French cycling officials have welcomed the idea of testing Tour de France riders retroactively for the banned substance erythropoetine (EPO). EPO testing during the Tour, which starts on Saturday, was ruled out last week because French scientists who have discovered a detection method cannot yet vouch for it 100 percent.
But the International Cycling Union (UCI) decided on Saturday that urine samples taken during the Tour would be frozen for testing at a later date. “After their immediate analysis for the detection of other substances, the samples will be kept in the requisite conditions,” the UCI said in a statement. “(We want) to ensure (the Tour) is held in the utmost sporting and serene (conditions).” There was no indication when the EPO testing method would be considered foolproof but it could be several months after the Tour.
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said: “The advantages outweigh the inconveniences… “The inconvenience is that we could have stage winners or even riders on the (Champs Elysees) podium who would be sanctioned at an ulterior date,” he told the sports daily L’Equipe on Sunday.
“But I think it will contribute towards relaxing the atmosphere. We feel it is putrid, that the riders mistrust each other, that the press do not trust the riders and vice versa.” French cycling federation president Daniel Baal said: “It’s the optimum solution. As far as disuasion goes we can believe we’ll get the same conditions as if the results were known on the Tour.”