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"There's no real excuse for this. Wherever athletes are they need to be tested, training camp or not. Yes, it's an expensive operation to send testers to such logistically difficult areas but finance shouldn't be a deciding...

Photo: Sirotti








23.11.2014 @ 15:15 Posted by Joseph Doherty

Earlier in the season, Team Sky and Astana spent several weeks on Tenerife to train at altitude for big objectives in the season. Both teams claimed that none of their riders were tested while they were on the Spanish island. But the UCI claims that this is not the case and the CADF, an anti-doping affiliate, did carry out tests on teams.


Cyclingnews contacted Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana. Sky responded saying they had been on the island from April 7-20 and May 16-28 but never had an athlete tested. Astana also said they didn’t have any athlete tested by the UCI, and they were on the island for an Ardennes camp, a Giro camp and a Tour camp, but no dates were given. Tinkoff-Saxo didn’t confirm if any athletes had been tested, but gave Cyclingnews the following statement:


"All Tinkoff-Saxo riders strictly adhere to the rules of the Whereabouts Program, with no exception whatsoever. Their accurate and updated location information is available to all relevant organizations and authorities that can carry out all the appropriate testing, whenever they deem it appropriate. We do not think that it is up to the teams to speculate on where and when tests are carried out nor why they are not in certain occasions."


An anonymous pro told Cyclingnews that he spent four weeks on the island this year and wasn’t tested once. He was tested once on the island in 2013.


Chris Froome fist raised the issue in June this year, and the UCI responded with a spokesperson for the governing body telling the BBC that "We're looking into the matter with the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation."


Several months on and Cyclingnews approached the UCI, asking if they could confirm if tests had been carried out in Tenerife this year. They responded by saying that, "the efficiency of any anti-doping testing strategy relies on the unpredictable nature of the testing location and the element of surprise. Therefore, it is in no one's interest that the UCI and/or the CADF communicate on the number of tests carried out in specific regions."


When asked if they had carried out a single test in Tenerife this year, they responded with the following: "this question would mean revealing part of our anti-doping testing strategy."


Cyclingnews contacted the UCI again, looking for confirmation that the UCI didn’t test Astana or Team Sky while they were on Tenerife.


"Without going into details, we confirm that the CADF carried out tests on top tier teams in Tenerife in 2014."


"The strategy of targeted testing is the backbone of the 2015 Anti-Doping Code set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The UCI is making the necessary changes to its policies, structures and procedures in order to ensure compliance with this Code. Part of this strategy is based on an increased cooperation with National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) in the field of information sharing and testing operations."


"In line with their qualitative approach, the CADF, on behalf of the UCI, is committed to carrying out tests wherever and whenever needed."


Robin Parisotto is part of the UCI’s panel that examines biological passport cases. He gave a balanced argument about Tenerife testing.


"In terms of the passport I don't think you're going to miss that much in a two-week camp because the benefit you want is for competition and not for training," he told Cyclingnews.


"In the old days of systematic doping teams used to dope while training in the hope that they could reach that level again in competition but without doping. That worked when the sport was uncontrolled. The passport hasn't wiped that out but it has made it a lot harder to get a benefit from doping and trying to hide it at the same time."


Parisotto says that the gaps in testing could allow a rider to micro-dose EPO, but that even though a urine test may fail to pick this up, the biological passport would be able to pick it up.


"The half-life is a matter of days but it comes down to strategy and what intelligence the UCI has so they have to weigh up the pros and cons. It could be that they're being more strategic and that they're thinking about the economics of it as well. In some sports certain athletes will go training to the most obscure places in the world in order get away from the testers but in saying that Tenerife isn't that far out of the way."


"If you're micro dosing then it's going to be out of your system within a day or two. A urine test would be pointless, almost. That's where the passport comes into play because those markers can be affected downstream, days or weeks later."


"In terms of following riders to the ends of the earth to a cycling camp, I'm not too perturbed by that because I know that down the track the passport will show up something."


Cyclingnews spoke to an expert on how to Passport works and he said that the argument of it being too expensive to test riders all over the world on training camps is not good enough.


"There's no real excuse for this. Wherever athletes are they need to be tested, training camp or not. Yes, it's an expensive operation to send testers to such logistically difficult areas but finance shouldn't be a deciding factor if we want a cleaner sport. To me, and from what I know from working in the sport, there's no excuse if two or three Grand Tour favourites are spending extended periods of time there in the lead up to the Tour de France."




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