Where’s Francesca Rossi?

Francesca Rossi

The other day cyclingnews.com carried an interview with Anne Gripper, the former Head of Anti Doping Services at the UCI. The interview is worth reading in its own right but one thing stood for me, the fact that Anne Gripper has left the UCI but she is still a proud voice when it comes to the UCI’s bio passport scheme, the anti-doping system being pioneered by cycling’s governing body. Rightly so since she helped launch it.

But Anne Gripper left the UCI and was replaced by an Italian, Francesca Rossi in early 2010. Only have you heard of her?

She might be doing a great job behind the scenes but the fight against doping isn’t a stealth job. It’s a high profile affair, one that means reaching riders and team managers but going beyond this to put the message out to junior riders and above all, the wider public. We’re seeing sponsors prove thin on the ground and one prime factor is the way cycling is associated with doping in the minds of the many.

One way to counter the negative impression is to get your message out. Something the UCI seems to know very well, today it rebutted Gerard Vroomen’s suggestion that riders have not been tested under the bio passport scheme with an aggressively-toned press release. But as much as the bio passport is a great idea, Rossi has vanished from public. The UCI’s President Pat McQuaid has made some supportive noises but he’s just told cyclingnews.com’s Daniel Benson:

“I don’t want to discuss the passport and how it works, that’s anti-doping and they do that and not me”

But with Francesca Rossi seemingly being kept from the media the chance to promote the bio passport seems missed. Instead Anne Gripper and others outside the governing are left to make the case for the UCI’s great scheme and I can’t help feel the UCI are missing a trick here. After all maybe you might have changed jobs in the past but how often are you called to explain what’s happening at your previous employer?

Rossi might have a background as a lab manager and be very familiar with protocol so she’s got plenty of expertise to bring. But there ought to be a high profile public-facing role here too, someone confident to explain the case in public, to sell the important benefits available here.

Anti-doping involves science and lab work, data collection and statistics. But it’s also about communicating a message, an effort to reassure fans, teams and sponsors alike. The bio passport is a really good idea and it would help the sport as a whole if the UCI was able to promote it better.

  • Bio passport explained: this is the UCI’s flagship anti-doping programme. The results of all doping tests over a period of time are collated to create a profile of each athlete’s blood and hormonal parameters. This way sudden changes in blood values can be spotted, tell-tale clues of blood transfusions might be spotted. Cycling was the first sport to use this and it’s now being adopted by others, notably rowing, cross-country skiing and possibly swimming.


10 thoughts on “Where’s Francesca Rossi?”

  1. The UCI – Pat McQuaid – was never comfortable with Anne Gripper’s high profile. It stole some of the limelight. It seems it’s found someone, a lab tech, to do “the job” without leaving the lab.
    McQuaid is the UCI’s Blatter, all the while making the UCI richer, but not necessarily the sport itself.

  2. Where’s Rossi? Good question. The anti-doping campaign needs leadership.

    Odd statement from Mr Mc Quaid to say he will not talk about the biological passport. Because he has made many comments on it before, for example when the “index of suspicion” was leaked. It seems he talks when it suits him and goes silent when it suits him.

  3. Vroomen is a considered commentator & Ashenden, whilst not agreeing all that Vroomen said, is clearly worried about substantial gaps in the continuity of data that make the profiles next to useless (my words, not his).
    I would have a close look at McQuaid’s/UCI’s statistics from their press release & not take this “factual rebuttal” at face value:
    1) There is ambiguity wrt how many tests are actually from the period in dispute as against the whole calendar year for 2010, and year-t0-date for 2012
    2) Samples are one thing, but how many were actually processed in the approved laboratories for the indices relied required for the blood passport
    3) Some indication of the frequency of data points for “high” and “low” risk pro-cyclists would be more reassuring than cumulative totals of all tests – 1,000 tests (even if relevant & correctly performed) doesn’t go far amongst say 600 cyclists in the pro-teams.
    4) If these samples are all primarily from the Vuelta, Worlds & training camps, then they don’t have the same value or utility as the more revealing (& expensive to arrange) out-of-competition test
    5) Double check that urine specimens are not included – UCI have used these to bluster their way through before
    6) The irony will be when none of this information is in the public domain, or the UCI refuses to release it.

    Of course McQuaid should know what’s in the pipeline, or else he is not doing the job that the cycling federations (& therefore cyclists) IOC pay him for. His “ability” to comment is highly selective & often pejorative. It’s the UCI’s credibility & transparency that is being questioned, and as usual McQuaid bullies and blusters his way through, shooting the messenger without addressing the real issues. McQuaid should go back to organising races. Cycling needs to be managed by competent sports management professionals who are not rooting around the IOC trough.

  4. It is sad how often sports administration is hijacked by the avaricious who have an instinct for easy money and no work. Doping action is too vital for the viability of the sport for it to be left to the whims of people who are anything other than totally committed to it and not the dollar.

  5. D1980: I tried to use Google but nothing, she’s been silent/silenced.

    sillyoldbugger: they should be comfortable with an articulate person able to promote the bio passport.

    Matt Rose: yes, he’s semi-retired now.

    Kirsty: not the first time the President contradicts himself I’m afraid.

    David Fraenkel: yes, in rebutting Vroomen the data supplied makes me ask many more questions.

    TotheBillyoh: I don’t know if they’re after the money, but it would be good for the sport to have a vocal campaigner for clean riding.

  6. I think sillyold’s got it right. McQuaid can blow out all the hot air but leave some details out as to specifics. Keep ’em guessing as to how and when they’ll be caught if they decide to cheat!

  7. The UCI doesn’t want a proactive (Gripper) testing program.

    Pat and Hein enjoy the benefits of appearing to have a doping program. Meanwhile, testing is neither transparent, nor consistent with the UCI in almost (darn Contador case!) complete control of the processing.

    There are no positives because there are no tests. The Giro’s Zomegnan infamously used this tactic several years ago during a rash of EPO-similar positives proclaiming the race clean when in fact he intentionally ran no test for the PED. When caught in the lie of omission he promised testing, three+ years later no tests, he’s onto another project, and the Giro is squeaky clean.

  8. I applaud Vroomen for speaking up, but I have to wonder – how tightly is every Cervélo going to be measured, weighed and subjected to the UCI’s purposely vague rule book from now on?

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