The Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the non-profit organisation that manages the UCI’s anti-doping programme, says that testing returned to normal before racing resumed last month, having dropped significantly during lockdown.
In March, the CADF asked elite riders to continue submitting and updating their whereabouts information so that it could maintain an effective anti-doping programme despite the impact of coronavirus.
Priority was given to riders in the UCI Registered Testing Pool (RTP), which comprises all professional male road riders from WorldTour teams and Pro Continental Teams, plus the best ranked athletes in all other cycling disciplines.
However, when Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad contacted 15 top athletes, including cyclists, in April, it found that none had been tested in the previous month.
Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts was sufficiently concerned about the situation that he contacted Peter Van Eenoo, head of the anti-doping lab in Ghent, to ask if he could be tested.
The Belgian rider said he was keen to be tested to show other riders that checks were still being carried out.
Van Eeno said the offer was "very kind" but explained that he could not analyse private samples. Nado Vlaanderen – the Flemish anti-doping body – was also unable to accommodate him.
Grand Tour contenders Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, and Thibaut Pinot all expressed concern about the slowdown in testing at this time.
The CADF told Reuters that testing is now back to the level of 2019.
"From January 1 to August 31, 2020, more than 5,000 samples were collected. This represents half the number of samples collected in 2019 for the same period, which is explained by the high number of UCI events cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Moreover, in 2020, 80% of these samples were collected out-of-competition. In addition, for the period from May to August, the CADF reached the same level of testing in 2020 as in 2019 despite the significant reduction in out-of-competition testing following the announcement of the pandemic.
"This shows that the CADF out-of-competition testing programme in cycling has returned to normal."
CADF president Olivier Banuls added: “We've had to adapt because of COVID-19. All our testers have to be tested for coronavirus, but our operations are running as usual. We do a lot of target testing."