Obligation … 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has a duty to keep talking about the importance of eradicating doping in the sport says Jaimie Fuller. Photo: AFP
THE response from top riders to a radical proposal aimed at eliminating blood doping among the grand tour challengers should be known by the end of next month, says the founder of the new lobby group behind the reform.
Jaimie Fuller, the Australian who created the Change Cycling Now group that has called for sweeping changes to governing body Union Cycliste Internationale is optimistic the proposal drafted by blood-doping expert Dr Michael Ashenden will be well received.
Ashenden did not elaborate on details of the proposal that has been submitted to Gianni Bugno, the Italian president of the Association of Professional Cyclists, but said it would ''guarantee'' that the winners of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana were not able to undergo blood transfusions.
Ashenden, an Australian who also sat on the recent CCN conference in London, cited the need for the world's best grand tour riders to consider the proposal first and then provide their feedback to Bugno, himself and the CCN group.
''We are seeking assistance from the riders to put into place for next year a system that will guarantee that the winner of a grand tour has not blood-doped,'' Ashenden said. ''It's a short-term, intensive approach that will restore public confidence in the riders and the race outcomes. It is for the riders, but it is very much by the riders.''
Fuller, chief executive of compression garment firm SKINS that sponsors a number of cycling teams and other sports, is suing the world body for damages to the company's reputation from the doping crisis, citing the UCI's mismanagement of the sport in the aftermath of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's guilty verdict for American rider Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life for doping.
Fuller has also set up the CCN group, which includes American triple Tour champion and anti-doping campaigner Greg LeMond.
The UCI has dismissed the legitimacy of CNN, but many are listening to its message, especially in light of USADA and World Anti-Doping Agency concerns over the terms of reference of an independent commission of inquiry into the UCI's handling of doping issues.
Fuller agrees that Ashenden's proposal should be reviewed by the riders first. ''Mike is absolutely right, that it would be so inappropriate to discuss this before the riders understand it,'' he says.
But Fuller is confident that the Tour, Giro and Vuelta organisers will support any proposal ''that enables them to put their hands on their hearts and say we have a clean winner''. While he says it should not hinge on the UCI's approval, he adds it would be ''mind boggling'' if the world body rejected the proposal.
''It's really down to just getting the riders on side,'' Fuller says. ''We believe there are three key groups in the majority of these debates - the teams, the riders and the race organisers. I can't help but think that each of those groups must see clearly the importance of the eradication of doping, particularly the riders. It must be awful to stand on the dais, having won, knowing that everybody is whispering behind their hands, 'He must have doped'.
''Bradley Wiggins [the 2012 Tour winner from Great Britain] has been copping this since he has won. It's inexcusable. If I was Brad, and I think he has in his position, he has a duty or obligation to keep talking about the importance of eradicating it. Therefore, with any system that gets proposed to try and create that genuine level playing field of no doping in the peloton, the rider I think will be right behind it.''
Fuller would also like to hear Cadel Evans, who in 2011 became the first Australian to win the Tour and was seventh this year, speak out more openly against doping. ''If you asked me if I would prefer if Cadel was more vocal or less vocal, I would prefer he was more vocal,'' he said.
Fuller believes that despite talk of cycling being cleaner than it was in the Armstrong era from 1999 to 2005 when he ''won'' his seven Tours, history should have taught the sport that stakeholders can not afford to simply accept that is the status quo - nor that it will even remain cleaner.
He believes public discussion over the doping issue must continue, especially should an official truth and reconciliation commission into it be held.
''I would like there to be a culture among senior riders where they will acknowledge that there have [been] big issues in the past, and that it is possible they continue today; and that we should not be resting on our laurels,'' Fuller said.
''And until at least the truth and reconciliation process is complete, I would like to see every senior rider discuss openly how anti they are about doping and what sorts of things they want to do to change it. We keep hearing about the young guys coming through today who haven't been a part of what has happened in the past. I am concerned that can change pretty quickly. It's about a change of mindset, not just about policing the problem.''