- Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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An agreement between the UCI, cycling's international governing body, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that would have enabled USADA to conduct in-competition testing at the biggest bike race in the United States for the first time fell through in the last few days, and the UCI will handle the testing instead.
USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart confirmed that negotiations broke down late this week. The Tour of California announced in February that USADA would conduct both pre-competition and in-race testing. The eight-day stage race begins Sunday in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
"As previously announced, it was USADA's intention to conduct a comprehensive and independent pre-competition and in-competition testing program," USADA said in an emailed statement. "The pre-competition testing program performed by USADA has been implemented. USADA had hoped to conduct the in-competition testing program at the 2011 Tour of California but was unable to finalize the agreement previously reached with the UCI. As has historically been the case, the International Cycling Union [UCI] will conduct their own testing program during the competition."
Tour of California organizers, with the support of title sponsor Amgen, initiated the effort to have USADA conduct comprehensive testing for their event. The agreement was confirmed in writing in February and announced by both USADA and race organizers, who held a teleconference with reporters to discuss details. But in recent days, the UCI reneged on the in-race portion of the agreement, telling USADA that it would allow the U.S. agency to collect samples but would not permit USADA to conduct targeted testing or receive copies of test results. USADA would not consent to those conditions and the arrangement was scrubbed.
"This is another example of the UCI being unwilling to play ball with its constituents and partners," said Jonathan Vaughters, manager of the Garmin-Cervelo team and president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams [AIGCP]. "I've been on record saying that the UCI needs broader representation from riders and teams, and it needs to look for ways to delegate responsibility for anti-doping controls to avoid conflicts of interest."
The UCI has come under increasing fire for alleged special treatment of some riders and teams in recent years. Critics have said the federation -- like its counterparts in other sports covered by the World Anti-Doping Agency code -- cannot effectively both promote and police the sport.
The UCI has conducted testing at the Tour of California since the inception of the race in 2006. Since 2008, race organizers have paid for USADA to conduct additional pre-competition testing. The new wrinkle this year, according to AEG Sports president Andrew Messick, whose company owns the race, was not only that USADA would have the ability to conduct in-race testing on the 18 teams entered but also had pre-race access to riders on the five lower-tier Continental-level teams who are competing in California. Pre-competition testing was conducted, as planned, for 90 days before the race.
Previously, pre-competition testing involved only the higher-level Pro Tour and Pro Continental teams, which are already subject to the biological passport program mandated by the UCI and thus have to submit riders' whereabouts for testing. Including the Continental teams "was another big step for us in having a clean race," Messick said.
"We've been watching carefully the negotiations between the UCI and USADA and we were hopeful that they would be able to come to an agreement," Messick said. "We think USADA, in the U.S., is the most credible and reputable independent organization, and that mattered a lot to us. But we've partnered with both organizations since 2008 and we have confidence in both. The UCI will be testing for a broad array of performance-enhancing substances, including EPO."
"Following recent discussions between the UCI and USADA concerning anti-doping arrangements for the 2011 Amgen Tour of California, the UCI wishes to announce that no agreement was reached by the parties," the UCI said in a statement on its website. "As a consequence, the USADA will take no part in the anti-doping controls; these will be conducted by the UCI throughout the event."
UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said he could not provide any further detail about why the agreement collapsed.
Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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