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Why God Won't Make It Stop

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Up til now I've limited my commentary on the ASO-UCI standoff to mocking all parties involved, out of exhausted ignorance. And while any fan would be well-justified to simply stick with the pox-on-both-houses stance, there is actually something to discuss here: ASO's unilateral approach to doping.

Professor Wilcockson's Sunday column seems to contain quite a bit of original reporting, and has hit upon the following, which might explain the affair:

Under article 3.2 of the contract [which ASO is demanding Paris-Nice participants sign], should any teams or team members "damage the image of the event and/or the organizer," they will be fined $45,000. Any such fines would be donated by ASO to the French cycling federation. In other words, ASO wants to run its races under its own rules, using French law, with French commissaires and French medical testers, and donate any fines to French cycling.

Wilcockson deduces that ASO's continued defiance of the UCI, even after the Pro Tour split was agreed to peaceably, is rooted in their embarassment and anger over the Rasmussen and Astana affairs that marred last year's Tour. ASO is assigning 100% of the blame for these matters to the UCI, which they believe should have caught the cheats before July. Since their brand relies on a clean Tour de France, ASO don't seem willing to trust anyone besides themselves and the French Federation at this point.

This is deeply problematic, for (at a minimum) the following reasons:

  • Cycling needs unified standards, not different ones at different races;
  • balkanized infrastructure is far less likely to effectively test for and control doping than a unified system;
  • scapegoating the UCI for le Tour '07's problems is stupid; the system is rapidly evolving as the new biological passports and vastly upgraded testing for 2008 demonstrates; and
  • the proposed ASO anti-doping regime doesn't contain even a whiff of checks and balances; it's a blunt tool, "do as we say or no Tour," wielded against the riders with impunity. Is this the world we want our children to inherit?

But the Tour is powerful, and teams and the French Federation are reluctant to tell ASO what they really think of their plan. So... I guess I'm willing to accept Professor Wilcockson's assertions and say that ASO are in the wrong. They're quick to exaggerate the UCI's failures over the Rasmussen affair, for reasons that strike me as petulent and self-serving, while in fact the UCI remains the appropriate locus for the sport's coordinated effort against doping. While Pat McQuaid never met a delicate situation he couldn't detonate with his patented hot breath, the fact appears that it's ASO who are abusing their power in destructive ways.