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Grand tour stars raise concern over anti-doping downturn

Dumoulin, Bardet, Pinot speak of anti-doping drought as coronavirus mitigation measures slow testing.

It’s not just bike racing that has stopped with the global coronavirus shutdown. With quarantine and social distancing measures being adopted through the globe, anti-doping measures have also been impacted.

Grand tour stars Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, and Thibaut Pinot have expressed concern about the slowdown in testing — especially with the Tour de France four months down the line.

“There are not many anti-doping controls, and that is worrying,” Bardet told Le Monde, Tuesday. “It has been a long time since I have been given a surprise test, I prefer not to say how long. Long before confinement.”

While Bardet was reluctant to reveal time-frames, fellow Frenchman Pinot told L’Equipe that he had not had a testing check-up since last October.

Last month, the Cycling Anti Doping Federation (CADF) issued a statement regarding its operations during the coronavirus crisis, saying that “our top priority is the health and welfare of the cyclists, their entourage and the sample collection personnel,” and that protocol would have to follow World Health Authority and local government guidance around coronavirus. An update from the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) had also acknowledged there would be a downturn in doping control and testing procedures due to border closures, mandatory quarantines, and office closures.

While random testing has taken a downturn, in-competition testing has also hit a pause given the peloton has not raced since Paris-Nice in early March. With the Tour de France planned to start in just over four months, it is felt that anti-doping measures will need to resume soon so as to prevent any advantage being gained from a testing downturn.

“I hope they pick up because it’s not good news for riders trying to get it right,” Pinot said. “Hopefully there will be checks in place soon so that everything is done correctly.”

Bardet also described the absence of testing as a source of “anxiety and uncertainty” given the slowly-approaching resumption of racing, and Dutch star Dumoulin spoke recently of the need for testing to resume prior to a racing return.

“I haven’t been tested at all in recent months,” Dumoulin told Sporza. “I understand that there are now generally a few checks. If the Tour de France gets closer, it will have to be resolved and checks will have to be made again.”

Last week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency started trialing at-home anti-doping procedures to fill the gap caused by reduced testing carried out by doping control officers.