Cycling CEO: Despite frustrating headlines, cycling’s drug testing methods are working

By Pete Iacobelli, AP
Friday, September 17, 2010

USA Cycling CEO says sport testing effective

GREENVILLE, S.C. — USA Cycling CEO Sean Petty says the sport’s drug testing methods surpass all other major sports and have been effective at catching cheaters.

Petty said Friday that enhanced measures in recent years like more advanced blood tests, biological passports for riders and medical monitoring for teams have made it more difficult to break rules.

“When it’s that intense, you’re going to catch people,” Petty said.

Petty spoke at the kickoff gathering for this weekend’s USA Cycling Pro Championships, which will crown a time trial national champion Saturday and a road race champ Sunday.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is currently under scrutiny in a federal investigation into doping in professional cycling, and Petty understands that when some of cycling’s best gather to race, questions about cheating are close behind.

Such headlines make it difficult at times for organizers and enthusiasts to grow the sport in America, Petty acknowledged. He’s got no doubt, however, a cleaner sport will emerge from today’s frustrations.

“It’s painful to go through,” he said. “But for those who would be inclined to (cheat), the noose is tightening.”

Defending road race champion George Hincapie, who rode as Armstrong’s teammate in all seven of his Tour de France victories, had no comment when asked by The Associated Press about the allegations regarding his friend.

Levi Leipheimer, another cyclist who had ridden with Armstrong’s team, also declined comment.

Petty said riders this weekend are subject to a testing regimen most people wouldn’t sit still for. Blood and urine tests can be called for at any hour and riders routinely hand over sensitive medical information to comply with testing protocols.

“Most people would think that’s incredibly intrusive,” Petty said. “As a cyclist, that’s your life.”

It’s sometimes difficult to handle the guilt by association, said 27-year-old cyclist Ted King.

All the casual fan retains are the negative news reports, King said, not the improved testing measures.

“As tough and as annoying as it is to receive so many questions about it, it’s the nature of the beast,” said King, riding in Sunday’s 110-mile road race. “It’s good to be in a sport that is fighting it first hand.”

The stepped up testing means cycling leaders can tell parents that they sons and daughters won’t get caught up in cheating. “It’s important to tell them that yes, he or she can be a champion or an Olympic medalist and race clean,” he said.

Petty can’t wait for the day he won’t get asked about drug testing and blood doping. He hopes it comes soon.

“You got to be willing to take the lumps if you’re going to be aggressive in anti-doping,” he said. “And cycling is very aggressive in anti-doping.”

(This version CORRECTS Corrects that Hincapie rode on all seven of Armstrong’s Tour de France wins.)

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