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ASO defies UCI, vows to go ahead with Paris-Nice race under house rules

ASO defies UCI, vows to go ahead with Paris-Nice race under house rules

The Paris-Nice race will go ahead next month under its own rules despite opposition from the International Cycling Union, which wants teams to boycott the event.
UCI president Pat McQuaid sent a letter to all professional teams Monday explaining why it will not oversee the 75-year-old race organized by French group Amaury Sports Organization, which also owns the Tour de France.
"Despite the hostile positions taken by the UCI president, Paris-Nice will take place as planned from the ninth to the 16th of March," ASO said Tuesday in a statement. "And will be organized according to the technical rules of the French Cycling Federation, in application of the French law."
That would make the FFC responsible for overseeing doping controls if the UCI withdraws its anti-doping officials. The UCI could also threaten to keep ASO races outside of its proposed scheme of anti-doping passports.
"It doesn't surprise me that they would do it," McQuaid told The Associated Press. "Their attitude to this is totally wrong.
"ASO's only objective is an ever-growing financial profit," McQuaid added. "Those interests are to some extent regulated by an international federation. Now they are going outside that, it is purely the law of supply and demand."
McQuaid also urged teams not participate in Paris-Nice because their results would count for nothing.
"We've made it clear the consequences of taking part in race outside the international rules," he said, adding that a cyclist could damage his chances of competing in future events such as the Olympics.
The rift could also jeopardize the Tour de France, with the UCI threatening to withdraw anti-doping regulators from the sport's marquee event if organizers and French cycling authorities do not hold their events under the UCI's jurisdiction.
Anne Gripper, the UCI's anti-doping chief, said that under the current circumstances her group would not be able to oversee anti-doping tests at Paris-Nice, the first major multistage event of the year.
She added that the no-show might extend to other races by the Tour de France organizers.
"If the race remains registered as under the jurisdiction of the French government than we won't be able to organize any anti-doping at that race or any other race that is put on the same way," she told the AP.
The UCI and ASO have been increasingly at odds, with the dispute escalating at last year's Tour.
Last July, ASO president Patrice Clerc called for McQuaid to stand down as head of the UCI. Tour director Christian Prudhomme added to the dispute by declaring the Tour would operate under its own rules in future.
ASO spokesman Christophe Marchadier said that ASO is now waiting "for the teams to express themselves," and that an agreement with the FFC could be signed by Thursday.
On Monday, McQuaid said ASO was behaving "in a very irrational way," and said the group was concerned with power and not sports.
He blamed the impasse on the ASO's decision to manage the Paris-Nice under French law, but did offer sporting authorities in France the chance to reconsider and follow international rules.
Last year's Paris-Nice race went ahead despite similar circumstances threatening it.
In a blow to McQuaid, the ProTour teams _ which compete under the UCI's ProTour calendar _ decided to participate in the Paris-Nice race despite his urging to stand down. A truce was eventually called between the UCI and ASO just a few days before the race started.
Organizers of the Spanish Vuelta and Giro d'Italia sided with ASO, pitting McQuaid against cycling's three top races.
Despite the truce, conflict between the two organizations resurfaced at the 2007 Tour, and ASO lamented the UCI's handling of Danish rider Michael Rasmussen's missed doping tests, saying the UCI dealt with the situation poorly because Rasmussen should never have started the race.
In turn, McQuaid lambasted ASO this month for excluding Astana from its events _ notably Paris-Nice and the Tour _ because it took into consideration how Astana had tarnished the Tour's reputation in the last two years.
The entire Astana team quit last year's Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov, a pre-race favorite, tested positive for a blood transfusion following his victory in the 13th stage time trial. Vinokourov's teammate, Andrey Kashechkin, also tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after the Tour.
Gripper said Astana should be given a clean slate.
"We are seeing true commitment from teams. Astana is an example," Gripper said. "They have invested a significant amount of money in their own anti-doping program and are very cooperative with the UCI."
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AP Sports Writer Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.