Week in cycling: EPO test approved, Pantani goes under the knife, Armstrong heads to San Fran

PARIS The long-awaited validation of a doping test for endurance stimulant EPO (erythropoietin) has ended after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that their test will come into use as of April 1.

The UCI thus become the first federation to employ the test, partly in a bid to avoid a repeat of the 1998 Tour de France fiasco, dubbed the 'Tour de Farce' due to revelations of widespread EPO use.

The test will be applied after races, but riders could also be tested twice in one day if the results of their morning blood test shows a suspect hematocrit (red blood cell) count, or a suspect level for lesser-developed blood cells.

Athletes or cyclists determined to have used EPO will now face a ban of between six months and a year.

"As of April 1, the UCI will employ a test to detect EPO use," the UCI announced, while differentiating between its test and the one used at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, which relied on a combined result from both urine and blood sample testing.

The statement added: "The UCI is delighted to continue with this engagement (the detection method) that confirms its firm determination in the battle against doping."

The development signals a major sidestep for the UCI, who were previously not prepared to sanction any riders suspected of using EPO. In the former scenario a rider who exceeded the hematocrit threshold of 50 was given a 15-day 'warning' in order to resolve the problem of his elevated hematocrit level.

EPO, the most widely used product in the peloton, has up until now been relatively undetectable, and even proof of its presence was not followed by UCI sanctions - such as in the 1999 Tour of Italy when Marco Pantani was 'advised' not to continue, for his own health's sake, after returning an elevated hematocrit level.

AFX News Service

Pantani's ears pinned back

Marco Pantani, in his quest to win another Tour de France has resorted to plastic surgery. The Mercatone Uno star has had a procedure known as "ear pinning" performed, in hopes of improving aerodynamics in time trials one of his weaker events. The surgery has tightened his profile by pulling his ears back closer to the scalp. We will find out this season whether the operations has had the effect Pantani was hoping for.

Canadian Cyclist

Armstrong to hit the streets of San Francisco

For most Americans, the bicycle racing season begins and ends with Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. But if the organizers of a new professional race have their way, the season will end with Armstrong in the Grand Prix of San Francisco.

The inaugural 125-mile San Francisco Grand Prix will take place Sept. 9 on a 10-mile course on the hilly streets of the Financial District, North Beach, the Marina and Pacific Heights.

Two-time Tour winner Armstrong, who rarely appears in U.S. races, will compete in the first Grand Prix along with members of the U.S. Postal team and other top stars of the European circuits.

No final purse has been announced, but it is expected to be approximately $100,000, which puts the Grand Prix close to the nation's richest race, the $125,000 First Union USPRO Championship in Philadelphia.

USA Today

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