By Daniel Friebe, Procycling
To say that Don Catlin was an unfamiliar name in cycling circles is to underestimate how well-informed the average bike fan now is about all matters doping, but it's certainly true to say that the LA-based expert's profile has risen considerably in recent weeks.
After Lance Armstrong's announcement earlier in the autumn that Catlin will be his personal anti-doping policeman in the 2009 season, on Monday it was the Colombia and Garmin teams' turn to officially unveil Catlin as the man behind their new independent testing programme. The news comes after the company that previously fulfilled the same role for both US-based teams, the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE), ceased its operations.
With the press release still hot on the printer, on Monday afternoon, I spoke to Columbia team boss Bob Stapleton to find out more about a programme which he believes marks another breakthrough in cycling's war on drugs.
Procycling: Bob, can you tell us a little bit about the kind of assurances you wanted from Don Catlin when you first started talking to him about running a testing programme for the Columbia riders?
Bob Stapleton: I started talking to Don over a year ago, before we started with ACE. When you talk about anti-doping in North America, Don Catlin's pretty much the guy. He's the godfather. You only have to look at the number of times he's been the chief witness for the prosecution in cases brought by USADA (United States Antidoping Agency) and how many times they won. I think USADA's record's something like 34 -0. Don's actually the first guy I talked to about an independent testing programme, but he wasn't in a position to take that on back then. When we sat down and started talking this time, my main questions were about whether Don and his people could handle the workload, and whether we had common goals. It was also important to me that we didn't just start something totally new, without building on what we've already done with ACE and the biological passport. Science-wise, Don wants to do a lot of work on the different kinds of EPOs or biosimilars, plus use the profiling that's already done. What I also really like about Don is that he's not just interested in catching cheats for the sake of it – he wants to level the playing field for the guys who are competing clean. I think having him on board is great for the team and for the sport.
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