC still considers that a suspension is necessary in application of its own rules. Moreover, a suspension of Team Katusha during a WorldTour race based on the MPCC Rules would violate the UCI Regulations of mandatory participation and the Disciplinary Commission would then be obliged to sanction the Team.
Considering that the UCI Regulations implemented a similar team suspension provision in 2015 and that the UCI Disciplinary Commission decided not to pronounce any suspension, Team Katusha would have expected the MPCC to adopt the same position which would have been compliant with the UCI Regulations as well as adequate and proportionate.
However, Team Katusha understands that the MPCC intends to strictly apply its rule regardless of the similar UCI provision recently adopted, despite a clear decision taken in this case by the UCI Disciplinary Commission and without acknowledging the specificity of the present case. Team Katusha regrets the position of the MPCC and in particular its refusal to adapt its rules to the mandatory UCI Regulations. As a consequence, Team Katusha has no other choice but to leave the MPCC with immediate effect.
That being said, Team Katusha would like to underline that it continues to fight against doping by every possible means as it has done in the past years. In this respect, Team Katusha will continue to voluntarily apply other MPCC rules – such as the prohibition to use Tramadol or the imposition of several rest days for a rider in the event of collapsing cortisol levels. It is in the very same approach that Team Katusha had decided, at the beginning of the season 2015, to implement, also on a voluntarily basis, all of the ten recommendations of the cahier des charges of ISSUL.