Rhetoric escalates with Tour call for UCI head's resignation

COGNAC, France -- Tour de France officials launched a
two-pronged assault on the cycling governing body Saturday, with
the director saying the Tour will stop working with UCI and the
owner calling for cycling chief Pat McQuaid to step down.

It's the latest move in a long-running feud between the two
organizations, escalating this week after former Tour leader
Michael Rasmussen and other cyclists were removed from the race
because of doping suspicions.

"We will no longer work together with the UCI, there will be
special rules for the Tour de France," Christian Prudhomme said
Saturday in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily. "The UCI never
wanted a clean tour. With all respect, it's worthless. But next
year it's likely we will have a clean tour."

Patrice Clerc, the head of the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO)
that owns the 104-year-old race, wants McQuaid to quit.

"In any society, public or private, those responsible would
have no choice but to resign," Clerc said. "The UCI, by the way
its acted, at minimum has lacked clarity, transparency,
professionalism, competence and in every case has shown a complete
lack of conscience.

"We don't want this system. We need to be independent of people
who are either incompetent or have the desire to spoil [the race],
to hurt the Tour de France."

McQuaid vowed to stay on as the head of the International
Cycling Union.

"Cycling does not belong to the Tour de France, it belongs to
the cycling family," McQuaid told The Associated Press. "Are we
to blame because there are guys getting caught [cheating]. We
couldn't break the rules in relation to Michael Rasmussen to stop
him coming into the race.

"It's no use making rules as you go along as they've done here
this week. The sport needs a structure under a government and not
everybody doing their own thing."

Tour officials blame McQuaid's UCI for not implementing a
stronger doping program, and for allowing Rasmussen to start the
race even though he's accused of lying about his whereabouts before
the Tour and missing doping tests.

"That happened even though, along with the UCI, we put out an
insistent plea in April to the teams not to let anyone suspected of
doping start the race," Prudhomme said. "The UCI knew everything.
It's unbelievable that they didn't say anything to us."

On Wednesday, Rasmussen was removed from the race, which he led
since July 15, by his Rabobank team.

"The piloting of cycling's reconstruction cannot be given to
the UCI," Clerc said. "We will have to do it with all those who
reject the current system in order to find our values again:
riders, teams, sponsors, federations ... will all need to unite."

McQuaid was not invited to the race by organizers, but showed up
for Saturday's 19th stage time trial at the invitation of a French
television station.

The feud between Clerc and McQuaid has been building since
October 2005, when Clerc accused the UCI of not doing enough to
combat doping. McQuaid said he "would never do anything to hurt
the Tour de France" and that it was "scandalous" for Clerc's ASO
to suggest it.

Prudhomme said he will attend a doping summit hosted by the
World Anti-Doping Agency to help clean up next year's Tour, along
with taking other measures.

"We will take the initiative in this debate," Clerc said. "We
will communicate the results of our work on October 25, when we
will announce the 2008 Tour route."

In addition to Rasmussen, Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana
team left the Tour because of doping accusations, along with
Italian rider Cristian Moreni and his team Cofidis.

Alberto Contador took the yellow jersey after the ejection of
Rasmussen, but German media reported that the Spanish rider's name
appears on documents seized in the blood-doping scandal known as
Operation Puerto.

Prudhomme said it was decided at a meeting with the UCI in May
that Contador wasn't under suspicion.

"But that was before the Tour," Prudhomme said. "Now, we have
absolutely no trust in what the UCI said about him. That definitely
would be a dilemma. The drama, unfortunately, is suspicion is now

McQuaid said the real culprit is doping.

"We should be sitting down together working on plans for the
future," he said. "The biggest enemy of cycling at the moment is
the doping problem."