Cape Town 110327. Stage 1 of the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic saw riders set off in their pairs in a Time Trial style race against the clock for seeding in the upcomming races. Todays stage took place in Tokai Forest. PHOTO SAM CLARK

Johannesburg - Organisers of the annual Cape Epic mountain bike race have announced that the event will tighten its rules regarding anti-doping by introducing a lifetime ban for future offenders.

David George, who was second in this year's race with teammate Kevin Evans, was given a two-year ban by the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) last month after testing positive for the banned drug EPO.

“As of 1 January 2013, any athlete (professional or amateur) caught using performance enhancing substances, whether at another event or out of competition, will be banned for life from participating in the Absa Cape Epic,” race founder Kevin Vermaak said on Tuesday.

“Not only will the person not be allowed to participate, but the individual will also be banned from being involved on any level including as a team manager.

“This is harsher than what is required currently by any federation, but it is our considered opinion of what should be enforced even on a wider scale with regards to event participation of convicted dope cheats.”

Vermaak said the organisers had opted not to apply the ruling retrospectively as they felt it would be naive.

“As has been exposed in recent months, cycling has a dark past,” he said.

“Many riders from this previous era have rediscovered the joy of cycling as mountainbikers and participate in the Cape Epic as their expression of riding clean.

“Previous offenders, who have served their suspension term, may ride future Cape Epics. We want to be part of the new era of cleaner cycling, and therefore only future offenders will receive the lifetime bans.”

Vermaak said the eight-day stage race had invested more than R800 000 in its anti-doping programme since it was awarded UCI HC status, and had recorded only one positive in-competition test at the event, by an amateur rider.

“With the financial help of our sponsors, we will increase our investment in this programme for 2013 by increasing the number of athletes tested.

“We’ll also increase the time-window classified as in-competition testing.”