The UCI will explore a collaboration with the ITA ©Getty Images

International Cycling Union (UCI) will explore closer collaboration with the International Testing Agency (ITA) as part of a "global approach" towards anti-doping.

The UCI's Management Committee decided to look into the possibility of working with the ITA at their meeting at the Road World Championships in Yorkshire.

"Today the ITA is a well-established organisation which employs 40 experts in the anti-doping field," the UCI said.

"The UCI is looking to liaise with them to assess whether closer collaboration could bring benefits to the cycling community.

"In more specific terms, the UCI is keen to gauge the potential advantages that more of a global approach could bring with regard to synergies, not least in key areas such as research, innovation, intelligence and investigations, and pooling costs and resources."

The ITA was established in 2018 and has since taken charge of anti-doping programmes for more than 40 organisations.

This includes several International Federations and organisers of major events.

Larger International Federations, such as the UCI and International Association of Athletics Federations, had initially been thought not to be interested in the ITA.

Both organisations have existing programmes.

The UCI anti-doping strategy is currently run by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF).

An independent body was founded in 2008, with the UCI claiming CADF has put cycling at the forefront of the fight against doping.

Former UCI President Brian Cookson said the governing body had been asked to help with the establishment of the ITA back in 2017, using their experience of the CADF.

The UCI, now led by David Lappartient, has stressed the governing body would still seek to maintain the expertise of CADF should they ultimately partner with the ITA.

The ITA, led by Valérie Fourneyron, has been securing partnerships with International Federations ©Getty Images
The ITA, led by Valérie Fourneyron, has been securing partnerships with International Federations ©Getty Images

"The UCI nevertheless wishes to make it clear that it is fully appreciative of the expertise of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation," the UCI said.

"It is for that reason that the UCI will make sure CADF's expertise is preserved regardless of the outcome of the discussions.

"In any case, the UCI confirms that the CADF shall retain the responsibility for the cycling anti-doping programme for 2020."

The UCI added that their decision to investigate a collaboration with the ITA was unrelated to the departure of Francesca Rossi as CADF director.

Rossi is set to leave CADF to take up a role at France's national anti-doping organisation, the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD).

The outcome of the UCI's discussions with the ITA is expected to be announced after their Management Committee meeting at the 2020 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Dübendorf, Switzerland.

The Championships takes place from February 1 to 2.

The UCI did suggest the Aderlass investigation by Austrian police, which uncovered a blood doping ring, had contributed to potentially seeking a partnership with the ITA.

Austrian police conducted raids in the Austrian village Seefeld and in Erfurt in Germany this year.

The investigation has led to the arrests of athletes from sports including skiing and cycling for their alleged involvement.

The UCI has handed bans to four people linked to the case.

It claimed the case showed doping now knows "no boundaries, neither between sports nor countries".