LUGANO, Switzerland -- All professional cyclists will have to complete a new anti-doping education program or lose their right to race.
The International Cycling Union on Friday launched the "True Champion or Cheat?" project to complement extensive testing conducted on more than 1,000 registered racers across all disciplines.
"Education has to be done in parallel with testing," UCI anti-doping manager Anne Gripper told The Associated Press. "It's the future of the sport to have more teams who understand that."
Riders have until June 30 -- one week before the 2010 Tour de France starts -- to complete the education or lose their official registration, Gripper said.
The program, provided on DVD or online in five languages initially, will explain testing procedures and list substances banned in sports by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Cyclists will be taught how to apply for legitimate medications, inform testing teams where they are training and the potential dangers of using dietary supplements.
"There is no longer any excuse for saying, 'I didn't know that supplement might be contaminated," Gripper said. "Riders have to take responsibility for everything they do."
The project was revealed at the UCI's annual congress to national federations, who will share responsibility with teams for ensuring riders meet their deadline.
Gripper said it was part of a cultural change the governing body of cycling is attempting after years of drug scandals. No rider failed a test at this year's Tour de France.
The UCI has invested $220,000 in the project, inspired by Norway's anti-doping authority.
It pays more than five times that amount each year toward the $7.3 million annual cost of operating its biological passport scheme, which is mandatory for about 850 road racers. They give regular blood and urine samples so that scientists can search for evidence of performance-enhancing drugs or banned blood transfusions.
UCI president Pat McQuaid, who was confirmed unopposed Friday to lead cycling for four more years, told federations their sport was striving for higher ethics.
McQuaid said it was unacceptable for riders caught doping to question the testing system or "invent conspiracies."
The new scheme was backed by Cedric Vasseur, president of the riders' union known by its French initials CPA.
"It's a really good project for the young generation," Vasseur told the AP. "Maybe we should have put it on 10 years ago."