June 2008

By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians



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Biological Passport for Pro Cyclists

During the fall of 2007 the International Cycling Union (UCI) created a new system to fight doping in cycling. A biological passport for all professional riders will be a series of tests throughout the season to monitor any irregular biological changes occurring in the cyclist's system.

This individual, electronic record enables the UCI to make a determination on the likelihood of doping based on a rider's profile. Tests throughout the season will monitor any irregular biological changes occurring in the cyclist's organism, and thus signal possible doping violations.

The UCI said "Each rider will be tested as many times as necessary by the end of June."

The UCI's biological passport statement issued December 21, 2007:

UCI's Statement: Information on the biological passport:

What is a biological passport?

A biological passport is an individual, electronic record for each rider, in which the results of all doping tests over a period of time are collated. The passport for each rider will contain:

• Results of individual urine tests,

• Results of individual blood tests,

• A hematological profile consisting of the combined results of hematological parameters analyzed in a series of blood samples,

• A steroid profile consisting of the combined results of steroid levels in a series of urine samples.

Which riders will have a passport?

In 2008, the following riders will participate in the passport program:

• All riders registered with a UCI Pro Team,

• All riders registered with a UCI Professional Continental team which is granted a Wild Card Label,

• Riders from any other team designated by the Steering Group.

What type of testing will be conducted on riders in the passport program?

During 2008, each rider will have:

• Blood tests, a majority of which will be collected out-of-competition for the purposes of establishing a hematological profile,

• Urine tests, a majority of which will be collected out-of-competition for the purposes of establishing a steroid profile,

• Stand-alone blood tests collected in-competition in relation to specific races which are not included in the hematological profile,

• Additional out-of-competition tests if required, for follow-up or targeted testing.

When will samples be collected?

Blood and urine samples may be collected during a race, during preparation/training periods or during the non-competitive season. Riders should expect to be required to provide a blood or urine sample at any time of the year and in any place.

All samples will be collected by authorized UCI sample collection officers. Blood collectors will have appropriate qualifications approved by the UCI.

What is a hematological profile?

This is the newest element on the UCI's anti-doping program.

The main difference is that a series of tests from each rider will be organized into a profile which enables individual limits for each rider to be established. The current anti-doping approach compares each blood sample to a population limit. The population limit currently determines the “no start” rule. With the new approach, each sample will be compared with the rider's own individual “normal” hematological levels. Any significant variations can then be assessed for possible blood manipulation.

The approach relies on the concept of “indirect” detection. Scientific experts will not actually “see” a banned substance in a sample. Instead, they will compare the parameters of the new sample to parameters measured in previous samples. In this way, fluctuations in the riders' levels which may indicate manipulation, can be identified. It is impossible for a rider to maintain a steady profile if he is manipulating his blood for performance enhancement and/or manipulating his blood to escape detection through a doping control.

The hematological profile was the key outcome of the Paris Summit on Doping in Cycling organized by the French Ministry of Sport, the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 22 and 23rd October 2007, at which the concept of the biological passport was announced and discussed. The UCI's concept of the biological passport includes the hematological profile, a steroid profile and individual anti-doping tests.

How will blood samples collected for the hematological profile be analyzed?

Blood samples will be analyzed and the results examined in three steps as follows:

1. Every sample will be analyzed by a laboratory that is approved by WADA or the UCI and has the required equipment and staff of suitable competence. Five laboratories have been selected by the UCI at present. All of these have been accredited by Centre Suisse de Contrôle de la Qualité (Swiss Quality Control Centre).

It should be noted that the measurements of values for the biological passport (hemoglobin, free plasma hemoglobin, reticulocytes, stimulation index, hematocrit) do not present any particular technical difficulties.

2. The statistical model, developed by the Lausanne Laboratory, will be applied to the results of analysis to determine an abnormal blood profile score.

3. The abnormal blood profile score is then submitted for interpretation by a group of independent scientific experts; this group then recommends the action to be taken by the UCI.

Can the hematological profile be used to open a “doping case”?

Yes. The hematological profile opens new doors in the detection of riders who choose to manipulate their blood to unfairly enhance their performance.

The scientific assessment of a rider's profile applies similar principles to those used in forensic medical science to determine the likelihood of guilt.

Once sufficient evidence is gathered which determines guilt at an agreed level of certainty, scientific experts will recommend that the UCI open disciplinary proceedings for an anti-doping rule violation. It is expected that a profile of six tests will enable the detection of blood manipulation. In some cases, a fewer number of tests may be needed to detect doping.

Such a violation will be based on Article 15.2 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules – “the use or attempted use of a prohibited method”.

To support this rule, the List of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods maintained by WADA are incorporated into the UCI Anti-Doping Rules. Section M1 of the Prohibited List prescribes the “enhancement of oxygen transfer through blood doping” as a prohibited method.

The expected sanction for a first offence under this rule is a suspension from competition for 2 years.

In addition, the detection of abnormal levels will cause a rider to be declared unfit and to be suspended from racing for an agreed period of time.

What is a steroid profile?

The development of a steroid profile follows the same principles as the hematological profile, except that the matrix of analysis is urine.

Urine samples will be collected from riders as normal. In addition to analyzing the sample for the full range of prohibited substances, WADA-accredited laboratories will be required to provide a detailed steroid analysis for each sample.

Once sufficient steroid analyses have been conducted, the same Bayesian statistical model will be applied to determine possible enhancement of performance through the use of endogenous (naturally occurring) steroids such as testosterone.

This is a project that the UCI is conducting on its own and the Steering Group played no role in it.

How important is whereabouts information?

The provision of accurate and timely whereabouts information is critical to the success of this program. High quality, no-advance-notice testing can only occur when we know where to find the rider.

Each rider in the passport program will be held individually responsible for providing his location details every three months. He must also ensure updates to his location are provided to the UCI before the change occurs. Riders will be encouraged to provide specific information about their location in the mornings before training. This will ensure blood samples are collected consistently, most importantly before physical effort.

Riders and teams are strongly advised to use ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System) for the provision of whereabouts information. ADAMS is a worldwide database maintained by WADA which ensures rider confidentiality and minimum duplication of effort. Once using ADAMS , riders are no longer required to provide separate information to their Federation or National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO).

How long has the UCI been working towards the introduction of the biological passport?

The UCI has been working since April 2006 with WADA and the Lausanne laboratory to introduce a forensic approach (inspired by the techniques of legal medicine) to fight against doping. The development of the new model has been funded by a WADA research grant.

The ability to create and use hematological and steroid profiles for the detection of doping is the main outcome of this research. The UCI will be the first international sport federation to introduce a comprehensive passport program.

When will the biological passport commence?

The collection of samples which will be used for the creation of hematological and steroid profiles will commence in January 2008.

Each rider's passport will be developed further as more tests are added to his passport. It is anticipated that by the middle of the year 2008, most riders will have sufficient tests for the Bayesian statistical model to be applied.

What is the cost of the biological passport?

The total cost of creating passports for applicable riders is € 5.3 million in 2008. The largest component of this cost is the hematological profile which will cost approximately €3 million per year.

It is expected that the cost of the program will be shared between the UCI and key stakeholders including the UCI Pro Teams, UCI Professional Continental Teams, Organizers, Riders, WADA and the French Ministry of Sport.

Is the passport a turning point in the UCI's anti-doping methods?

The biological passport is a great step forward. It is part of the continuous efforts already undertaken by the UCI to eliminate doping from cycling. The UCI has been a pioneer in the use of hematological parameters for the detection and prevention of doping activities since 1998.

What is new about this approach to anti-doping is that:

• It draws upon important new scientific methods of indirect detection,

• It uses sophisticated statistical tools to interpret results,

• It uses a sequence of tests to provide greater sensitivity in testing.

One thing is certain - this new approach will enable the detection of riders who use blood doping methods or endogenous steroids such as testosterone. Once a rider is included in the biological passport program, it will become impossible for him to escape detection if he uses blood or steroid manipulations to enhance performance.

We are closing the gap on cheaters. Those who dope will be caught.



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