Lance Armstrong’s chance to participate in the Tour of California in May is secured thanks to an anti-doping rule change.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will take over testing from the International Cycling Union (UCI) for the first time in the stage race’s history. The Tour of California organiser yesterday announced the change as a means to toughen pre-race and targeted testing.

Teams must submit a list of 12 riders that will be used to select their eventual eight-man teams. The USADA will be able to test those riders starting February 15. The stage race, now in its sixth year, runs May 15 to 22.

Lance Armstrong will be part of RadioShack’s 12-man list, his legal spokesman Mark Fabiani told the Los Angeles Times.

“You are not locked in to predetermined tests, which have historically been of some concern,” USADA executive director Travis Tygart told the Los Angeles Times.

“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.”

The change, three months before the race begins, ensures Armstrong’s participation. As part of USADA’s rules, cyclists who are under investigation for doping, but have not received a suspension are allowed to participate.

The Tour of California in the past used the UCI rule to prohibit cyclists from starting its race. Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero were unable to start in 2008 due to their involvement in the Operación Puerto investigation.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a grand jury investigation into allegations made by Armstrong’s former team-mate Floyd Landis. Landis alleged in April last year that Armstrong doped during his seven Tour de France victories. The FDA has already heard testimony from several of Armstrong’s former team-mates and associates.

“Every athlete,” Tygart added, “is entitled to full and due process before being removed from the playing field.”

Armstrong completed his last international race two weeks ago at the Tour Down Under in Australia. He faced questions about the FDA investigation and a Sports Illustrated article detailing doping claims against him.

He said he was unsure what he would do after the race. It is believed, though, that Armstrong will participate the Tour of California in May and his last race, Colorado’s new stage race in August.

“I don’t know yet,” he said of his next races and goals. “Still thinking about that.”

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