Bike Pure: No testing done at recent UCI cyclocross races, says riders offered drugs at events

by Shane Stokes


The Bike Pure anti-doping organisation has spoken out over what it says has been a complete lack of recent testing at cyclocross events. In an open letter addressed to the UCI and WADA, as well as in an interview with CyclingTips, co-founder Andy Layhe has said that there has been no such scrutiny at events since the world cyclocross championships in Bieles, Luxembourg, at the end of January.

Layhe said that five UCI races have been completely devoid of testing. The events concerned are the DVV Trofee race in Krawatencross, Belgium, on February 4, the Belgian Superprestige races in Hoogstraten and Middelkerke on February 5 and 11 respectively, the Brico Cross Vestingcross round in the Netherlands on February 12 and the Oostmalle cross on February 19 in Belgium.

Each of these are ranked C1 on the UCI calendar, with the exception of the C2 Vestingcross.

Layhe claims that neither blood nor urine testing has been carried out, and that screening for hidden motors has also not been done.

“I was approached by a rider and their coach about the situation post-worlds,” Layhe told CyclingTips on Monday. “These are major races, the Super Prestige and the DVV trophy, the two major cyclocross series that run through the season.

“They obviously culminated after the world championships and because of that, there was more incentive there for riders to possibly cheat.”

Layhe describes the situation as alarming, saying that while lower-ranked races might potentially lack testing at times, that those at the top end of the spectrum should be covered.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “There have been a lot of questions, quite a lot of feedback on this on Twitter and stuff. It does seem quite alarming.”

He points out that in disciplines other than cyclocross, this would likely be a major issue.

“If there was no testing at, say, the Tour de France, or if there was no testing at prolific major road races, questions would be raised. It alarms me that no one really pointed this out sooner.”

Layhe published the open letter to the UCI and WADA on the Bike Pure website on Sunday evening. He told CyclingTips that he had previously sought comment directly from those two organisations a week or more ago, but that they had not responded to his messages.

They have also not replied to him since the publication of the open letter.

While the UCI had not responded to enquiries from CyclingTips by the time of writing, WADA did come back with the following statement.

“Testing strategies at international events are under the responsibility of the relevant International Sport Federations. WADA has contacted the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) to discuss the matters raised in this letter. Until we hear from CADF, as you will no doubt understand, WADA is not in a position to comment further.”

The CADF is the UCI’s anti-doping arm.

Has the UCI taken the foot off the pedal when it comes to testing?

Riders claiming banned substances being offered at races

CyclingTips asked Layhe how certain his sources were that there had been no testing. “It is 100 percent,” he replied. “They were at all the races.

“Obviously any rider racing would know there would be no testing. Is it a free rein to dope? I am not saying that riders have doped, but you need barriers in place, even just a visible point that there is something happening [to deter it – ed.] in races.

“This is particularly the case because these are the combination of season-long competitions. There is big prize money at stake. There are obviously contracts at stake as well. Yet it seems that after the worlds testing just ended, which is kind of worrying.”

Layhe raised an additional concern, saying that the rider who had approached him on the issue of no testing had also told him that riders were being offered doping products at these races.

“This is worrying. That has not just come from them but from other people too. So there is the incentive there if riders want to take something.”

Performance-enhancing products aside, the issue of possible hidden motor use came to light just over a year ago when the Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche was caught with such a device in a spare bike in her pit area.

She was banned for six years last April and stripped of her European and Belgian Under 23 titles.

Layhe referred to this in the open letter.

“Some 12 months ago, cyclocross entered the world spotlight for all the wrong reasons when a motor was discovered in a bike belonging to Belgium U23 rider Femke Van den Driessche at the world championships in Zolder, Belgium. As a result of this tragic saga, surely it makes sense to carry out motor doping checks at major cyclocross events, particularly in Belgium. The lack of testing post worlds at C1 and C2 cyclocross events is very alarming. Lack of testing does little to instil confidence in clean sport at a time when it is required most.

A professional rider competing at these post world CX events who wanted to remain anonymous said to Bike Pure, ‘To have no bike or rider testing at events such as the SuperPrestige and DVV Trophies is more than alarming. Considering Femke was racing locally in Belgian and not detected using a motor you would expect the UCI or Belgian Federation to at least test bikes.’

The rider continued, ‘For the worlds, I was tested the morning of the race and bikes were tested in the pits during the event, since then, no doping tests were undertaken for any rider or bike scanning since the worlds. Athletes are racing largely on the “honour system” when there aren’t any anti-doping tests carried out at the races. History has demonstrated that the “honour system” isn’t enough. There are a number of racing series that conclude after the World Championships where overall competitions are decided.’”

The UCI has an iPad-based detection system to screen for motors and have used these at multiple events in the past year. Layhe says that he doesn’t understand why these have not been used at cross events.

“It doesn’t take much. I have been in the pits at the Euros this season and it doesn’t take a second for a guy to come up and do it. They have been there. I have had bikes that have been scanned. It takes just a few seconds to scan a bike. Logistically it doesn’t take a lot to get that put in place.

“I don’t like pointing the finger at the UCI all the time, but it is only by raising these issues that it makes people think.”

The full open letter is as follows:

Dear UCI & WADA,

There have been no in-competition dope tests in Europe since the 2017 World Cyclocross Championships.

The 2017 Cyclocross worlds took place in Luxembourg at the end of January but since that event there hasn’t been a single dope test, either blood, urine or mechanical doping, carried out at any major European cyclocross event. These included the culmination of prolific events such as the SuperPrestige, DVV Trophy events and leading UCI races.

Bike Pure’s philosophy is to protect and provide a voice to clean, law abiding athletes everywhere, but the non-existence of robust dope testing at these events, reduces the right for athletes to compete on a level playing field.

Some 12 months ago, cyclocross entered the world spotlight for all the wrong reasons when a motor was discovered in a bike belonging to Belgium U23 rider Femke Van den Driessche at the world championships in Zolder, Belgium. As a result of this tragic saga, surely it makes sense to carry out motor doping checks at major cyclocross events, particularly in Belgium. The lack of testing post worlds at C1 and C2 cyclocross events is very alarming. Lack of testing does little to instil confidence in clean sport at a time when it is required most.

A professional rider competing at these post world CX events who wanted to remain anonymous said to Bike Pure, “To have no bike or rider testing at events such as the SuperPrestige and DVV Trophies is more than alarming. Considering Femke was racing locally in Belgian and not detected using a motor you would expect the UCI or Belgian Federation to at least test bikes.”

The rider continued, “For the worlds, I was tested the morning of the race and bikes were tested in the pits during the event, since then, no doping tests were undertaken for any rider or bike scanning since the worlds. Athletes are racing largely on the “honour system” when there aren’t any anti-doping tests carried out at the races. History has demonstrated that the “honour system” isn’t enough. There are a number of racing series that conclude after the World Championships where overall competitions are decided.”

The very presence of doping tests and motorised doping checks at events provides a clear deterrent to athletes who may be tempted to cheat. If there are no anti-doping measures in place, do we simply presume the athletes aren’t cheating. How is fair play and integrity maintained at events that fail to conduct anti-doping measures. In the absence of in-competition testing, athletes could very easily resort to using performance-enhancing drugs without punishment.

We aren’t stating that any riders were doping at any of these events but if they were then how would anyone know. Riders and staff would know there is no testing in place prior to events taking place so the desire to cheat if required, and ‘beat the system’ without fear of punishment would remain high.

Dope testing at events can be costly, but having some element of anti-doping, whether that simply be an official testing for motors in the pits goes a long way to maintaining at least some integrity.

Can we receive a reason as to why there were no tests conducted at a single post worlds UCI event in 2017 and if there will be any anti-doping measures in place for 2018 post worlds UCI events.

Cyclocross events with no dope testing:
4th Feb – DVV Trofee – C1, Krawatencross, Belgium.
5th Feb – SuperPrestige, C1, Hoogstraten, Belgium.
11th Feb – SuperPrestige, Middelkerke, C1, Belgium.
12th Feb – Brico Cross, C2, Netherlands.
19th Feb – Oostmalle, UCI C1, Belgium.

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