USADA launches pilot program

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has begun a new program to incorporate a new strategy into its campaign to ensure athletes are clean in advance of the Beijing Olympics, it was reported Saturday. The program has not been officially announced by the anti-doping agency, but was brought to the attention of the press by athletes at a US Olympic Committee news conference in Chicago.

Dubbed "Project Believe", the program is a voluntary battery of tests performed on the blood and urine of the 12 participating athletes throughout the year, and is similar to the 'biological passports' introduced by the UCI this year. The Associated Press received confirmation from USADA CEO Travis Tygart that a longitudinal testing program is being developed, but said a formal announcement would be forthcoming. The tests are in addition to normal anti-doping controls.

Track and field athletes Bryan Clay and Allyson Felix announced that they were part of the project, which could help repair the reputation of American athletics which has been hammered by the imprisonment of multiple Olympic champion Marion Jones for her part in the BALCO drugs scandal. Jones was stripped of her five Olympic medals last November after she admitted to taking a designer steroid. She was sentenced to prison for lying to federal investigators.

Longitudinal testing is the theory behind the 'biological passport' as well as the anti-doping programs pioneered by Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard for Team CSC and by the Agency for Cycling Ethics for Team Slipstream.

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