Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has not entered the Tour of California, but changes in the event’s drug test program revealed Wednesday open the door for him to do so.
Organizers of America’s biggest cycling race, to be contested May 15-22, will have the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) administer drug tests for the event rather than the International Cycling Union.
The switch, which sees USADA handle competition tests as well as pre-event random drug tests that start February 15, led the US race to rescind a practice used last year that barred competitors who were being investigated for doping.
A US grand jury has spent months looking into doping in pro cycling with Armstrong and several of his associates having testified since Floyd Landis, an admitted dope cheat who forfeited a Tour de France title, accused Armstrong of doping.
Armstrong, who was thought to be looking at the Tour of California as a possible close to his fabled career, has denied taking performance-enhancing drugs but might have been banned under the old under-investigation restriction.
“Every athlete is entitled to full and due process before being removed from the playing field,” said US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart.
Andrew Messick, the Tour of California president, said there is no entry from Armstrong or his RadioShack team.
Armstrong, 39, is coming off a 67th-place showing in last week’s Tour Down Under in Australia, what he says was his final race outside the United States.
Three months of out-of-competition random drug testing for blood and urine is part of the tougher drug test plans implemented in the switch to USADA testing, Messick said.
“It is our intention to be a positive force in the sport of cycling and fighting to ensure that our race is clean is an essential step,” Messick said.
“The Tour is taking great strides in supporting clean athletes and actively advancing efforts for the integrity of competition,” Tygart said.
© AFP 2011