Posted by Editor on 02/18/07
EPO Testing Questions Raised at ToC Press Conference
An article in the New York Times led to some tough questions at the pre-race press launch for the Tour of California, and the abrupt ending of the press conference while journalists were still asking questions.
The New York Times reported that Amgen, the title sponsor of the race, had requested last year that EPO testing be conducted. The reasons were two-fold for the request: first, to show that the race was clean, and second because Amgen actually makes EPO and wanted to use the testing as part a program to explain what the real uses of EPO are (for people with cancer and blood disorders).
However, Amgen subsequently found out that testing did not happen.
"Our understanding going into the race was that the test would be included, and we were told afterwards that no rider tested positive for EPO or for any banned substance." said Amgen spokesperson Mary Klem to the NY Times.
The NY Times claims that Amgen was angry and surprised when they heard the testing did not happen, and made it clear that testing would be a condition of the company's continued sponsorship of the event.
"We made it clear that if Amgen was going to continue as sponsor of the race, it needed to be a clean race and EPO had to be tested for," Klem said. "If somebody's using EPO in this race, we want to know about it. At least we know going into this year's race that we will."
At the press conference, when the floor was opened to questions after a video presentation, and statements from organizers and top riders in attendance (see Daily News February 18/07 12:00 am EST), one of the first questions was regarding the NY Times article, and why the testing had not happened.
Jim Birrell, from Medallist Sports (the actual events company which puts on the race on behalf of event owner AEG) skirted around the questions, pointing out that requests for such testing go through a chain of authority, from the organizer to USA Cycling, USADA, WADA and the UCI (not necessarily in that order). Birrell did not directly answer at which point the request stalled, and Sean Petty of USA Cycling declined to comment on the issue.
AEG staff terminated the press conference shortly afterwards.
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