2009 Tour will be 'most tested event in history'
During a press conference in Paris this morning, Union Cycliste internationale president Pat McQuaid made the claim that this year's Tour de France would be "the most tested sporting event in history".
Commenting on the level of anti-doping tests to be carried out at this year's Tour, McQuaid said: "There will be between three and four hundred tests carried out. Tour team's long lists have formed the basis of who we are testing out of competition, which has been taking place for a number of weeks and will carry on until the Tour."
"If any information comes to light about a rider before the race that would take him out of the race, the UCI will do that."
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was present in the front row of the conference, a joint presentation between the UCI and French
anti-doping agency AFLD, to demonstrate his support.
UCI chief medical officer Mario Zorzoli explained that the number of tests taken during the Tour will be significantly increased this year.
"At the end of each stage, up to ten riders will be tested according to their sporting performance or specific targeting, there will be more tests at night and in the morning. Each rider will take two blood tests before the start of the Tour."
As many as 50 riders have already been singled out for a more intensive testing programme. "That doesn't mean 50 suspicious riders," McQuaid clarified. "It means that [the list] consists of those likely to be overall faves and faves to win stages. Those 50 will have extra detailed testing."
Many of the samples will be stored for future testing.
McQuaid paid tribute to tour organiser Amaury Sports Organisation for providing financial support to enable increase in testing. AFLD will act as service provider to help with out-of-competition testing.
Samples from the 2007 and 2008 Tours will also be retro-tested for human growth hormone, CERA and insulin.
Is Armstrong one of the 50?
McQuaid resisted being drawn into commenting when asked whether Lance Armstrong was one of the fifty riders picked for detailed testing before and during the Tour de France.
"'I do not want to say who's on that list, that's not a fair question," he said.
"We can be confident that all the main players will have a large number of tests leading up to the Tour, it's my opinion that this will be the most tested sporting event in history."
However, when pressed, McQuaid admitted that the claim of being the 'most tested event' could not be backed up by any information he had to hand.
The head of UCI's anti-doping team, Anne Gripper, was not present in Paris. She is currently in Montreal giving a presentation on the UCI's biological passport system at a conference.