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Like nearly 4,000 others, representatives from United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will be in downtown Emporia, Kansas this weekend.
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Only athletes who are part of the Life Time Grand Prix series, the six-race points-based series that debuted this year, will be tested. Three random men and three random women will be selected for testing after the 200-mile race on Saturday.
Michelle Duffy, the marketing director for Life Time events, told VeloNews that the company will use USADA for doping control three times total during the series. No athletes were tested at Sea Otter, and after Unbound, USADA will test athletes at two additional events in the series.
Duffy said that all of the Grand Prix athletes were informed of the doping controls and were invited to an optional information session with the anti-doping agency in March.
“A lot haven’t participated in the UCI or USAC circuit where they’re been tested,” she said. “We had a session with USADA where they provided info on exemptions, what’s included on the ban list and things like that. There has been an opportunity to have an open line of communication with them.”
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Thus far, drug testing at gravel races in the United States is unheard of. However, Duffy said that when Life Time was exploring the concept of the Grand Prix series, athletes suggested doping controls as an attempt to keep the playing field level.
The race series boasts a $250,000 prize purse, and 60 athletes were selected to participate.
“Athletes felt it was necessary to keep everything honest,” Duffy said. “Once there is money involved in events, there’s more motivation. We don’t want to roll drug testing out at all events, but due to the scale of the series and the feedback we received, we decided to do it for the Grand Prix.”
The Grand Prix opened with the Fuego 80k at Sea Otter in April. Keegan Swenson and the late Moriah Wilson won the event and led the series heading into this weekend. Sofia Gomez Villafañe now leads the women’s series.