Seven weeks after the Kazakh Cycling Federation asked Johan Bruyneel to manage the Team Astana, the team has quickly taken shape. With nearly all of the 2008 staff and riders in place, the team has now given details on its anti-doping programme.
One of the first actions of Team Manager Bruyneel was to approach Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, the creator of the trend-setting anti-doping system, successfully applied for the first time in 2007 by Team CSC.
Due to the dramatic events of 2007, drastic changes were needed for the Team Astana, and after a few short meetings between Bruyneel and Damsgaard both parties easily came to an agreement on the structure of an anti-doping. During the 2008 season, all Astana riders will follow and undergo the Astana "Healthy Choice" Programme of the Danish doctor.
"A zero tolerance is a minimum and we want to go even further," stated Bruyneel. "If we continue to tolerate actions like we have seen in the last few years we will only chase away sponsors from our sport.
"Dr. Damsgaard will have carte blanche while overseeing our riders during the 2008 season. and we are requiring that he performs random independent in-house doping controls. We realize that this will be a great cost to our Team – about 300,000 euro – but it's the only way to prove to the world that we run a clean team and that clean cycling really exists."
The most extensive and strict aspect of the programme is the out-of-competition testing, with more than 800 urine and blood analyses scheduled during the season. The tests will include standard urine and EPO samples as well as blood drawn for growth hormone and homologous blood transfusions testing. Additionally, each test will be analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratory, which would allow for a positive test to be later challenged by the relevant anti-doping authority.
"It's the best and most honest way of working," explains Rasmus Damsgaard. "Like the out-of-competition controls performed by the UCI, our surprise controls will have the same consequences for the riders. ... We are glad that Johan Bruyneel gives us the freedom to do so."
"Every rider who has signed a contract with our team has agreed to follow our anti-doping programme. I cannot imagine what more we can do," stated Bruyneel. "I have told Dr. Damsgaard that he can start his work when our team will gather for the first training camp from December 10 to 17, in Javea [Spain]."