The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

June 27, 2013

TOUR DE FRANCE: 10 things to know about doping

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HOW WIDESPREAD IS DOPING NOW? That is cycling's $7.6 million dollar question. Professional teams, riders, race organizers and the UCI forked out that amount in 2012 to fund the sport's drug-testing program which is now far more rigorous, extensive and credible than when Armstrong was crushing all and sundry at the Tour from 1999-2005.

Tour riders are tested more than in other sports and monitored by a pioneering "biological passport" that scrutinizes their blood readings for tale-tale signs of doping. The UCI insists cycling's drug culture is being broken. There are multiple signs to suggest that is true, but also that it hasn't yet been definitively beaten.

"For sure we can say that things have changed a lot in the last 10-15 years," said Zorzoli.

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DOES TESTING WORK? Kind of. Across all sports, drug tests aren't as effective as one might think or hope. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, less than 1 percent of 250,000 tests undertaken annually in sports are positive for performance enhancers, a statistic it said hasn't improved in three decades, despite leaps in testing science and increased testing. That suggests doped athletes are staying one or several steps ahead of those meant to catch them, that they avoid tests, use hard-to-detect substances and methods, and that testing isn't as organized and effective as it could or needs to be.

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ANY RECENT SUCCESSES? Absolutely. In May at Italy's grand tour, the Giro d'Italia, Mauro Santambrogio and Danilo Di Luca tested positive for EPO. 2007 Giro winner Di Luca faces a lifetime ban for his third offense. Their Vini Fantini team isn't at this Tour. Alexander Serebryakov also was positive for EPO in a test in March. Another Russian, Nikita Novikov, tested positive for a muscle-building drug in May. Their respective teams — Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil — are among the 22 competing in this Tour.

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