By Kirsten Robbins, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney
During the press conference after stage six of the 2007 Tour of California, Shawn Hunter, president of event owner AEG Sports, confirmed that testing for EPO had been being carried out this year at the request of the race's title sponsor, the biotechnology firm Amgen.
The company, which is one of the world's largest manufacturers of EPO, had requested that testing take place in the 2006 event, but this request was seemingly overlooked.
UCI president Pat McQuaid also stated in the same press conference, "As it is, AEG and the organizers at the Amgen Tour of California have gone further than the norm that would be required in terms of the testing that has happened at the race this year," McQuaid said.
"The UCI does blood tests at most but not all but most of the major ProTour events. Outside of the ProTour events we don't do as many blood tests. (The Tour Of California) being in its second year would not warrant the blood test to be done.
"The effort it takes to bring the equipment here and the people to administer the test is very expensive. The people who administer the test are specialists and they are trained to read the machines that they bring so it is very expensive," he said. "At the moment (EPO blood testing) has only ever been done in Europe. I would certainly say that as the race progresses in the next year or two and becomes more important and prestigious, blood tests will be a factor that will be introduced."
The EPO (urine) testing for the 2007 Tour of California, is being conducted by the WADA-approved UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in West Los Angeles, CA, headed by Dr. Don Catlin. But it's understood that this laboratory can also conduct the more sophisticated EPO blood test. The EPO blood test can detect the use of synthetic EPO for up to three weeks after use, whereas the urine test can only detect EPO use within a few days after being administered.
The UCI's medical officer at the Tour of California, Shawn Farrell, said, "Yes the race is doing EPO tests at the Tour of California through urine samples and the tests are all being sent to UCLA (Olympic Analytical Laboratory)".
Farrell continued, "In terms of blood testing, the system I am familiar with is that (the UCI) have a set of people they use from the labs in Switzerland that they send out to various races for blood testing. I don't know that it has anything to do with where they do the actual testing of the samples. It has more to do with the where the actual people are who draw the blood and process it. Up until now they are a very small group of people located in Europe they have sent them to the US on some occasions. It doesn't have anything to do with the lab because the stuff can be tested almost anywhere."
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