ANNE GRIPPER, the former head of the anti-doping unit of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is confident the US investigation that led to Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and handed a life ban was correct and thorough.
Since returning to Australia in early 2010 from her Swiss-based post at the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, Gripper has followed the case from afar as chief executive of Triathlon Australia.
Until now, she has refrained from commenting on the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation and the UCI’s position on it – in particular that of UCI president Pat McQuaid. However, yesterday Gripper broke her silence, telling the Herald she trusted USADA’s credentials.
Relations between USADA and the UCI have been strained since Armstrong and five former associates were charged with doping, drug trafficking and possession, and other offences from 1998 to his final retirement last year, especially since August 23, when Armstrong announced he would not defend himself against these charges. This then saw USADA strip him of his Tour titles and ban him.
The UCI is yet to ratify the verdict and punishment by USADA, which has said it will deliver its report to the UCI no later than October 15. There is speculation it will contain claims against the UCI, including the alleged cover-up of a positive drug test by Armstrong in the 2001 Tour de Suisse that has already been documented and denied by the UCI. If the UCI accepts the report the punishment will hold, although it could still be appealed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
But Gripper, head of the UCI’s anti-doping department from 2006 to early 2010, hopes the UCI will back USADA and yesterday urged both bodies to work with each other.
”My hope is that the UCI will support USADA. [They] have to support each other,” she said. ”I would be very disappointed if the UCI continued to be concerned about what USADA was doing. I would really urge both to work collaboratively on this. It has to be the way to go.”
Asked how she felt about Armstrong’s status after learning he would not defend himself, Gripper praised USADA and its chief executive, Travis Tygart, who has led the investigation. ”I really cant speak about [Armstrong’s] guilt. I don’t have enough information,” she said.
”But I trust USADA’s ability to investigate a case like that absolutely, implicitly. USADA is one of the best resourced, best set-up national anti-doping organisations in the world. I know Travis Tygart personally. I would trust anything they decided was correct.”
Gripper, a long-time supporter of McQuaid, is confident that no allegations will emerge in the USADA report against the UCI that relate to her time there.
But Robin Parisotto, an Australian on the UCI blood doping panel, said that if the report made any claims against the UCI, especially McQuaid, the leadership of the organisation should stand down for an inquiry.
”Any organisation that is the subject of allegations such as these … in normal circumstances you would probably step down while an investigation was happening, not be driving it,” he said.
”You need to be impartial … [or] it will never go away. Pending what comes out of this report, if those allegations are substantiated to a degree, the investigation would have to take place and all parties would have to step aside.
”[For] any investigation, if it’s impartial you have to have the interested parties put aside for the moment – let’s have full access and do what we need to.”
Parisotto and Gripper both believe the UCI biological blood passport system that was introduced in 2008 under her stewardship has made in-roads in the fight against doping. But they warn of tough times for cycling due to the fallout from the USADA Armstrong case and the recently released book, ‘The Secret Race by former rider Tyler Hamilton and Dan Coyle, which details blood doping by Hamilton and Armstrong on Armstrong’s teams and others.
While yet to read the book, Gripper does not doubt its content. ”I can’t see any rationale writing stuff like that that is not accurate. There’s no reason to go to that length and describe something that didn’t happen,” she said.
”I don’t think cycling is completely out of the woods yet. I think the sport is on a pretty stable footing now and that there is enough behavioural change. [But] it’s [about] letting more time pass and more distance pass between cycling as it is now and cycling as it was then.
”There will still be little eruptions coming from the past. To be honest, the biggest one of those is Lance. Until the Lance issue is resolved one way or the other, the sport can’t move forward.”
Parisotto also believes the descriptions of blood doping in The Secret Race.
”You can’t make that up. The real practicalities of the hows, the whys and the whens are real,” he said. ”It doesn’t take a great leap of faith to believe that it was all true.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.