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USADA out, UCI in for drug testing at Amgen Tour of California

STATELINE, Nevada (VN) – After a deal allowing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to conduct in-competition drug testing at the Amgen Tour of California fell apart this week, the UCI resumed control of the in-competition testing for the race.

A deal announced by AEG in February fell apart this week when USADA and the UCI could not reach agreement on key areas that would have allowed the U.S. agency to target riders and obtain test results during the weeklong tour.

“There was a intention by both parties that USADA and the UCI would be able to come to terms on a protocol that would give USADA oversight and control of the in-competition testing,” said Messick. “Ultimately they weren’t able to come to an agreement.”

In a statement issued Friday morning, USADA officials said that, “the pre-competition testing program performed by USADA has been implemented. USADA had hoped to conduct the in-competition testing program at the 2011 Tour of California but was unable to finalize the agreement previously reached with the UCI. As has historically been the case, the International Cycling Union [UCI] will conduct their own testing program during the competition.”

The USADA in-competition program would have built on the agency’s pre-race work, which included blood and urine testing of all participating teams (including Continental squads which the UCI does not test) during the 90-day period leading up to the start of the race. That testing did occur and USADA representatives obtained samples as recently as May 10.

The UCI has conducted the in-competition testing for the Amgen Tour since its inception in 2006. The accord announced during a conference call in February would have allowed USADA to test athletes before and during the race, the latter of which they have not done previously at the United States’ premiere stage race.

At the time of that announcement, USADA president Travis Tygart criticized the limitations of UCI test protocol and said that the agency would use targeted testing to uncover potential drug cheat.

“We have discretion … that’s part of the benefit of an independent program, is you are not locked in to predetermined stage winner and overall leader (tests), which historically has been some of the concerns,” Tygart said. “We’ve got the discretion and we are going to use the available information that we have to target tests. We are going to review data that we receive form the testing to also incorporate the scientific intelligence to do further target testing to the extent that’s necessary … our sole mission is to protect clean athletes .. and we are going to do everything possible to deter and as well as detect anyone that makes the unfortunate decision to attempt to cheat with drugs at the Tour of California.”

The UCI on Friday distributed a press release announcing the cancellation of the program. “As previously announced, it was USADA’s intention to conduct a comprehensive and independent pre-competition and in-competition testing program.”

Despite the announcement two days before the race starts that the UCI will resume control of the Amgen Tour program, Messick said there were no eleventh-hour changes in the race’s anti-doping program.

“There really wasn’t a last minute change,” he said. “From our perspective, we have been partners in our anti-doping effort with both the UCI and USADA since 2008. We’ve contracted both organizations and we are completely confident that the in-competition testing program that will be led by the UCI, in conjunction with the pre-competition testing program that USADA has already implemented, is going to give us a maximum chance of this race being clean.

“We would have liked to see an agreement, but ultimately it’s up to the UCI and USADA to do that and we’re respectful of either decision.”

President of the AIGCP teams’ union and manager of the Garmin-Cervélo squad, Jonathan Vaughters told ESPN’s Bonnie Ford that the move by the UCI was in line with their recent run of contentious decision-making.

“This is another example of the UCI being unwilling to play ball with its constituents and partners,” said Vaughters. “I’ve been on record saying that the UCI needs broader representation from riders and teams, and it needs to look for ways to delegate responsibility for anti-doping controls to avoid conflicts of interest.”

Key elements of USADA anti-doping program

(Announced February 2, 2011)

Pre-race testing
Pre-race testing will begin February 15, 2011. All race participants may be subject to no-advance notice sample collections during this 90-day period leading up to the start of the race.
International riders will be subject to no-advance-notice, out-of-competition testing prior to competition in accordance with their international federation and national anti-doping organization testing pools.

In-competition testing
Testing will be conducted throughout the Amgen Tour of California in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code in-competition criteria. This will include daily doping controls following a strategic test distribution plan.