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The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has revealed its programme to combat anti-doping and technological fraud that it will implement for the upcoming Tour de France (1-23 July).

The comprehensive anti-doping programme deployed at the French Grand Tour will be led by the International Testing Agency (ITA), the body to which the UCI delegated the operational activities of its fight for clean cycling in 2021. After ensuring a level playing field for all participants at the Giro d’Italia last May, the ITA will once again work with all stakeholders, including the French authorities, to protect the integrity of one of the world’s most prestigious cycling events.

This will be the third time that the ITA has taken charge of the anti-doping programme at the Tour de France since the UCI delegated its anti-doping activities to the agency. Within this framework, the ITA is in charge of the overall anti-doping strategy, which includes the definition of a precise and targeted testing plan. This plan is applied on the basis of a risk assessment that takes into account a wide variety of relevant factors whilst constantly adapting to current circumstances or new information. The testing plan also considers any relevant information received through the monitoring of the athletes’ Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) or gathered by the ITA’s Intelligence & Investigations Department.

All doping controls at the Tour de France will be targeted and performed at any time throughout the three-week race, not only at the finish line. At every stage, the yellow jersey and stage winner will be tested. Additionally, all athletes will already be tested before the start of the event as part of their medical monitoring. At the end of the race, the ITA will make a selection of samples that will be kept for potential re-analysis over the next 10 years.

Doping controls will mainly be conducted by the ITA’s Doping Control Officers (DCOs) with in-depth cycling experience. The ITA is also in close contact with other relevant French and international actors, for example with authorities, for support and exchange of information.

It should be remembered that 2023 has seen a significant increase in funding for cycling’s anti-doping programme. The UCI, UCI WorldTeams, UCI ProTeams, UCI WorldTour organisers and men’s professional road cyclists decided to further strengthen the capacity of the ITA to protect the integrity of the sport thanks to a progressive 35% budget increase up until the end of 2024. This funding principally reinforces the areas of Intelligence & Investigations, testing, scientific analysis, data analysis, long-term sample storage and sample re-analysis.

The Director General of the ITA Benjamin Cohen said: “We are looking forward to delivering the anti-doping programme for this major cycling race for the third time under the responsibility of the ITA and in collaboration with our partners to ensure a level playing field during the event. As the testing operations for this event are already at a vigorous level, the additional resources stemming from the decision of the cycling stakeholders to further protect the sport from doping will allow us to step up in other relevant areas of the clean sport programme for the Tour de France and throughout the year. Most notably, it allows us to invest more in intelligence and investigations, an area that has proven to be very effective and complementary to the testing regime. We are steadfast in our commitment to ensure a clean and fair competition environment for all participants in this highly anticipated event.”

When it comes to the fight against technological fraud at the Tour de France, controls for the presence of any possible propulsion systems hidden in tubes and other bike components will be carried out with the use of three tools: magnetic tablets, mobile X-Ray cabinet and portable devices using backscatter and transmission technologies.

Before each of the 21 stages, a UCI Technical Commissaire will be at the team buses to check all bikes being ridden at the start of that day’s stage. These pre-stage checks will be carried out using magnetic tablets.

After each stage, checks will be carried out on bikes ridden by:

  • the stage winner
  • riders wearing a leader’s jersey (yellow, green, polka dot, white)
  • three to four randomly-selected riders
  • riders who give rise to suspicion, for example following the pre-stage scan, an abnormally high number of bike changes (in which case the bikes on the team car can also be checked) or other incidents picked up by the UCI Video Commissaire

These post-stage checks will be carried out using either mobile X-Ray technology or devices that use backscatter and transmission technologies. If necessary, the bike in question will be dismantled.

Once the riders have crossed the finish line, the bikes subject to post-stage checks will be quickly tagged, enabling rapid control procedures to be carried out in a matter of minutes. The introduction of RFID tagging (tamper-proof tags using radio frequency identification technology) for all bicycles as part of the UCI Road Equipment Registration Procedure for the 2023 Tour de France and Tour de France Women with Zwift strengthens the UCI’s ability to monitor the use of bicycles throughout the stages.

As a reminder, the mobile X-Ray technology, which is safe for users and riders, provides high resolution X-Ray image of a complete bike in just five minutes. Meanwhile the backscatter and transmission technology provides instantaneous high resolution images of the interior of the sections examined that can be transmitted, remotely, directly to the UCI Commissaires.

For road cycling, the UCI carries out bike checks at all UCI WorldTour events, as well as the UCI Road World Championships, UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup, UCI Women’s WorldTour events and the Olympic Games. Controls are also carried out at UCI World Championships for mountain bike, cyclo-cross and track as well as the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup.
At last year’s Tour de France, a total of 934 bike checks were carried out and no cases of technological fraud were detected.

UCI Director General Amina Lanaya said: “The UCI continues to take the possibility of technological fraud very seriously. Our range of tools to combat all forms of cheating using a motor enables us to carry out rapid and effective checks. With the introduction of RFID tags on all the bikes, the UCI has the ability to monitor the use of the bikes during the race. This is essential to guarantee the fairness of cycling competitions and to protect the integrity of the sport and its athletes.”