By Steve Frothingham
The owner of Team Columbia says the recent closure of the team’s internal anti-doping testing firm will not leave his riders unsupervised. The UCI’s biological passport testing, along with other testing by anti-doping agencies, will fill the gap while the team hustles to line up new internal testing, Bob Stapleton told VeloNews Friday.
Columbia, Garmin-Chipotle and BMC relied on the Agency for Cycling Ethics to provide internal anti-doping testing, including the monitoring of rider biological profiles for suspicious changes. Citing financial difficulties, ACE shut down last week after fulfilling its contracts with the teams.
Stapleton said the established rider profiles would make it difficult for a rider to dope between ACE’s closure and when a new tester gets up and running.
“The gap is not an issue at all, that’s the beauty of the profile,” Stapleton said. “Also, there is a heck of a lot of testing going on in the sport right now,” he said, referring to the UCI’s biological passport program and testing at races.
Stapleton said Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle are cooperating on choosing a new testing contractor. While The New York Times on Thursday said the two teams had narrowed the choices down to two, Stapleton said there are at least two other possibilities. The Times named Don Catlin, who is heading up Lance Armstrong’s test program, and Rasmus Damsgaard, a Danish researcher who runs testing programs for CSC-Saxo Bank and Astana.
Stapleton did not name the other possible testers, but said “we’re getting fairly close to making a decision.”
Working with Garmin — and possibly some other teams that have contacted Stapleton — will help give the new contractor enough critical mass to make the endeavor financially feasible, he said.
“There is good cooperation between us and (Garmin). We will make an independent decision, but we have basically the same goals,” he said.
Stapleton said his team is looking for a contractor who can develop a testing program that complements the UCI passport system and makes full use of the biological profiles the team has established with ACE and with other testing data from the UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency and in-house rider health testing.
“We’ve acquired quite a remarkable volume of testing data at this point,” he said. “We want to make full use of that and evolve our program to take it to the next level.”