New UCI president David Lappartient has said that he has set a start date of the beginning of the 2019 season as the point from which he will ban the use of corticoids by riders. Speaking to Sporza, he indicated the mechanism by which he will do that.
“I want to put those products on the list of prohibited resources,” he said, referring to the use of the substance, which has performance-enhancing properties. “Even though that is not the case [it is not currently on WADA’s banned list – ed.], we can also improve our approach in cycling.
“For example, by taking a rider out [of races] for the use of cortisone. Not for a positive doping case, but for the health of the rider himself.
“We can then impose a temporary start ban. For example, the rider is left out for 15 days and returns when everything is back in order. I would like to introduce that from the beginning of 2019.”
The approach is in line with the rules of the MPCC anti-doping organisation, which imposes an eight-day no-start rule following the use of cortisone. It means that riders of MPCC member teams cannot use related TUEs in competition, such as was done by Bradley Wiggins in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Wiggins won the 2012 Tour while using triamcinolone acetonide, being able to take the substance due to a medical certificate which green-lighted its use.
Other riders such as David Millar, Michael Rasmussen and Jorg Jaksche said that they deliberately acquired TUE certificates to use the substance to boost their performance. It improves physical capabilities while also helping riders to lose weight.
Last year questions were raised about Wiggins’ use of the product, specifically because his own autobiography had said his health was very good in the run up to the 2012 Tour. He also won the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011 and 2012, yet argued he was sufficiently negatively affected by asthma to need triamcinolone acetonide.
His use of the product was under investigation by a British parliamentary select committee, but this was disrupted by the general election and no conclusion was reached.
Had Wiggins’ Sky squad been part of the MPCC, he would have been unable to start those races. Now, under Lappartient’s proposal, all teams will be bound by the same rules.
The MPCC also utilises an indirect method to detect if riders have been using corticosteroids out of competition. It examines the natural cortisol levels measured in pre-race checks and, if riders are below a certain threshold, blocks them from starting races. Natural cortisol levels are reduced by the use of corticosteroids.
Speaking to CyclingTips in July, Lappartient made clear that corticosteroids were a major priority for him.
“If you need some corticoids because your health is not good, yes, you can have them. But in this case, you have to stop cycling if you are sick or ill,” he said. “Because when you take some corticoids, then your level of cortisol is decreasing. And if you have a low level or cortisol, then you must be stopped, and you can come back when your level will be normal.”
The MPCC recently reiterated its demands that WADA ban the use of corticosteroids, something it has been urging the world body to do for years.
“Since the creation of the MPCC, we have been warning continuously your agency regarding the issues of corticoids and we have been advising the prohibition of Tramadol since 2013,” it said in an angry letter to the agency. “Ever since, we have faced those same answers that seem to be the political will included in the phrase: ‘wait and see.’ Indeed, your answers never change: ‘we are setting up a commission,’ ‘we will make the working group aware of that,’ ‘we keep on monitoring.’
“Time has come for WADA to take essential – and definitive – decisions. We remind you of what you said during an interview on the 8th of March of 2017: ‘WADA is considering to totally forbid corticoids, during competitions and out of competitions… This prohibition would make it harder to be granted a TUE. We have reached a point when we now must open a new debate. To me, the system isn’t good.’ As your statements from the 8th of March of 2017 confirm, we all know that the TUEs system generates terrible perverse effects. Some people use those effects to enhance their performance.”
Approaching the subject on health grounds – low natural cortisol levels can cause negative effects for the body – Lappartient believes he can work around the WADA Code.
“The MPCC is doing a good job, but I think with corticoids, we can take the rule of the MPCC and put this on the rules of the UCI. It is not so difficult,” he told CyclingTips during the Tour de France.
Over two months later, the new UCI president appears to be moving forward with those plans.