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T-Mobile's tough stance in the fight against doping is focused around the introduction of a centrally controlled programme that has much in common with the system employed with varying degrees of success by the Mapei team up to 2002. From now on, the riders' medical supervision will rest exclusively in the hands of Professor Andreas Schmid's medical team at the University of Freiburg.
"A comprehensive medical, training and anti-doping programme can only evolve in a framework that joins up prevention, control and a superior training environment for motivated athletes," says Schmid. "The necessary transparency must then be assured and maintained through a strict quality management and a focus on the best methods available in science and sport." The medical team will be supported by an independent expert advisory board, made up of specialists from a range of difference areas.
The top priority is to support and enable athletes to perform better without breaking rules or risking their health. Crucial to this initiative is the support of sporting directors and experienced pros, as well as communication with youth coaches. "They can inform us of a rider's technical ability and tactical sharpness. Then we can use performance diagnostics tests, as well as the analysis of training and racing data, to benchmark a rider's physiological capability," says team doctor Lothar Heinrich, who is based at Freiburg's University clinic.
"The T-Mobile Team will also conduct a guaranteed minimum number of unannounced out-of-competition tests on all team riders," says Heinrich. All samples will be tested for substances frequently used to boost performance in endurance sports (i.e. EPO, growth hormones)."
Under the supervision of an independent, international panel of experts, riders will also be screened to determine individual data. The screening process will use scientific tests to detect use of doping substances, or methods not yet officially tested for in independent controls, but which can be directly or indirectly revealed. The data determined will be shown to the independent panel of experts at regular intervals. Where anomalies are apparent, internal action can be taken - either through further controls, or contractual sanctions.
One of these new test methods is the so-called blood volume measurement. "This method, improved by scientific research in recent years, can indirectly reveal evidence of EPO use or blood transfusions," explains Lothar Heinrich. Riders' blood volume will be tested a minimum of six times per season and monitored by independent experts from Prof. Walter Schmidt's work group in Bayreuth. Apart from the obligatory International Cycling Union (UCI) controls, a minimum of two more random tests will be conducted directly after competition.
Furthermore, all athletes will be subject to health profiling. The profiles will be built up from their physical make-up as determined by laboratory testing, samples taken from in and out of competition tests, data from physiology tests, training data as well as a DNA-identity test. Test data taken over time can then be compared against these profiles to detect any anomalies.