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The Athlete Biological Passport - ABP

The Athlete Biological Passport - ABP
The Athlete Biological Passport - ABP

The Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is an individual, electronic record for each rider, in which the results of all doping tests collected in the framework of this programme over a period of time are collated.

The passport for each rider contains the results of individual urine and blood tests, a haematological profile consisting of the combined results of haematological parameters analysed in a series of blood samples, and a steroid longitudinal profile consisting of the combined results of steroid levels in a series of urine samples. By tracking these parameters consistently through a rider’s career, it is possible to establish the haematological/steroid profile of a rider in order to establish his/her “normal” levels and thus emphasize possible variations.

This is an “indirect” method of doping detection. Any significant variation from the individual’s “normal” levels can then be assessed for possible manipulation. The use of this “indirect” detection method complements the “direct” detection method which consists in seeking traces of a prohibited substance or method in individual samples.


Questions & Answers (Updated: 31-07-2014)

What is the Athlete Biological Passport?
An Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is an individual, electronic record for each rider, in which the results of all doping tests collected in the framework of this programme over a period of time are collated. The passport for each rider contains:

  • results of individual urine tests;
  • results of individual blood tests;
  • a haematological profile consisting of the combined results of haematological parameters analysed in a series of blood samples;
  • a steroid profile consisting of the combined results of steroid levels in a series of urine samples.

When was the ABP introduced in cycling?
Cycling was one of the first sports to introduce the use of the Athlete Biological Passport back in January 2008.

Who is running the ABP programme in cycling and what does it cost?
The management of the ABP programme is carried out by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to carry out the anti-doping testing programme in cycling.

In 2013, the total CADF budget was CHF 6.6 million, most of which was directly or indirectly linked to the ABP programme.

The cost of the programme is shared between the CADF stakeholders, including the UCI ProTeams, UCI Professional Continental Teams, the UCI, Organisers and the Riders.

Which riders have an ABP?
The following riders are part of the Biological Passport programme:

  • all riders registered with a UCI ProTeam;
  • all riders registered with a UCI Professional Continental Team;
  • other riders from all disciplines as determined by the CADF, including any rider who wishes to attempt the Hour Record.

What type of testing is conducted on riders in the Athlete Biological Passport programme?
Each rider in the ABP programme will have:

  • blood tests which will be collected in-, pre- and out-of-competition for the purposes of the haematological profile;
  • urine tests which will be collected in- and out-of-competition for the purposes of the steroid profile.

When are the samples 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 authorised Doping Control Officers (DCOs) working for the CADF (including Sample Collection Agencies) and National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs). Blood Collection Officers with appropriate qualifications approved by the CADF or the corresponding NADO will be appointed in case of blood collection.

What is a haematological profile?
The haematological profile is a series of tests from each rider organised into a profile which enables individual limits for each rider to be established. Each sample is compared with the rider’s own individual “normal” haematological levels. Any significant variations can then be assessed for possible blood manipulation.

The ABP haematological module has been in place since 2008 on the UCI’s anti-doping programme.

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.

How are blood samples collected for the haematological profile analysed?
This is described in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Biological Passport Operating Guidelines. The first version of this document was approved by the WADA Executive Board at their meeting in Stockholm on 1 December 2009. The CADF and the UCI were involved in drafting and finalising the Guidelines since cycling was the first sport to introduce the biological passport.

Please click on the link below to download the latest version of the Guidelines.

ABP - Operating Guidelines

Blood samples are analysed and the results examined in three steps as follows:

  1. Every sample is analysed by a WADA accredited or approved laboratory that can also conduct blood analyses in support of the ABP haematological module. You will find the list of these laboratories on the WADA website. WADA-accredited laboratories are required to upload the biological results into ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration & Management System).
  2. The Adaptive Model, a mathematical model that was designed to identify unusual longitudinal results from Athletes, updates the athlete’s passport and calculates the probability of a longitudinal profile of Marker values assuming that the Athlete has a normal physiological condition.
  3. An Atypical Passport Finding (ATPF) is a report generated by the Adaptive Model which identifies either a single Marker value, or a longitudinal profile of marker values, as being outside the athlete’s intra-individual range. An ATPF requires further investigations and/or analysis.

For any ATPF generated by the haematological module of the Adaptive Model, the rider’s profile is first sent by the independent Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) in Lausanne to an Independent Expert. The Expert, who has knowledge in one or more of the fields of clinical haematology, sports medicine or exercise physiology, must review the rider’s profile and respond back to the APMU which will trigger further action.

For any ATPF generated by the steroidal module of the Adaptive Model for a result rendered by a Laboratory, the corresponding sample will undergo additional analysis (e.g. IRMS analysis).

All ABP data within the haematological module is managed through ADAMS and therefore subject to constant review by WADA. It ensures compliance to WADA standards, full confidentiality and transparency.

Can the haematological profile be used to open a “doping case”?
Yes. The haematological 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. If the Expert Panel assesses, considering the information within the athlete’s passport, that it is highly likely that a prohibited Substance or Method has been used and highly unlikely that it is the result of any other cause, the APMU will declare an Adverse Passport Finding to the CADF, informing also WADA, and the UCI will seek an alternative explanation from the rider before opening possible disciplinary proceedings for an anti-doping rule violation.

If the Scientific Expert Panel does not accept the rider’s explanation, or if the rider fails to provide an alternative explanation, the UCI will open a case of an asserted anti-doping rule violation against the rider. Once the UCI is confident that the rider has received notification of the asserted anti-doping rule violation, the team, the relevant National Federation and the relevant NADO will be informed.

What is a steroid longitudinal profile?
The development of a steroid longitudinal profile follows the same principles as the haematological profile, except that the matrix of analysis is urine.

Urine samples are collected from riders and analysed following the normal procedures. In addition to analysing the sample for the full range of prohibited substances, WADA-accredited laboratories have been obliged to upload the steroidal values into ADAMS since 1 January 2014.

Once sufficient steroid values have been uploaded into ADAMS, the Adaptive Model will be applied to determine possible variations in the longitudinal profile through the use of endogenous (naturally occurring) steroids such as testosterone and/or its precursors.

The steroidal module was also introduced on 1 January 2014 into ADAMS. All ABP data within the steroidal module is managed through ADAMS and therefore subject to constant review by WADA. It ensures compliance to WADA standards, full confidentiality and transparency.

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

The riders in the ABP programme will be held individually responsible for providing their daily location details every three months. They must also ensure updates to their location are provided to the CADF in due time.

For the provision of whereabouts information, riders are using ADAMS or the system implemented by their NADO.

All the teams participating in the ABP programme are also using ADAMS to provide their program of races. ADAMS is a worldwide database maintained by WADA which ensures rider’s confidentiality and minimum duplication of effort.

Is the UCI biological passport a success?
Yes. The biological passport has been a great step forward. It is part of the continuous efforts being undertaken to eliminate doping from cycling.

The UCI was the first international sports federation to introduce the biological passport in 2008 and was the first federation to sanction riders through anti-doping procedures based solely on biological passport evidence. The biological passport marked a crucial turning point in the fight against doping:

  • For the first time, indirect evidence of the use of a doping substance or method was accepted as proof of doping, allowing riders to be sanctioned even though they had not provided a positive sample;
  • A further advantage of the biological passport is that it permits testing to be better targeted (the concept of "intelligent testing"). It allows riders with abnormal profiles to be the subject of more rigorous scrutiny;
  • Another big benefit of the ABP program is that it acts as deterrent for any rider who may be tempted to use illegal methods to enhance performance. One of the reasons is that the ABP records biological passport data during the entire rider’s career and can emphasize abnormal variations at any time. As a consequence, disciplinary proceedings can be opened years after the potential manipulation.

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