As soaring temperatures scorch the Volta a Portugal, anti-doping authorities swooped down on the race over the weekend.
Described by Portuguese media as a “mega-operation,” authorities targeted 41 riders from six national teams in a pre-stage anti-doping raid not seen in years.
The Portuguese sports daily Récord reported that blood and urine samples were gathered Saturday morning ahead of Sunday’s heat-reduced climbing stage across central Portugal.
Doping controls are typically seen after stages or on rest days, but this time Portuguese anti-doping authorities showed up unannounced at team hotels in the morning ahead of the stage start in a surprise raid. Last year, officials said similar tests were conducted on all Portuguese teams during the tour’s rest day.
The six teams involved in the surprise anti-doping controls included six of the nine Portuguese teams in the race, including RP-Boavista, Sporting-Tavira, W52-FC Porto, Aviveludo-Louletano, Efapel and Vito-Feirense-Blackjack, reported the Record.
Like any bike race, the 12-day Portuguese tour has seen its fair share of doping scandals over the years. In 2016, a Brazilian and a Colombian rider from the Funvic Soul Cycles Carrefour team tested positive for CERA in 2016.
The surprise controls come as the race struggles with scorching temperatures well above 100 degrees. Riders have been forced to abandon and officials shortened Sunday’s stage. Firemen lined portions of the course over the weekend to shower the passing peloton with blasts of water. Forecasters are calling for a break in the heat wave early this week.