Cyclists competing in the Tour of California in May will undergo drug tests… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)
The United States Anti-Doping Agency will be taking over the drug testing for the Amgen Tour of California for the first time and will be free to test any athlete at any time beginning Feb. 15 and continuing through the race that runs May 15-22.
In the past, the international cycling union, UCI, has overseen drug testing for the Tour of California and operates under its own rules.
USADA executive director Travis Tygart said Wednesday that the chief difference is that his agency will not limit its testing to only stage winners and overall leaders during the race, but that all riders will be subjected to "target tests."
"We have discretion … that's part of the benefit of an independent program," Tygart said. "You are not locked in to predetermined tests, which have historically been of some concern.
"We are going to review data that we receive from the testing and also incorporate the scientific intelligence to do further target testing to the extent it's necessary."
Teams must submit 12 names to be part of the new testing procedures and eight riders per squad will compete.
Lance Armstrong's name will be one of the 12 submitted by his RadioShack team and will participate in the testing, his spokesman Mark Fabiani said Wednesday.
Race President Andrew Messick said he had no knowledge whether Armstrong would race in the Tour of California. Armstrong recently competed in the Tour Down Under in Australia and said that would be his last international competition but has yet to say whether he will race in any more domestic events.
As part of USADA's taking control of the testing, cyclists who are under investigation for doping offenses but who have not been banned by their national federation will be allowed to compete. In the past, the Amgen race followed UCI rules and could ban an athlete who had not been declared ineligible.
"Every athlete is entitled to full and due process before being removed from the playing field," Tygart said.
It was during last year's Tour of California that e-mails from Floyd Landis to national and international cycling federations alleging doping by Armstrong first became public.
Since then, several people associated with Armstrong during the time he was racing for the United States Postal Service team have appeared before a Los Angeles grand jury that is investigating doping in cycling.