By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2002
Cycling’s world governing body the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) on Thursday gave the thumbs-up to requests from teams and riders to increase out-of-competition testing for the banned endurance booster EPO (erythropoietin).
“We were approached by riders, either directly or through their teams,” Hein Verbruggen, the UCI president, told AFP.
“And that request has officially been adopted by the organization which represents all the teams.” The tests will be carried out in collaboration with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) between April and August, meaning most of the one-day classic races and all three of the big Tours will be covered. Verbruggen said the format is an improvement on last year: “There was a weak link last year,” he admitted, referring to 2001 when a five or six-day detection period meant delays in results being released for the smaller races. “Now, the test for EPO will be able to be used in the big Tours (Italy, France, Spain),” added the Dutchman who described last year’s test results as “excellent”. “The average hematocrit (red blood cell) level for all riders was 44,” said Verbruggen referring to last year. A reading of 50 is an indication, though not proof, that a rider has taken EPO. Unable to specifically test for EPO in mid-1990s, the UCI adopted the 50-percent limit as a “safety” measure, citing the risk of thrombosis were a riders blood to become to thick with red cells. This year’s extra anti-doping efforts – thought to amount to hundreds of random tests over an unlimited geographical area – will be carried out alongside existing blood tests.
The UCI, which validated the French-pioneered urine test for EPO on April 1 last year, has already used random tests. Last year the Danish rider Bo Hamburger tested positive but the CSC team rider was admonished by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) when it was shown there existed minor differences between readings of his A and B samples.