By Laura Weislo
The Astana team confirmed Wednesday that it, like Saxo Bank, continues to work with anti-doping researcher Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard to examine the results of blood controls, but is only using him to analyze the UCI's passport data rather than to execute additional testing. Team spokesman Philippe Maertens explained that the situation changed when the UCI stepped up its number of controls as part of the biological passport program.
"This year the UCI almost doubled the number of controls," Maertens said. "Last year [in December] at the team camp the UCI arrived to do the controls and on the same day, the PWC came to collect for Damsgaard. So like [Saxo Bank spokesman] Brian Nygaard said, it is senseless to do double the number of tests."
"Damsgaard never did the controls - not with Astana. It was a company from Germany, PWC, who collected the samples. Damsgaard only analyzed the data," Maertens explained. The same company is still responsible for collecting samples from the riders out of competition, but is now employed by the UCI rather than Damsgaard.
The Astana team used Damsgaard last season to order extra samples and to create blood profiles on all of its riders. That relationship bore fruit when the Dane picked up suspect values in the results from Vladimir Gusev. "The UCI has their parameters, but Damsgaard is more severe - if he sees something that is not good - this is what happened with Gusev. We saw something that was suspect, and there is a contract with the riders that this can be a reason to terminate the contract."
Essentially, the amount of testing for the team will remain the same as last year, but the controls will be conducted by the UCI. Once the blood values have been measured by the laboratories, Damsgaard then has access to the data and, as he does for Saxo Bank, scrutinizes it for the team.