September 27, 2007 / 4:36 PM / 12 years ago

Bettini brands UCI anti-doping pledge as extortion

STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - World champion Paolo Bettini has written to the International Cycling Union (UCI) describing its anti-doping declaration as “extortion” and “a farce”.

Local organisers went to court on Thursday trying to stop Bettini defending his world road race title in Stuttgart on Sunday because of his refusal to sign the UCI’s anti-doping pledge.

In a strongly worded letter in French, dated Sept. 26 and seen by Reuters, Bettini hit out at the UCI’s pledge, while strongly defending his own record on doping and announcing his willingness to make a DNA sample available.

The UCI declaration “constitutes a coercive measure and extortion as it amounts to a pre-condition to participate in international races. In addition the UCI’s initiative has not been coordinated with any athletes’ representatives,” Bettini wrote.

The pledge, which the UCI has asked all cyclists to sign, includes a declaration from riders that they have had no involvement with the Puerto doping case in Spain.

Riders signing it agree that if they are given a standard two-year ban for any doping case they will pay not only the stipulated fine but also a year’s salary.

The declaration also states that the rider will give a DNA sample to be compared with blood taken in the Puerto affair.

The UCI have stressed that it is not a legal document, and riders cannot be forced to sign it, but world championship organisers are trying via the courts to stop Bettini taking part precisely because he has not done so.

“The a farce,” Bettini wrote. “Similarly to demand (for those caught doping) fines above what is already in the rules is nothing else than populism.”

Bettini added in the letter that working for a complex organisation like a cycling team made it possible for a rider to receive illegal substances without his knowledge.

He said it was outrageous to raise the level of fines to a year’s salary.

He also distanced himself from the Puerto case and said he had never been involved in doping.

Bettini added that he would make himself available to the Spanish authorities for a DNA test should he be the subject of a criminal enquiry.

Additional reporting by Darren Ennis in Brussels

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