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MILAN (VN) — Lotto-Belisol announced Friday that it had joined the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), saying it wants to be “a pioneer rather than a follower” in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
“With its history in cycling, the opportunities the team offers to young riders, the attention for guidance and education and the will to be part of the WorldTour as an ethically correct team, Lotto-Belisol thinks it’s a must to be rather a pioneer than a follower in an era in which cycling is in need of positive signals,” Lotto stated in a press release.
It becomes the only Belgian team in the French teams’ organization, which Roger Legeay began following Operación Puerto in 2007. Other members include AG2R La Mondiale, Argos-Shimano, Bretagne-Schuller, Cofidis, Europcar, FDJ, Garmin-Sharp, IAM Cycling, NetApp and Saur-Sojasun.
The MPCC has a hard-line approach to clean cycling and applies rules to which the UCI is unable to adhere under international guidelines.
The MPCC hopes teams, such as Lotto, voluntarily sign up and agree to these standards of conduct:
• Prohibit a rider from racing after the positive result of the first analysis or A sample.
• Don’t sign a rider who has had a ban of more than six months during the two years following his ban. An exception is given to whereabouts cases.
• If a rider needs corticosteroids (used for saddle sores and swelling) then pull him from competition for eight days.
• An internal control following a positive test within the team.
• If a team has more than one positive case from the past 12 months, withdraw it and assess the situation.
“It is indeed a signal we want to give, a sort of statement. Lotto-Belisol wants to cooperate properly, think along and participate in the new flow,” sports manager Marc Sergeant said in a press release.
“In the past there was only a minority that openly wanted to go along in the new way of thinking; I think we should strive for a majority. … I think the time for words should be over, and that they should be transformed into actions.
“When you see the reactions of a few riders in the current peloton, I am convinced that the present generation is doing it well. The introduction of the biological passport, among other things, has probably been important. …”
He seemed to refer partly to Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) when he mentioned riders’ reactions.
“We need new principles,” Kittel told Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. “I don’t get what the UCI’s ethical position when it decided to give Astana a WorldTour license with [Alexander Vinokourov] as team manager. … I would never sign [for Astana]. Never. Money is not everything. I need to feel good in a team.”
The tide may shift as Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme gave his official backing to the MPCC. According to the AFP news agency, he called it “the future.”
“We agree totally with what the MPCC does. The rules they enforce are stronger than those of the UCI, but also of the World Anti-Doping Agency,” said Prudhomme.
He called on team managers to do as Sergeant has done and “safeguard” their teams. BMC Racing is not a member, but its new performance director, Allan Peiper, told VeloNews recently he backs the MPCC.
“Highroad was a member, Garmin [is] a member. I know their code of ethics and I think that every team should be a part of that. For whatever reasons, some teams don’t join, but the MPCC makes sense to me,” Peiper said.
Peiper turned professional in Legeay’s Peugeot team. He first worked as a sports director for Sergeant’s Lotto team before working with Highroad and Garmin.
Peiper said Legeay has been ridiculed and his organization derided as “a Frenchies’ club.”
“But hats off to him,” he continued, saying Legeay has a “prime opportunity to get other teams in and have agreements about what the MPCC status is. … ”
“If teams are looking for respect and really want to toe the line, and they are really serious about change, then we all do it together,” he said.
The MPCC has in recent days called for a zero-tolerance stance toward doping starting with next season. It sent a letter to the Association of Race Organizers (AIOCC), asking that organizers only invite teams, whether they are MPCC members or not, that adhere to its standards of conduct.
Two days ago, it contacted WADA to ask for tougher, four-year bans for athletes caught using EPO or blood transfusions. It also asked for a rule similar to one in Italian cycling that prohibits national teams from selecting athletes who served bans of more than six months.
Lotto’s move will add more weight to the MPCC. The organization is also expected to have its seat with the other stakeholders when the UCI holds its recently announced consultation early next year. Its ideas could influence the consultation’s outcome and how cycling moves ahead.