UCI boss on mission to fight doping

LUGANO, Switzerland -- International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid promised to continue the "endless fight" against doping Friday, when he began his second four-year term leading the sport's governing body.

The Irish-born McQuaid said doping is still a problem, despite a successful Tour de France in which no rider failed a drug test.

"It is an endless fight for the UCI, and one which I am determined that the UCI will continue," McQuaid told delegates at their annual congress, on a rest day from racing at the road world championships. "There is no place for cheats in our sport. ... We have had a good Tour de France, and at this stage I am not aware, for the first time in many years, that there are any positive controls."

McQuaid promised that riders who used performance-enhancing drugs faced a greater chance of getting caught than ever before.

The mandatory biological passport anti-doping program demands riders give blood and urine samples to create individual body chemistry profiles. Scientists can then identify evidence of doping instead of specific substances.

"We are no longer looking for a needle in a haystack," McQuaid said. "We do targeted testing. We test riders morning, noon and night. We chase after riders who we see have suspicious values. We test for more substances."

McQuaid said 13,800 samples had been taken this year from 850 riders across all cycling's disciplines. About 7,500 were surprise, out-of-competition tests taken from riders in training, compared to 200 three years ago.

The increased workload produced 47 positive cases so far in 2009, while there were 36 cases three years ago.

One current case involves Spain's Mikel Astarloza, who tested positive for the blood-boosting hormone EPO while training for the Tour de France. He went on to win the 16th stage and has denied doping, but faces being banned and stripped of the victory.

McQuaid said the anti-doping fight was improving, and praised race organizers -- singling out France's ASO -- and teams for helping fund the passport program.

"Teams now offer more support to the riders in an environment where there is less pressure to dope," he said, adding that it was alarming that a national under-23 team from Ukraine was being investigated for an alleged blood doping scheme.

McQuaid, who stood unopposed for the UCI presidency, said his first term was dominated by doping scandals and now-settled conflicts with organizers of the three major tours of France, Italy and Spain.

"The most important thing is that they recognize the UCI is the government of the sport of cycling worldwide, and its authority as such is indisputable," he told delegates, promising to continue the governing body's policy of globalizing the sport.

The UCI ProTour series of races had added events in California, Australia and Canada, while the sport had "enormous potential" in India and the Middle East.

The return of seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong added "another dimension" to media coverage of the Tour de France, and broadcaster Eurosport enjoyed record ratings.

McQuaid also pointed to the success of introducing BMX medal races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as "the best way to get young kids on bikes."

"Overall, I think the situation is healthier than when I began four years ago," he said.