In the wake of Lloyd Mondory's positive test for EPO, which was announced on Tuesday, the Ag2r La Mondiale team have outlined the procedures they have in place in order to monitor their riders and ensure they aren’t taking anything that’s either illegal or detrimental to their health.
Team doctor Eric Bouvat has told L'Équipe that this involves the team carrying out its own testing, as well as psychological assessments and monitoring of training data. Bouvat, who has been with the team since 1999 after a previous spell with them between 1994 and 1996, revealed that he reintroduced internal testing in 2013 having previously stopped it to prevent duplication of blood controls carried out by the UCI.
"We look for the use of EPO, corticoids, toxic products, and even cigarettes. Every rider undergoes these tests and, of course, Mondory did them as well!" he explained. Bouvat admitted the team have been wondering whether to continue with this testing following the news about Mondory, but affirmed: "Yes, we have to continue."
Bouvat also explained how Ag2r’s medical staff work in conjunction with team psychologist Virginie Jaco-Dalla Costa on spotting any signs that a rider might be straying into using banned products. "We look out for any kind of abnormal conduct by riders which could lead to them being involved in doping," he said, adding that, "not a single case had been detected".
Asked about Mondory's use of EPO, Bouvat commented: “It is really important for him to explain his actions, as that would help us to increase our understanding of this problem."
Psychologist Jaco-Dalla Costa, who's worked with Ag2r's riders for the past seven years, explained she generally speaks to riders during pre-season training camps, but has less contact with them during the season. She said her last meeting with Mondory had taken place during the Tour de Picardie in May last year.
"He's someone who has always been very ambitious. He's had some real setbacks, injuries, the loss of a friend last year. These factors can lead to a degree of fragility and encourage athletes to cross the forbidden line," she said.
Ag2r’s head coach, Jean-Baptiste Quiclet, insisted that although riders often spend a good deal of time training at home, the team stays in regular contact with them. "I don't feel like we abandon them. As well as coaches, each rider remains in contact with a specified directeur sportif who looks after his racing programme," said Quiclet. He also explained that every rider's training data gets uploaded onto a central server, which also contains details on strategy and other key issues. Every rider, said Quiclet, is encouraged to contribute to this data and information.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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