A number of the Lotto Soudal team have reportedly undergone COVID-19 antibody tests so the Belgian team can understand which, if any, riders have had the virus and may need further medical screening before beginning serious training and racing.
According to Het Nieuwsblad, several riders underwent the blood test on Friday morning at the Ghent Energy Lab in the presence of team doctor Jens De Decker.
"If our riders come into contact with the coronavirus and thus produce antibodies, we absolutely want to know," De Decker told the Belgian newspaper.
"It is not yet one hundred percent scientifically proven but the coronavirus may have an effect on the functioning of the heart. As a precaution, we'll subject every rider with antibodies in their body to an extra cardiovascular screening."
"This applies to our team, but other team doctors are also of the same opinion. Riders are top athletes and demand a lot from their bodies. We want to avoid all risks."
De Decker said all the tests carried on Friday were negative but positive cases are statistically possible.
"About six percent of the Belgian population already has antibodies in their body. Out of a total of 28 riders, that amounts to two," he said.
Despite a population of just 11 million, there have been over 50,000 COVID-19 cases in Belgium and reported almost 9,000 deaths. The country has been under lockdown but cyclists are permitted to train outdoors.
UCI Medical Protocol
The UCI and other stakeholders' representatives have created a steering group to work on a medical protocol to protect rider health.
Under the authority of the UCI Medical Director Professor Xavier Bigard, the group will define what special conduct will be adopted when racing resumes and during training camps. These are expected to include social distancing rules and medical checks. Other sports are carrying out similar tests as they try to return to competition during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Medical Plan has two key objectives: reduce the risks of a return to training after a long spell off and to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 between riders and staff," Trek-Segafredo doctor Gaetano Daniele explained recently to Tuttobiciweb.
"Before any organised training camps it's been suggested we carry out COVID-19 tests and the antibody test to understands if riders and staff have or have had the virus. If it believed that a rider faces extra health risks due to the impact of the virus, they will undergo more detailed checks on their lungs and heart. These have to be done before July 31 and so before a return to racing."