By VeloNews Interactive
The organizers of the Tour de France have outlined a stringent new set of anti-doping measures designed to erase the nagging doubts and suspicions that have plagued the race since the Festina scandal of 1998.
In a Paris press conference on Tuesday, the directors of Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the parent company of the Société du Tour de France, said that a new program of random drug tests and strict penalties will help restore the “emblematic values” of the Tour.
Riders who could potentially start the Tour de France on July 6 in Luxembourg are now subject to random drug tests up to and including the month of the race. ASO is enlisting the services of a group of 23 doctors, laboratory technicians and UCI medical inspectors to oversee an accelerated drug testing program designed to produce speedy results and the quick ejection of riders found positive for drugs.
All riders participating in the Tour will also be subject to a detailed blood test two days prior to the start. Samples taken at that time will be flown by charter flight to the Morges laboratory near Lausanne. Results will then be released no later than the Friday night before the prologue.
” We don’t pretend to lead the fight against doping in French sport, said Patrice Clerc, President of A.S.O. But it is our moral responsibility to mobilize all efforts and expertise around the Tour de France, to fight against doping and to preserve the emblematic values of this race.”
Clerc promised to increase the number of EPO tests from the 72 conducted in 2001 to at least 90 in this year’s Tour. Regular anti-doping controls will involve between 6 and 10 riders every day, including that day’s stage winner, the holder of the yellow jersey, random riders – whose names will be drawn by lot – and “certain targeted riders” who may be of interest to anti-doping officials.
ASO will also finance out-of-competition tests for the month leading up to the Tour as well as testing “outside the framework of the competition” that might include random tests on the Tour’s two rest day’s.
Clerc added that while the organization hopes its steps will bring the Tour closer to eliminating illegal substances from the peloton, the appropriate use of medications should be encouraged. Citing the example of Crédit Agricole’s Jonathan Vaughters, who last year was forced to pull out of the Tour because he was unable to treat a wasp sting with Cortisone, Clerc said a new medical review panel can “authorize, if the need arises, cortisone treatment for medically justified cases.”