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No EPO tests in 2006 Tour of California

By Susan Westemeyer & Tim Maloney

Riders were not tested for performance-enhancing EPO last year at the Tour of California - a race whose main sponsor is Amgen, a company which manufactures the drug used in cancer treatment. And that did not make the company happy.

"Our understanding going into the race was that the test would be included," Amgen spokeswoman Mary Klem told the New York Times. "And we were told afterwards that no rider tested positive for EPO or for any banned substance." According to the newspaper, company executives were angry and surprised when they heard that EPO testing was not actually carried out.

"We made it clear that if Amgen was going to continue as sponsor of the race, it needed to be a clean race and EPO had to be tested for," Klem said. "If somebody's using EPO in this race, we want to know about it. At least we know going into this year's race that we will."

This year, EPO testing will be part of the anti-doping measures conducted at the race. Amgen chose to sponsor the race as a way to educate the public against improper use of its drug, which is sold primarily to help cancer and dialysis patients fight anaemia.

The process for including EPO testing involves several parties. If Amgen had wanted to have EPO testing included in the standard medical control protocol at the 2006 Tour of California, they would have asked event owner AEG, who would then have asked their event technical contractor Medalist Sports to request this of USA Cycling. Medalist Sports organizes other pro races like the Tour de Georgia and US Championship races.

Once USA Cycling received the request, they would have asked the UCI to include the race's medical control protocol as an addition to standard protocol. The UCI then would have assigned a certified medical official to manage the on-site race medical control protocol process for the EPO testing.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth told the NY Times that "AEG did not know that EPO was not part of the standard test" in 2006, but that the company asked for it to be included this year's Tour of California.

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