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Pledging Away the Problem

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The UCI's big meeting yesterday was notable for a few things: the pledge, of course, and the fact that teams can finalize their Tour squads with some confidence. I thought I'd run through what it all means, or at least kick off the debate. First, the text of the Pledge has been released:

"I do solemnly declare, to my team, my colleagues, the UCI, the cycling movement and the public that I am not involved in the Puerto affair nor in any other doping case and that I will not commit any infringement to the UCI anti-doping rules. As proof of my commitment, I accept, if it should happen that I violate the rules and am granted a standard sanction of a two-year suspension or more, in the Puerto affair or in any other anti-doping proceedings, to pay the UCI, in addition to the standard sanctions, an amount equal to my annual salary for 2007 as a contribution to the fight against doping.

"At the same time, I declare to the Spanish Law, that my DNA is at its disposal, so that it can be compared with the blood samples seized in the Puerto affair. I appeal to the Spanish Law to organize this tests as soon as possible or allow the UCI to organize it."

This is just... weird. Up-front punishment determinations? DNA samples by Tour fiat? Are riders supposed to hang on to their salary and not spend it? WTF?? I'm still unclear what all the various organizations around the sport are for, but if you were still wondering if the riders had anything resembling a working union, this is your rather blunt, negative answer.

Lots of loopholes there too; maybe this is its saving grace. "If I violate" and am suspended... Landis would argue that he may be suspended (assuming that happens) but he didn't violate, so forget seeing a penny from me. Also, what's "salary"? I know what it means to me, but aren't riders paid in bonuses too? Contracts can be easily structured to take the punch out of this pledge. So, while the Tour has a right to ask people to meet prerequisites like the pledge before they can race, the riders have a right to make a mockery of it (though hopefully not by doping).

Sheesh. Anyway, the other matter of business is that the UCI went out of its way to say that Alejandro Valverde, Koldo Gil, Allan Davis, and Aitor Osa are all untainted by Operacion Puerto, for now anyway. Valverde is cleared to ride the Tour. According to CN this brought "heated reactions" from certain German, Dutch and French teams. I don't think the UCI can unilaterally declare Valverde's case over, and we may even see a reaction from ASO if there's something in those dossiers we keep hearing about. But there really needed to be some call on Valverde's status, so there you have it. Far cry from the mass exclusions we were nervously waiting for.