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A serious drop in the money paid by the French Ministry for Sports to finance the fight against doping has caused a grave threat to French cycling.
According to Direct Velo, French cycling federation doctor Armand Mégret has warned about the situation, saying that the longitudinal study carried out on riders to monitor their parameters could stop altogether in June 2016.
It has been adversely affected by a drop in funding, which was slashed from €319,025 in 2011 to just €122,170 in 2015.
Because of the cuts, the number of samples taken from riders has diminished from 3,500 two years ago to just 2,115 last year.
Last year a total of 966 French riders were monitored across the various disciplined, with 184 of these being professionals. While pro riders undergo such testing with their teams, thus meaning that the shortfall primarily concerns amateur riders, the possible threat to the country’s young riders is clear.
The longitudinal studies, or suivi medical as it is called in France, was introduced after the 1998 Festina affair. Through regular testing, it sought to establish a baseline for physiological parameters, and was a forerunner of the biological passport.
The pattern of values it plots can both identify possible doping and also avoid health issues.
According to Direct Velo, the cuts mean that physiological parameters such as IGF1 are no longer being tracked, thus removing one method of pinpointing possible growth hormone use.
The French cycling federation President David Lappartient has described the situation as ‘particularly worrisome.’
He is due to meet the French sports minister this weeks at the track world championships in London in order to request that the situation be addressed.