Riders required to have biological passport for 2008 Giro d'Italia

MILAN, Italy -- Riders who want to compete in the 2008 Giro
d'Italia will need a biological passport, the anti-doping
initiative first proposed during a summit in Paris in October.

"Pursuing an objective of transparency is by now
indispensable," race director Angelo Zomegnan said Saturday while
announcing the route for the Giro. "The deal made in Paris with
the [World Anti-Doping Agency], allows us to screen the
physiological values clearly for the athletes that want to
participate in May."

The passport program is the latest initiative by cycling
authorities to clean up the doping-marred sport. The program will
monitor a series of blood parameters of a rider over time to create
the medical snapshot that will be compared to results of doping

The 91st edition of the race, which is the most prestigious in
cycling behind the Tour de France, will open with three stages in
Sicily and includes four time trials on a course considered less
difficult than recent years.

"There are fewer mountains, fewer kilometers to cover on
average per day, less stress and above all, much less moving about
[between legs]," Zomegnan said.

Paolo Savoldelli, who won the Giro in 2002 and 2005, applauded
the introduction of the passports.

"We can finally get back up again after so many empty
discussions," said Savoldelli, who was among the five Giro winners
from the past eight years at the unveiling of the 2008 Giro route.

Zomegnan also suggested that 2007 winner Danilo Di Luca, who was
at the ceremony but is serving a three-month ban for a
doping-related offense, would be allowed to defend his title as
long as he is licensed.

"I'm not a policeman in my decisions," Zomegnan said. "If a
driver doesn't lose his license, he may drive. With it, the rider
deserves the presumption of innocence."

The 21-stage Giro, which runs from May 10-June 1, will include
six flat or mildly undulating stages, seven mixed legs, and four
serious mountain stages, three with uphill finishes. Stage 16 from
San Vigilio to Plan de Corones is a team time trial.

"This year is the real Giro d'Italia," Italy president and
cycling enthusiast Romano Prodi said in a prerecorded message. "By
choosing [a route], not in a circle, but from south to north, [the
Giro] is permitted to run through the entire country."