How to become a… Tour de France doping control officer

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a professional cyclist myself.

Unfortunately my cycling skills were very limited, but as a doping control officer I am in the middle of the biggest events of the sport I love.

The Tour de France opportunity came about when I was a commissaire for the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI), the world governing body of cycling.

Commissaires are officials or ‘referees’ in competitive cycling – they ensure riders and teams comply with regulations, check the bikes and if required, issue fines and sanctions, as well as announce the race results and manage the overall classification for events.

When UCI decided to separate the role of doping control officer from commissaire, they asked me to help out and I’ve always loved the function, so I did. As I used to compete in the sport myself when I was a teenager, heading up a new department was new and exciting.

I’ve now been a doping control officer for nearly two decades and consider myself very lucky.

Why is doping testing so important in sport?

We all want a healthy sport and a level playing field.

It’s important to maintain a fair game and think about the clean athletes who are being cheated.

There have been some dark times during my job particularly when doping was deeply rooted in the sport. It took time, resources and actions to have athletes and teams to adapt. Riders cooperated a lot in this change of culture and we were at the forefront of the anti-doping fight. I would say that 99 per cent of my tests have been a pleasure to carry out though. Athletes are nice and understand the difficulties of our job.

From a personal point of view, the relationship we keep with them is always friendly, but both of us know the limit of it. We can have nice talks about cycling, but both the athletes and ourselves know that our function is very serious and it would be no good to have a closer relationship.

I feel proud when some of the athletes I’ve tested after a long and hard race come over to say hello and chat about the sport that we love.

What kind of events have you been a doping control officer at?

Mostly cycling events, including three Grands Tours, as well as many UCI World Championships in track, road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross.

However, I’ve also worked in swimming, basketball, tennis, athletics and even bodybuilding championships!

What’s been the wow moment of your career?

It’s hard to say.

I have really appreciated every single test I have done, with its ups and downs. However, there was one day when a very famous cyclist had won a major race, and the crowd was outside our doping control station waiting for him.

The rider came up to us after the podium ceremony, did the test immediately, and to my surprise asked if he could stay with us for an hour.

I asked why the most sought-after guy on earth at that time would want to stay with us at our doping control caravan, instead of celebrating his victory.

His reply was that he didn’t want to be used by his country politicians, as it was election time there and he was sure that in one hour all of them would get tired of waiting for a picture with him and leave.

He was our last test and hung out with us for more than one hour, chatting about family, sport and life.

What about funny moments?

I recall one athlete who was in a hurry after a race, as he had a flight to catch at a nearby airport.

He went to the toilet, urinated and when he was filling the bottles with his urine, he spilled them and the urine was lost – as was his flight!

Another time, a rider couldn’t pee and we were inside the doping control caravan for four hours after the finish in Switzerland.

The race was so well-organised that when we were done and went outside, we were the only ones in the street. Everything – the barriers, trucks, all kind of facilities – had been cleaned up and you couldn’t even tell that there had been a race there!

How does the doping test process for Tour de France work?

It’s a complex process, but to keep it brief: we are three doping controllers from CADF who make shifts of two every day at the finish line, where we test at least eight riders per day for urine and blood.

In addition, many days we perform tests outside the finish line, both in the morning and evening at the riders’ hotels.

With us we have three certified blood collection officers from the AFLD, the French anti-doping organisation, three drivers from the Amaury Sport Organisation (organisers of the event) and eight chaperones who help us look after the riders.

We are a small family with a great relationship, travelling up and down France for almost a month.

What qualifications do you need to become a doping tester and how long does it take to get them?

On a general basis, you have to undergo training by the collection agency you work for.

In Europe, that would be the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the UCI to define and carry out the strategy of anti-doping controls and investigations for the sport. You also have to renew your credentials every two years as per the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations.

You do not need to have studied anything in particular or have a diploma to become a doping control officer, but medical knowledge is more than welcomed.

In order to witness the urine sampling or to perform a blood test, you have to, at the very least, be a phlebotomist (someone who is medically trained to draw blood).

Also, doping control officers chosen for top level events are people who already have an experience in anti-doping tests, such as those who work for national anti-doping organisations or for a testing service provider.

Do you have any advice for aspiring doping control officer?

If you want to be a doping control officer, you need to have a lot of passion for the sport.

Some missions would never be carried out without real dedication for cycling, and money won’t pay for some of the hard days or challenging times.

Sometimes you also have to cope with difficult situations from a logistical or human point of view.

When you’re starting out, do some research on the governing body in your country and see what their requirements are.

How to become a…

In’s new series, we’ll be hearing from people who have the most coveted sports jobs about how they got there, their advice for others and what happens at the centre of the world’s biggest sporting moments.

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