Saxo Bank alters testing strategy

The Saxo Bank team has altered its internal anti-doping strategy thanks to the increased controls being performed by the Union Cyclist International, the team told Cyclingnews. The Danish press had reported that the team had dropped the services of Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, but team spokesman Brian Nygaard said that this is not the case.

Damsgaard pioneered the squad's regime of blood profiling which became the basis of the UCI's biological passport program, and is still on board to analyze the data from the team's test results. What has changed is the fact that he is not performing the regular controls. Instead, Damsgaard receives the results of blood tests from the UCI and examines the data for the team.

"The biological passport designates a certain number of tests per rider taken out of competition - it is the exact same testing strategy we have been using for the past two years," Nygaard explained. "We're not going to double that just for show."

The UCI is now responsible for performing the controls. While other teams must rely upon that organisation's nine-person panel of experts to pour over testing results for over 800 riders, Saxo Bank still employs Damsgaard to examine the blood values and perform additional targeted tests for any rider who may show unusual values.

"The riders will not know the difference," he said. "They will still be tested the same amount. This is the most efficient way to complement the UCI's program. We aren't going to double-test the riders just to make a show out of it. That's not anti-doping, that's just PR."

Damsgaard himself indicated last year that once the UCI had gotten its passport program up and running, that he would be "slowly terminating [his] engagement" with the CSC/Saxo Bank and Astana teams.

Nygaard rebuffed speculations that the team has cut back on its anti-doping programme due to its loss of co-title sponsor IT Factory. He said that the team is still spending the same amount of money as it has over the past two years, but now the UCI is receiving a portion of the money as part of the ProTour teams' mandatory contribution to the passport programme. The team is also funding additional research for new tests to detect new generation EPO molecules.

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