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by Shane Stokes
March 4, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Body also calls for automatic four year bans for use of hidden motors and requests WADA bans tramadol and corticosteroids
Responding to the decisions of several teams in recent months to walk away from the MPCC, the anti-doping body has criticised the move and suggested that the teams concerned had previously used the body for opportunistic reasons.
“The recent withdrawal of several UCI World Tour team members from MPCC (Katusha, Lampre-Merida, Astana) cannot be explained by a problem of compatibility between the rules governing our sport and the philosophy of the movement,” stated the group in a press statement.
“To the MPCC, this is mostly related to these teams’ failure to keep their commitment, just three years after their accession.
“Without a doubt, some of these teams – which have excluded themselves by not following the rules they committed to – had not hesitated to carry high their new MPCC flag in front of the media, the UCI licence commission and/or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with the aim of preserving their image and their World Tour status.
“By not respecting their commitment, these teams did join MPCC by opportunism.”
Established in 2007 but growing considerably in more recent years, the MPCC introduced additional anti-doping rules to member teams. These gave them the perception about being tough on doping, and helped boost their credibility. Indeed MPCC membership was one of the factors which enabled Katusha to keep its WorldTour licence when the UCI sought to remove it after a series of doping cases.
MPCC rules included a ban on signing previously-suspended riders for an additional two years after their return to competition plus a no-start rule for those with abnormal cortisol levels. The latter can be indicative of cortisone use.
In March 2015 Lampre-Merida announced it was leaving the MPCC, doing so in order to be able to re-sign Diego Ulissi after a doping suspension. In July 2015 LottoNL-Jumbo then walked away, protesting at the cortisol tests which blocked George Bennett from starting the Giro d’Italia.
In September of last year Astana was removed from the group after it ignored the cortisol rule. Lars Boom had been deemed to have irregular levels prior to the Tour de France but the team started him anyway.
Last month, Katusha announced it was leaving. Two riders, Luca Paolini and Eduard Vorganov, had tested positive within a 12 month period and as a result the team was compelled to self-suspend for one week. Rather than comply with that, it decided to walk away.
Orica-GreenEdge also did so on the same day, suggesting that a stepping-up of UCI anti-doping rules removed the need to be part of the group.
The latter team was exempted from criticism by the MPCC on Friday, although it did acknowledge the squad’s decision to leave.
The MPCC now comprises just eight of the 18 WorldTour teams. These are AG2R La Mondiale, IAM Cycling, Team Dimension Data, FDJ, Cannondale, Giant–Alpecin, Team Katusha and Lotto–Soudal.
It also includes 17 Pro Continental teams, 18 Continental squads, seven women’s teams, ten federations and eight sponsors.
On Friday it announced that it had approved the Tour of Japan and the Continental team Verandas Willems as provisional members.
It responded to those who suggested that the UCI’s adoption of some of its policies meant that the MPCC was no longer necessary.
“To commit to the MPCC on a voluntary basis does not in any way disagree with the UCI regulation,” it said, referring also to Katusha’s claim that abiding by a MPCC suspension would put it in conflict with UCI rules.
“But as to questions of semantics and harmonization, from now the rules applied by the movement’s members will use the word « introspection » instead of « self-suspension ».”
It said that it wouldn’t change its philosophy.
It also restated its current rules. These include the requirement that riders with irregular cortisol levels must obey an 8 day stop from competition, and that those facing ongoing procedures linked to a positive test cannot compete.
In addition to that, it states that all riders suspended for six months or more must be dismissed by their teams and cannot be rehired by other MPCC members.
As regards team absences from competition, it reasserted that two positive tests within a 12 month period should lead to an eight day break from competition, and three positives will equal a four week stop.
The MPCC has also commented on the cortisol level regulation disputed by LottoNL-Jumbo and Astana, saying that it will not agree to any calls to back down on this area.
In fact, it has suggested that the remaining MPCC teams have all recommitted to the regulation.
“According to the reports of many independent experts – as requested by the MPCC – but also by the international scientific community, it is agreed that glucocorticoids are enhancing drugs,” it stated.
“That is why all the doctor representatives of MPCC team members reaffirm the principle of cortisol level tests which do not allow a rider to compete in a race if an irregularity is detected for whatever reason. MPCC will continue to carry out these tests in 2016.”
The MPCC has called on the UCI to adopt the same regulation while also allowing late replacements for excluded riders, and also to establish a commission of experts in this area.
In relation to the topic of hidden motors, or mechanical doping, the MPCC wants any riders who are undergoing doping controls after races to also have their bikes tested. It calls on the UCI to increase the stated minimum six month ban for motor use to a minimum of four years.
As for WADA, it wants it to add both corticosteroids and tramadol to the banned list.