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USOC and USADA up the anti-doping ante

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to conduct anti-doping testing and adjudication on behalf of the USOC and its National Governing Bodies through 2010.

A statement by the USOC said the new agreement goes into effect immediately and includes several important advancements from the original agreement into which the two organizations entered in 2000, particularly focusing on sports that have a "a higher risk of doping."

"We are continually looking for ways to intensify our efforts in the fight against doping in sport, and this new agreement is an important step forward," USOC Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr said in the statement. "Our stated goal is to have a clean team at the 2008 Beijing Games, and that goal will be accomplished, at least in part, through a testing program that is more intelligent, focused and efficient."

While the statement did not say which sports are considered high-risk, a spokesperson for the USOC told Cyclingnews that the sports will be decided at a later date. "USOC and USADA will work together to make that determination," said Nicole Saunches. "They will consider several factors including propensity for anti-doping sanctions."

The changes include and increase in the percentage of No-Advance-Notice tests in sports with a higher risk of doping because, "No-Advance-Notice testing is universally accepted as the most effective form of testing," the statement noted. The amount of tests conducted annually will be increased to no less than 55 percent, with a goal of reaching 65 percent annually.

There will also be an increase in the number of blood tests conducted annually for the high-risk sports.

Finally, the new agreement will place a greater emphasis on extending sanctions to include coaches, agents, athletic trainers and others in cases where there is evidence of complicity.

"Everyone who participates in or cares about sport deserves to know that the playing field is level and that competition is clean," said Mark Henderson, Chair of the USOC Athletes Advisory Council. "As athletes, we embrace this responsibility and believe that a strong anti-doping program is an important tool in protecting the integrity of sport. Athletes also deserve to know that the approved anti-doping protocols will always be followed, and we appreciate the fact that USADA does so."

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