The 2021 edition of the Tour de France, one of the world’s most prestigious cycling races, was the first edition of the event to be supported by an independent anti-doping program delivered by the ITA. Earlier that same year, the ITA was entrusted with the entire operational anti-doping program for cycling by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and integrated the experts that had already been implementing cycling’s anti-doping program into its structure within a dedicated cycling unit.
Following its anti-doping operations for the Giro d’Italia, the ITA continued to focus on a dedicated pre-Tour program, and collected 500 mostly out-of-competition samples from riders bound to take part in the Tour de France during the month between the two races. At the event itself, all 184 participating riders were subject to a pre-competition blood test ahead of the start. In addition, 393 blood and 162 urine samples were overall collected over the three weeks of the race, resulting in over 60% of athletes being tested during the event. These doping controls were targeted based on several factors such as prior risk assessment, performance or intelligence. At every stage of the race, the yellow jersey and stage winners were tested. The overall level of collected samples at the 2021 Tour de France is consistent with that of previous years (see infographic).
All the samples collected during the race were analysed in the WADA-accredited laboratory in Paris and specific further analyses were carried out by the Cologne WADA-accredited laboratory upon request of the ITA.
Currently, the testing of athletes remains one of the key tools in the fight against doping to promote clean sport and act as a deterrent for using prohibited substances or methods. While no ADRVs were asserted to date as a result of the analysis of the collected samples during the Tour de France, all samples will be stored and may be re-analysed at a later point in time should new or more powerful analytical methods be implemented by WADA-accredited laboratories or if the ITA receive any specific intelligence. Together with the monitoring of the riders’ Athlete Biological Passports, information acquired through intelligence work or reporting platforms, in- and out-of-competition testing activities and the storage of samples for re-analysis constitute a long-term approach in keeping cycling clean.
For the operational roll-out of the UCI anti-doping program, the ITA collaborated closely with the AFLD and the French authorities represented by OCLAESP (Office central de lutte contre les atteintes à l’environnement et à la santé publique – Central Office for combating environmental and public health offences) in the scope of the event. This collaboration is fundamental, as a comprehensive and robust anti-doping program not only involves testing but also relies heavily on the exchange of information with the local public bodies, as this was concretely the case during the Tour de France.
To protect the health and safety of participating athletes, the staff of the cycling teams and the anti-doping workforce, a sanitary protocol was in place to ensure that doping controls were conducted with as little risk as possible.