By Shane Stokes
Curious as to the situation vis-à-vis out of competition testing of Jan Ullrich since he returned his licence to the Swiss federation, Cyclingnews has learned that the 32 year-old remains eligible for testing by three different bodies.
The first of these is the German National Anti-Doping Organisation. While his most recent licence was taken out in Switzerland, the former T-Mobile rider is included in the German Registered Testing Pool due to the fact that he could represent that country at the world championships or Olympic Games. Most national anti-doping organisations have a legal right to test competitors from that country, regardless of their membership or licence status.
The second possible source of unannounced tests is the UCI, who passed on documents from the Operación Puerto case to the Swiss federation earlier this year in order for their investigation to proceed. According to an official from the governing body, Jan Ullrich "is on our Registered Testing Pool for 2007, on the basis of suspicions about doping practices, ie Operación Puerto."
"Even if he was to announce his retirement, under Article 77 of the UCI rules, he cannot compete internationally unless he is available for out of competition testing six months before the date of his return. It is therefore in his best interests to continue to make himself available for OOC testing so that he can return to international competition as soon as or if he obtains a contract and licence."
The third body which could request a test from the rider is the World Anti Doping Agency, WADA. It has the authority to test any athletes who are included in the registered testing pools of international federations or national anti-doping organisations.
The news invalidates any speculation that Ullrichs rejection of his licence could have led to a lack of testing while he awaits the start of the 2007 season. The 1997 Tour de France winner was implicated in the Operación Puerto affair earlier this year and missed the Tour as a result.
As he held a racing licence with them at the time, the Swiss federation is the one who will investigate the charges against him. On Friday it was revealed that the anti-doping arm of the federation plans to open their hearing against him in early January. If Ullrich wins his case, that should clear the way for a return to top-level cycling. However, a previous suspension for amphetamine use means that a guilty verdict could be followed by a life ban from the sport.