Exclusive: We didn't have the tools to stop Armstrong, admits UCI chief medical officer

Monday, 12 November 2012
By Tom Degun at the Aspire Dome in Doha 

DSCF3195November 12 - The International Cycling Union (UCI) chief medical officer Mario Zorzoli claimed here today he is confident that the organisation is winning its war on drug cheats despite the Lance Armstrong doping scandal that has rocked the sport.

The credibility of cycling was thrown into doubt following a damning report from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that labelled Armstrong a serial cheat who led "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

The scandal saw the UCI strip Armstrong of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999-2005 and ban the American from cycling, while also setting up an independent commission to investigate its own involvement in a possible cover-up.

But despite the damage the saga has done to cycling, Zorzoli (pictured top) insists that the UCI has evolved since the issue and are in a far better place to catch drug cheats in the sport.

"I'm not entitled to comment on it [the Armstrong doping scandal] specifically as there is currently an independent investigation looking into the issue," he said speaking at the Apsire4Sport Conference here.

"But if you look at the situation, all of the athletes who confessed to doping [in the USADA report] were tested by a number of different organisations, not just by the UCI, and they were never caught.

"But despite what is happening, I'm optimistic going forward.

"We have new testing procedures that are far more advanced than the testing procedures that we had even five years ago.

"There are things like the biological passport that monitor athletes over a long period of time.

"There are also now procedures in place that are more reliant on getting information so we can actually catch athletes without having to see a positive test from them.

"Essentially, we are moving from the toxicology approach that existed in the seventies to now a more forensic science approach.

"As well as the biological passport, we are using intelligence from the police as indirect evidence for proof of doping.

"So this clearly shows that there are improvements and these improvements will lead to good results in future."

Lance Armstrong in room with yellow jerseysLance Armstrong relaxing at home in Texas with the Tour de France yellow jerseys he was stripped of last month after he was found guilty of doping

Zorzoli claimed that in the past, the UCI simply did not have the tools to combat the more advanced drug cheats such as Armstrong and his US Postal Service team.

"The problem in the past was that anti-doping tools were not as efficient as they are now," he said.

"Some tests didn't exist.

"The EPO (Erythropoietin) test was only introduced in 2001 and other tests for anabolic steroids have only recently been introduced.

"Also out of competition testing was not carried out regularly in the past.

"Cycling has shown in the past year its commitment to the fight against doping.

"We were the first to introduce many anti-doping tests and the athlete's biological passport, so clearly there is a commitment from cycling to fight against doping."

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