In the wake of cycling's ongoing doping scandals involving riders like Floyd Landis and those implicated in Operación Puerto, organizers of the Tour of California announced extensive testing for the performance enhancing blood-booster EPO. All tests at this year's event will include a screening for EPO. Ironically, the tour's sponsor is Amgen, the manufacturer of EPO, also a naturally occurring hormone which stimulates the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's muscles.
"It is the right thing to do," AEG President Shawn Hunter said Tuesday according to the Mercury News. "Our race can serve as a positive step.''
The UCI granted permission for organizers to use the US$400 test. The Mercury News reported that at last year's event, four cyclists were tested every day, but none tested positive.
The move comes amid similar initiatives, like the testing program to be undertaken by Team Slipstream, who will test its riders' blood and urine 50 times a year at a price tag of US$20,000 per rider or $400,000 per team according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, organizers have also released a provisional start list including 2006 Tour de France stage winners Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank Cycling Team), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step-Innergetic), 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), world road race champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic), and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). Last year's second place winner, Dave Zabriskie (Team CSC) will return, but the race will be without defending champion Floyd Landis.
For a complete start list, click here. Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the Tour of California beginning February 18.