- Bonnie D. Ford, Enterprise and Olympic Sports
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The independent testing agency that is an integral part of Team Slipstream/Chipotle's anti-doping commitment has undergone a change at the top, but the company's CEO says there will be no interruption or decline in quality in blood and urine analysis for Slipstream and two other U.S.-based teams.
"We have scientific criteria and we are applying those criteria," said Dr. Paul Strauss, CEO for the Agency for Cycling Ethics. "This has opened doors for us that were previously closed, and we're speaking with the UCI (cycling's international governing body) and other entities I'm not at liberty to talk about.
"We are bringing in scientific resources that will be better than we've had before."
ACE co-founders Strauss and Paul Scott parted ways earlier this month after ACE's management decided that Scott's involvement in the legal defense of dethroned 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, whose appeal is being heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this week, posed a professional conflict and public relations problem.
Strauss, an anesthesiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centers in Los Angeles, said he is qualified to analyze results and would rely on consultants if necessary. Scott declined to comment on that or any facet of ACE's future operations, citing a nondisclosure agreement signed by both parties when Scott's share in the company was bought out.
Slipstream director Jonathan Vaughters said he has faith in ACE's past performance and future direction, but added that he views the program as a safety net rather than the first line of defense.
"Personally, I think I've developed a strong enough anti-doping culture on the team that this is just basically checking up on them," he said. "Then again, I don't want to say (an independent testing program) isn't necessary, because it is."
ACE does blood and urine analysis for three U.S.-based teams: Slipstream/Chipotle, High Road and BMC. Collections are done approximately biweekly and the results are used to build baseline profiles for riders -- not to test for the presence of performance-enhancing drugs, which is the responsibility of national and international anti-doping agencies.
The profiles assembled by ACE are intended to give early warning signs of possible blood doping or steroid use so teams can suspend or otherwise sanction riders in the absence of an actual positive test. Testing cost Slipstream nearly $500,000 last year.
Scott has founded his own company, Scott Analytics, and is developing a program similar to ACE's for the Rock Racing team. Maurice Suh, Landis' chief defense lawyer, is also a legal adviser for Rock Racing.
Strauss developed the network of labs and independent contractors who do the blood and urine collections wherever the team is racing. Scott, a research chemist who formerly worked at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab at UCLA, designed the templates used for analyzing the samples. Both are amateur competitive cyclists and devised the idea for ACE on the way to a race together in 2006.
Slipstream owner Doug Ellis and High Road owner Bob Stapleton said they did not pressure Scott to leave and found nothing improper about his role in the Landis case. Both expressed hope that ACE would hire someone with proven credentials in the field. "Part of our agreement with ACE was that they would beef up their scientific side,'' Stapleton said.
Ellis and Vaughters said they are satisfied with ACE's test notification and collection procedures, but added they have made some requests for improvements, such as trying to make sure riders are not compelled to give too much blood over a short period of time. (Riders are subject to random tests by their national anti-doping agencies and/or cycling federations along with the team's controls.)
ACE released an official statement about the transition on March 11, but several journalists learned of the changes from a message Strauss had posted on an Internet forum almost a week earlier.
A cofounder of the Agency for Cycling Ethics left the company earlier this month, but the agency says there will be no decline or interruption in testing for Slipstream and two other U.S.-based teams.