UCI introduces compulsory medical monitoring

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The Independent Online

The world governing body of cycling today announced that it was introducing the world's first comprehensive and compulsory health tests for all professional riders.

The world governing body of cycling today announced that it was introducing the world's first comprehensive and compulsory health tests for all professional riders.

The move, which is aimed countering the problem of performance-enhancing drugs which cannot be detected in doping tests, will take effect immediately, said the International Cycling Union.

Cycling has been the professional sport most rocked by drugs scandals in recent years.

"By these measures UCI will be able, using the best available methods, to combat in an optimum manner the problem of undetectable substances," said UCI President Hein Verbruggen in a statement.

UCI introduced health tests last year, but the new rules create uniform requirements, which must also be adopted by national cycling federations.

Under the regulations, every rider will have to undergo cardiological and eyesight tests before joining a professional team for the first time. Tests are then repeated every two years throughout the rider's career.

Teams must also organise yearly blood, urine and cardiological tests, along with more limited testing of blood and urine four times a year.

Riders who refuse to cooperate, or whose results are abnormal, can be banned from riding by the doctor supervising the tests.

"The range of parameters considered in this protection program has been adopted on the basis of the most recent scientific data," said UCI.

UCI has been developing its medical monitoring program for several years in response to the increasing problem of undetectable doping substances, such as the artificial hormone EPO.

Riders who are found to have a red blood cell count above 50 percent are given a compulsory 15-day ban on health grounds. The high count indicates the possible use of EPO, although the hormone itself cannot be detected.

Italian rider Marco Pantani was banned from last year's Tour of Italy while he was leading the event after his red blood cell count was found to be too high, and police carried out drugs raids on team hotels during the 1998 Tour de France.

UCI said it would continue to carry out random drugs testing. The new rules also require every rider to provide a personal record of medical treatment specifying any substances from UCI's list of restricted drugs which have been legitimately prescribed.

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