This year's Tour de France will be the most heavily tested ever UCI President Pat McQuaid told an international anti-doping conference in Paris today. The organisation is collaborating with Tour organisers ASO and the French National Anti-Doping Agency, the AFLD to ensure that all riders likely to ride in this year's Tour will be targeted for testing in the weeks between now and the Tour start on 4 July.
The 50 riders likely to star at the event will come in for more detailed testing in the run up to the race, and the UCI expects to do 300-400 tests during the race itself.
McQuaid's remarks come on the same day that the UCI said it will name the riders who have fallen foul of its new Biological Passport programme, and come a day after Austrian rider, Bernard Kohl told L'Equipe that the top 10 riders at last year's Tour could all have doped. The Austrian came third and won the king of the mountains jersey but was subsequently stripped of his title when retrospective testing by the AFLD found that he had been micro-dosing with a CERA a synthetic type of EPO – the drug of choice for the top-level doper, well last year anyway.
The UCI is confident that the dramatic thawing in relations between itself and ASO and the AFLD will pay dividends in the fight against doping. So bad were relations between the Tour organisers and the UCI that last year's race was run under the auspices of the French national federation – giving the AFLD carte blanche when it came to drug testing – much to the UCI's annoyance. The French Agency proved itself ruthlessly efficient.
Point proved and peace and harmony now reigning between the UCI and ASO the AFLD all three organisations co-operated on doping control and testing during Paris Nice this Spring and on the back of that came up with an anti-doping strategy for this year's Tour.
Traditionally the riders are screened just before the start of the race this year that test too has been beefed up with two samples being taken from each rider instead of the usual one this will give the UCI instant access to a B sample if a rider fails the test on his A sample and mean that it will have access to a raft of samples for retrospective testing when new tests become available. The UCI chief revealed in Paris that it is currently re-testing blood samples from 2007 as a result of new detection methods becoming available.
The foundation for that strategy is the UCI's Biological Passport which used tests to establish base line measurements for all professional riders against which all further tests can be compared. On Monday the UCI will inform those riders whose passports were found to contain anomalies, it will then inform their national federation who will be expected to take disciplinary action – their names will be made public.
The UCI has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the length of time it has taken to move against those whose passports aren't what they should be, in its defence it says that it had to make sure that every i was dotted and t crossed to minimise the chances of legal challenges to its actions. Some remembering the recently stormy relationship between the UCI and ASO suspected darker motives in the UCI's timing, but today's events seem to lay that idea to rest.
Given that the professional season is well under way it is possible that the results of some big races will be thrown into doubt when the names are announced next Monday. Or, as Bernard Kohl would have us believe the big fish will have moved on using ever more sophisticated methods to evade detection leaving the small fry, the unlucky, and the stupid to fall foul of the UCI. We will find out on Monday, but whichever it is the fact still remains that Kohl got caught.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.