Source AP ©

Cycling conferention to open against backdrop of recriminations

A Conference on doping in cycling opens Monday against the backdrop of bitter sniping between the sport's officials and anti-doping authorities.

French Health and Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, sensing the fallout of doping for the Tour de France, hopes the different sides will unite at the two-day Paris meeting to rid the sport of drug cheats.

"The first thing I'm expecting is to show how cycling can be at the forefront - voluntarily - in this area, and rebuild the image" of the sport, Bachelot told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

"We want to make this summit a sort of pilot project for the fight against doping, which will be useful for the entire sports world," she said.

Team doctors, health officials, sport regulators and administrators, and some riders who have spoken out against doping or come clean after drug use will be on hand, according to the conference schedule.

On the agenda is a proposal by the International Cycling Union, UCI, made last week to set up medical profiles - a so-called "biological passport" - for riders based on blood and urine samples.

Cheating has dogged cycling for years, but this year more than most. Among the damage at this year's Tour, longtime leader Michael Rasmussen was sent home for missing pre-race doping checks, and pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov was expelled for testing positive for a banned blood transfusion.

Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour title last month - though he is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - after he tested positive for using synthetic testosterone to fuel a dazzling comeback to win that year. Spain's Oscar Pereiro now holds that title.

Many in the sport have traded accusations over who is to blame - and they'll be called upon to put aside their differences.

UCI president Pat McQuaid is scheduled to sit on a panel Tuesday with World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound and Patrice Clerc, who heads the company that runs the Tour - two men who have been sharply critical of the UCI over doping.

"I'm expecting people whose presence is indispensable, and who, for some time have hesitated, grumbled, or refused to talk with each other," Bachelot said. "They have lost the habit of working together."

Pound, for his part, is coming off a dispute with former French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour, who resigned as a WADA vice president last week and withdrrew his candidacy to become Pound's replacement.

Lamour, once considered a strong favorite for the post, claimed Tuesday that WADA was "discredited" and "in the process of regressing by 10 years." Pound responded by accusing Lamour of making "false and defamatory" remarks and suggesting he never should have been a candidate in the first place.