It is not the first Tour de France for ITA’s experienced cycling anti-doping specialists – but it is the first time that the independent organisation will officially manage the clean sport program. The ITA was entrusted with the entire operational anti-doping program for cycling by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in January 2021 and integrated the experts that had already been implementing cycling’s anti-doping program into its structure within a dedicated cycling unit.
The ITA is in charge of the overall clean sport strategy for the French Grand Tour, including the definition of an intelligence-led testing plan. For the operational roll-out of the anti-doping program, it works closely together 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 offenses) in the scope of the event. This collaboration is key, as a comprehensive and robust anti-doping program not only involves testing, but also relies heavily on the exchange of information through intelligence and investigations activities.
All doping controls (collection of both urine and blood samples) during the Tour de France will be targeted and performed anytime over the course of the three-week race, not only at the finish line. At every stage, the yellow jersey and stage winner will be tested. Additionally, all athletes will already be tested before the start of the event as part of their medical monitoring. To protect the health and safety of participating athletes, the staff of the cycling teams and the anti-doping workforce, a sanitary protocol is in place to ensure that doping controls are conducted with as little risk as possible.
The 2021 Tour de France is taking place after out-of-competition (OOC) tests have reached normal levels for several months again after the COVID-19 related worldwide drop in testing last year. More than 4,000 OOC samples have been so far collected in 2021 on cyclists by the ITA, including almost 3,500 on professional men road riders. The ITA has also intensified OOC testing in May and June with a focus on the Tour de France.
“We are looking forward to delivering the anti-doping program for this major cycling race for the first time under the responsibility of the ITA and in collaboration with our partners to ensure a level playing field during the event,” said Olivier Banuls, Head of the ITA Cycling Unit. “The ITA made all the necessary efforts in the run-up to the race to ascertain that the participating athletes were closely monitored.”