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What a week we'll be witnessing, from outside closed doors...
Conclusion? A Mirror...
In the heart of France, on the 22nd and 23rd of October, the French Minister for Sport and Youth, Madame-Docteur Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, is going to be cracking heads, or hearts, as she hosts within the walls of the French Committé Olympique, a closed-door 'High Level Summit on Doping in Cycling”.
As meager as the press coverage has been, attendance is apparently limited to officials representiing: WADA, cycling's three Grand Tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France (owned by the group ASO), Vuelta de Espagne), the French Cycling Federation, the Agence Française du Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD), and 'others', perhaps of European governments, the IOC, etc. Some 150 total participants should be sipping Evian or a fine Bordeaux, while discussing the ramifications of certain contrasting actions that have been digested over this last amazing year of 2007.
A snapshot of noteworthy items would have to include:
a: the ASO-instigated fight against inclusion of the UCI ProTour team UNIBET.com in the lineup of teams competing in the spring race 'Paris-Nice';
b: the revelations produced in the Floyd Landis hearings, from his allegedly positive 2006 TdF test for testosterone use, which implicated the French testing lab LNDD for its multitudinous lapses, in the application of standard international rules defining sports-doping test procedures;
c: the pre-Tour de France exclusion of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, as a result of lingering suspicions centered on the curious Operacion Puerto affair in Spain, and its attention on the career of Dr. Fuentes;
d: the tardy (yet hope-filled) confessions of Bjarne Riis and Erik Zabel, of their EPO use in 1996, while under the Deutsche Telekom team colors;
e: the near-daily revelations, during the second and third weeks of the 2007 Tour de France, of rider's pre-Tour infractions, such as Michael Rasmussen, the Danish racer who wore the Yellow Jersey, accused of missing mandated testing procedures by the infraction of not informing the Union Cycliste Internationale of his pre-Tour whereabouts, the properly-delayed but annoying (to Tour director Christian Prudhomme, and ASO president Patrice Clerc) announcement of German rider Patrik Sinkewitz' positive test for testosterone, another in-Tour test for blood transfusion, that was brought against Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov, then another positive test, which implicated an Italian rider for a French cycling team – Cristian Moreni – and for all of these envenomed the excruciating relations between the TdF/ASO and the UCI
f: recent news that the French Agency AFLD would reinstate its own litigation against Floyd Landis, creating an unprecedented and highly suspect 'double jeopardy' situation of two sports-arbitration cases for one test at one event under one set of (UCI) rules, due to the potentially- devastating news that the next year's Tour de France may not be run under the auspices of the UCI.
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So once again, this week?
Monday and Tuesday, the above-named players will be meeting for their closed-door session, in the midst of other unfolding news-items.
The biggest one on the sports-doping radar screen, come from the sour-grapes pronouncements of Jean-Pierre Lamour, who's anticipated reign as the Second 'Grand Inquisitor' of WADA (succeeding President Dick Pound of Canada) was nixed by a considerable candidate's presentation: former Australian government Minister John Fahey, whose candidature was abruptly promoted by a meeting of the WADA Executive Committee nearly a month ago.
Lamour will probably be there; whether Fahey is invited remains to be seen.
Monsieur Lamour, apparently as cocky as was Dick Pound during the greater part of his reign, let fly a few news-IED bombs as loud as the door he slammed against his own backside. Insinuations he offered included hints that WADA was taking a 'ten year leap backward', that 'WADA was about to open the door to greater 'flexibility' through its CODE revisions, and most importantly, that he would potentially become involved in a new, European-centered anti-doping agency that would not suffer the problems inherent in WADA.
Talk about the love of a minister scorned... remembering that it was J-F Lamour himself, that was the French Minister of Sport and Youth, whose Ministry oversaw the LNDD lab during both the unseemly 'Armstrong case' and the 'Affaire Landis', and whose Ministry was both antagonistic towards the UCI investigation of the Armstrong case, AND was under suspicion during and after these, as a source of the leaks to the journal l'Equipe regarding these and other leaks of 'A Sample' test results.
Other amazing moments came out in a recent (September 18, 2007) interview in Cyclingnews.com, where Patrice Clerc was all over the game board in discussing how offended was his company, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), by the attitude and actions of the UCI, with whom the 'Grand Tours' have been battling all the issues surrounding the inception of the ProTour cycling concept, initiatives of the UCI (including this year's UNIBET.com French court case, their (above) exclusion from the Paris-Nice and Tour de France events, and the doping issues.
Unfortunately Monsieur Clerc has no memory, nor apparently any desire to discuss, those endless leaks of doping revelations that stem from the ASO-owned newspaper l'Equipe, the French national sporting journal. Had he been honest with himself and with Cyclingnews.com (who should themselves be hanging their heads for not asking about this issue), he might have addressed these constant leaking incidents, that undermine any Athletes' rights of privacy and process, specifically in the case where l'Equipe published its 2005 article, timed for two weeks after the end of the Tour de France, entitled 'Les Mensonges d'Armstrong', which insinuated that Lance was on EPO in 1999.
And as those leaks came from either the French Ministry (which controls the LNDD laboratory – thus whether that equates with one or two entities is a secondary thought), or WADA, both of whom are key players in the fight against doping in sport, to l'Equipe, there is ample grounds to suspect that there is a bit of 'cover-me, cover-you' corruption that belies the strident WADA message about 'harmonizing the battle against doping in sport': a foundation of the fundamental message found in the Introduction to the WADA CODE.
The practical substance of these revelations, including the great interactions with the French Ministry-sponsored conference, the AFLD second-spin Landis-doping case, the Lamour/Fahey/WADA dénouement, all creating an implosive whirlpool at the very heart, and future, of cycling itself.
But all of the outlined points, above steer us only to the early part of the week; later, on October 25th, is the usual annual announcement of next year's 2008 Tour de France route. Reading Patrice Clerc's interview, with the discussions of the impossibility of working with the UCI, mentions of national teams and other doping agencies' involvement, leaves the average cycling fan whirling and wondering if all of it is worth the price of sustained interest by the sports-consumer?
Given what you've read above, the amalgam of these events symbolizes something that is bedrock-shattering. A point not to be missed in the evolution of this week is that, unlike many other sports, cycling has had a long history of 'airing its dirty laundry' in public, with every opportunity for the sporting press to make cycling into a laughing stock, while it could be presented legitimately as the one sport that is suffering the most, while undertaking the greatest effort to clean its own ranks.
Soon, members of these entities, present at these meetings, in Paris, Madrid and elsewhere, will have an opportunity to prove their love for cycling, or their love of their own inflated and destructive egos.
Whether they choose to do, that which the world could proudly remember them for their involvement, or that for which the world would sadly remember their involvement, remains to be seen, very soon.
Thus: A MIRROR...
... is the best thing that every participant to these 'Summit' meetings could bring to the table, to remind themselves:
“I am watching my own professional actions, as is the world, for whom I work at this table.”
ç*””*”*”*ç*””* ZENmud *””*ç*”*”*””*ç