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Cycling’s anti-doping arm fully operational under ITA since January

MPCC cautions that fewer controls due to COVID complications could be factor in drop in doping cases in 2020.

Cycling’s anti-doping operations are now fully integrated with the International Testing Agency (ITA) since the beginning of 2021, officials confirmed.

The move sees the shuttering of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, which was created as an independent body in 2008, with 11 of its 13 staffers moving across to the ITA, a new anti-doping body that is positioned within the larger Olympic movement.

Officials say the transition to the larger international body will provide efficiencies in costs and resources without comprising the CADF’s expertise of working within cycling.

“The volume of tests will increase with the ITA, while allowing us to pool our costs,” said Olivier Banuls, the former CADF director who will head ITA’s cycling unit. “Beyond that, our objective is to become more efficient and take the program to the next level.”

Banuls said a cycling unit will work within the ITA and remain focused on cycling-specific work, but will have the pooled resources of the ITA to help develop new techniques, share intelligence, and work on investigations.

Officials also pointed out that cycling’s latest major doping scandal — the Aderlass blood-doping case involving Nordic skiers and cyclists — included multiple sports across international boundaries. Officials believe a larger, international body such as the ITA will be better equipped and more efficient at grappling with such scandals.

“The fact that Aderlass exists suggests there could be others,” said ITA director-general Benjamin Cohen in a media call last week. “We have to be on our toes, and we believe working together with other agencies we can best maximize our efforts.”

Under the move — criticized by some when it was approved in 2020 — the existing funding structure, with teams, riders, and the UCI contributing to operating costs, remains in place. The 2021 budget will be $7.5 million, officials confirmed.

In 2019, cycling carried out more drug tests than any other sport, with more than 14,000 samples taken. That number dropped to about 9,500 in 2020, in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, and officials vow to remain vigilant and ramp up testing again as health conditions improve.

On Wednesday, the MPCC (Mouvement pour un Cyclisme Crédible) released its annual report on 2020 for cycling. The watchdog group said the number of doping cases within the men’s WorldTour was the lowest its been in 15 years, with only three cases in WorldTour or ProTeam-level riders, but cautioned that the disruptions caused by COVID-19 make it difficult to draw too many conclusions.

“Generally, in large part due to the global pandemic, the sports that are usually the most affected by doping have seen fewer cases in 2020,” the report said. “This is notably true for cycling, which experienced a brutal year back in 2019, with a record of 32 revealed cases (more than double the previous year’s number).”

In 2020, 18 disciplinary cases were opened across all cycling disciplines, a dip from 2019, but MPCC cautioned that the “number remains significant given the context of a season shortened by several months and with a significantly lower number of tests.”

“The pandemic and its negative effects on the organization of doping controls this year make it more complex to interpret our credibility barometer,” the report stated. “The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as well as many international federations confessed that they had not been able to carry out as many anti-doping tests as in previous years, especially regarding the ‘out-of-competition’ tests.”