David Lappartient, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), insists that there is “no reason to be in doubt” about the performance of Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar.
The 22-year-old retained the title he first won last year after carving out a solid lead in the race after a stupendous display of climbing through the Alps and Pyrenees. The UAE team leader has been repeatedly questioned about his performance as the Tour peaked and consistently maintained his innocence when it came to doping. “We have a lot [doping] checks to prove them wrong, ”said the Slovenian. “For example, I had three checks in one day – two before the stage and one after. So I think that gives enough leverage to prove them wrong.
“I’m not angry,” Pogacar said when asked if the questions about his performance irritated him. “These are uncomfortable questions because the history of cycling was so bad. I fully understand why there are all these questions. I have not prepared anything for these kinds of questions. I just love to ride a bike and whatever comes with it, I’ll take care of it. I’m a good boy with a good education, I’m not the type to take shortcuts.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, Lappartient also ruled out any concerns about technological fraud or conventional doping. “I have the pictures of Pogacar’s bike and everything is clean, as far as the results of the x-ray machine go,” he said. “As President of the UCI, I have confidence in the international [anti-doping] testing agency in Lausanne.
“The only limitation is the ability of the laboratory itself to detect – in all sports – certain substances. We have a very strong and robust testing program in cycling for anti-doping and technology fraud and there is no reason to be in doubt. However, there is no such thing as zero risk.
Operation UAE Team Emirates is led by Mauro Gianetti, team leader and general manager. Gianetti was manager of the Saunier Duval team in 2008, when their star driver Riccardo Riccò was arrested by police after testing positive for a next-generation EPO. Riccò was made redundant, along with his teammate Leonardo Piepoli, and the team withdrew from the Tour. Gianetti insisted he was “totally oblivious to the doping practices going on in the team”.
In 2011 Juan José Cobo, who had also raced for Saunier Duval, won the Vuelta a España while riding for the Geox-TMC team led by Gianetti. However, in 2019, Cobo was stripped of his title and found guilty of “an anti-doping rule violation. [use of a banned substance] on the basis of irregularities noted in his biological athlete passport in 2009 and 2011 ”.
During the Pyrenean stages of this year’s Tour de France, Pogacar said of Gianetti: “I can only speak for myself. When I met Mauro he was really great to me and a great person and I believe what’s in the past is in the past. The new cycling is a much more beautiful sport than before. But I can only speak for myself.
In a statement, Gianetti replied: “First of all, I am satisfied with Tadej’s words and they represent the reality that we are witnessing another great period in cycling. Today, like many other team managers, I can believe in this sport and in this new generation.
Talk to VeloNews, Gianetti said: “It was a very different culture and mentality. I still have nightmares of my time managing previous teams; today I sleep much better. The systems that sport has put in place have now completely transformed cycling. I understand that the current generation of riders is suffering from the mistakes of the past, but I am convinced that cycling as a sport has changed and we can be proud and confident in what we see. “
Lappartient said of the leadership of the Pogacar team, including Gianetti, that according to the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), they “have the right to be involved in a team”, adding: “Under the Wada rules and the UCI rules, if you had a disciplinary procedure or a sanction after 2011, you cannot be part of a team, or lead a team. That is the rule. international, but of course we are always very careful with team leaders who in the past have been involved in negative stories.
As the usual questions swirled about this year’s Tour de France, also fueled by the preliminary investigation into the Bahrain Victorious team, Lappartient is also focusing on the return of the Women’s Tour de France in 2022 and the first holding of the Championships in the world in Africa, would be destined for Rwanda in 2025.
“I have always insisted on the return of the Women’s Tour,” he said. “I have met ASO several times [Tour de France promoters] and I said that it was very important for the UCI to push for gender equality. Having a very strong organizer will really help develop and increase women’s cycling around the world.
“It wasn’t fast enough, of course, but we’ll be at the start line in 2022. It took a while but now we’re back with this race. The organizer is not only thinking about gender equality, but also about the potential to reach new audience, to have new business, to expand the sport.
Another new audience is Africa and, despite Morocco’s candidacy, Rwanda is tipped to host the 2025 world championships. This despite the country’s record on human rights, as Amnesty International reports point out. reporting “enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, excessive use of force, unfair trials and restrictions on the right to freedom of expression”.
“In every country in the world you can find points where they can be better, but when I see where Rwanda was and where it is now, it’s great,” Lappartient said. “There are now solid foundations in this country. I visited the genocide memorial and it was difficult to see.
Citing the cancellation of the European Track Championships in Minsk, after a Ryanair flight in May was forcibly hijacked to allow Belarusian authorities to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, Lappartient claimed that for the UCI “there are red lines which remain red lines”.
“President Kagame has a vision for Rwanda and for Africa,” he added. “We are always attentive to human rights because it is in our DNA as an international federation to keep in mind the values of the Olympic movement, of peace, respect and human rights. But having the world championships in this country, 30 years after the genocide, is in itself a success. Rwanda is more of a message of hope.