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USADA to run Amgen Tour of California anti-doping controls

The organizer of the Amgen Tour of California, AEG, partnered with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and title sponsor Amgen to implement what it describes as "the most comprehensive anti-doping program in the history of the race". On Wednesday, AEG announced an independent anti-doping program run by USADA leading up to and during the 2011 edition of the race, which is scheduled for May 15 to 22.

The UCI is normally in charge of in-competition testing during its sanctioned events, but USADA CEO Travis Tygart clarified that the UCI was prepared to grant his agency the authority to decide who will be tested, when and for which substances.

"At this point, it's frankly difficult to both promote and police your own sport," Tygart said in today's press conference. "You've heard the expression 'the fox guarding the henhouse' over the years. There's this natural tension when the sport attempts to police itself of enforcing firmly and fairly the rules versus the other interest which is to promote and raise revenue for the sport."

The UCI confirmed to Cyclingnews the discussions with USADA, but spokesman Enrico Carpani clarified that "even if controls were conducted by them [USADA], UCI would keep the full responsibility of results management".

Tygart said the independent testing program would level the playing field for the Amgen Tour of California by greatly reducing the chance that any riders could cheat to win.

"By bringing in an independent agency, the USADA, Amgen and AEG have put a stake in the ground to say that independence is critical for the ultimate success of our anti-doping program for this year's event."

USADA will be in charge of both the out-of-competition testing leading up to the event as well as the controls taken during the race. All of the 15 invited teams are required to submit provisional rosters, and each athlete on the roster will be required to provide whereabouts information for the coming months.

"Obviously we're pleased we've got the pre-race testing element involved," Tygart said. "Ninety days prior to the race all athletes entered into the race will be providing their whereabouts to USADA, and they'll be register in the USADA registered testing pool."

In addition to the standard battery of substances on the WADA prohibited list, Tygart said his agency would be performing targeted testing for human growth hormone, CERA and other forms of EPO as well as examining samples for synthetic testosterone using the latest technologies in its WADA-accredited laboratories.

"We will have complete authority for the selection, the execution of the collection, the type of test that will be analysed. We're also pleased for the first time in the history of the TOC to also be doing the in-competition testing. We will be the determiner when it comes time to deciding which athletes are selected for testing, how that notification process works, how the collection of the samples is done and what analysis the laboratories will perform."

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.