I wrote something last year about Garmin’s “no needles” policy and promised to ask every team what their policy was regarding the use of needles with a view to seeing who is doing what. The results were frankly boring and not worth following up, the standard reply was “we comply with WADA guidelines” over and over again. I suspect is code for saying all infusions are banned but that injections of vitamins and minerals are considered and their extent varies from team to team.
One team was more engaging and let me email their doctor. He explained that even vitamin injections were not worth it, that they had a nutritional sponsor and besides, the injectable material was problematic to transport and store when compared to a tub of vitamin pills.
Now the UCI has announced an initiative to ban the use of all hypodermic methods. I’m in favour of banning needles, allowing them only when a therapeutic use exemption can be granted. Some might say the enormous strain of a grand tour means high quantities of vitamins are needed, especially when the digestive organs are already under strain. But that has to be offset against the fact that nutrition can be done right and if necessary supplements can be swallowed, not injected. Plus there are tales of slippery slopes and the “first I started with vitamins and before I knew it, I was taking EPO” refrain.
Policing this would be hard, as such it’s largely a symbolic matter. But the sport can gain. As things stand, teams that forgo injectable vitamins could lose out to those that don’t. But collective rules ensure everyone is – in theory – on the same level. It would allow the sport to take another step towards appearing clean, being able to say to the world that no injections are tolerated would be an advantage.
Just one more thing?
Inspector Columbo often turns around to ask “just one more thing” when exiting the crime scene. I’ll leave this item with a final, cynical thought: the Court for Arbitration on Sport is supposed rule on Franco Pellizotti’s bio passport case today. The UCI is desperate for good news on the best of days and I could be crediting the UCI with masterly media-handling skills but… it couldn’t be the case that the UCI have put this story out to counter any news from Lausanne this week, could it?