Race organizers try to stay ahead of performance enhancers

Already with a clean slate in its first two years of existence, the Amgen Tour of California increased its drug-testing standards in a sport that has been smeared with controversy.

There is nothing more prestigious — especially these days in cycling — than protecting your reputation.

“We’ve not had a rider fail our test in any of the first two years,” said Michael Roth, president of AEG Sports, which puts on the Tour. “Based on our new protocol, which every team has signed, that should remain intact. We are not accepting contracts from teams with open investigations or suspensions.”

Even with the spotless record, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been links to performance-enhancing drug use. Floyd Landis, the winner of the inaugural Tour of California, was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title due to a doping scandal. Also, Michael Rasmussen, a participant in the first two California races, was leading last year’s Tour de France when his team pulled him out of that event due to drug accusations.

Less than two weeks ago, high-profile teams Astana and High Road were barred from participating in the Giro d’Italia for their previous connections to doping. Astana features defending Tour of California champ Levi Leipheimer and High Road has George Hincapie, another top American.

“Anything that makes the sport look bad, we’re disturbed by,” Roth said.

Among the new testing developments for this year’s Tour, all riders will have to submit pre-race blood samples and daily winners and the overall leader will be tested after each stage for banned substances including EPO, steroids and masking agents.

“I think it’s a great system and for me it’s not even a question of being willing — I’m more than happy to do it,” Jelly Belly rider Bernard van Ulden said. “I would love to see this level of testing at every race.”

sdrumwright@examiner.com

Examiner Staff Writer Matt Elliser contributed to this report.

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