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Biological Passport - Questions / Answers

Update 09-02-2011

 

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 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.
 
Which riders have a passport?
 
In 2011, the following riders participate in the passport program:

•     all riders registered with a UCI ProTeam,
•     all riders registered with a UCI Professional Continental Team , 
•     other riders as determined by the UCI.

 

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

During 2011, each rider will have:

•     blood tests, a majority of which will be collected out-of-competition for the purposes of the haematological profile, 
•     urine tests the purposes of the steroid profile,
•     stand-alone blood tests collected pre and in-competition in relation to specific races,
•     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 authorised UCI or National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) sample collection officers. Blood collectors will have appropriate qualifications approved by the UCI or the corresponding NADOs.

 

What is a haematological profile?

The haematological profile on the UCI’s anti-doping program has been in place since 2008.

A series of tests from each rider is 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 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 will blood samples collected for the haematological profile be analysed?

The Athlete Biological Passport Operating Guidelines were approved by the WADA Executive Board at their meeting in Stockholm on 1 December 2009. The UCI was involved in drafting and finalising the Guidelines since cycling was the first sport to introduce the biological passport.

Please click here to download the Guidelines.

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

1. Every sample will be analysed by a laboratory that is approved by WADA or the UCI and has the required equipment and staff of suitable competence. There are currently 19 laboratories accredited by WADA.
It should be noted that the measurements of values for the biological passport (haemoglobin, free plasma haemoglobin, reticulocytes, stimulation index, haematocrit) 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 panel of independent scientific experts; this panel then recommends the action to be taken by the UCI.

 

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. Once sufficient evidence is gathered which determines abnormality at an agreed level of certainty, a panel of scientific experts will recommend that the UCI seeks 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 most probably 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 National Federation and WADA will be informed.  At that point, a short factual public statement will be done.

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 is 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.

 

What is a steroid profile?

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

Urine samples will be collected from riders as normal. In addition to analysing 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.

The steroid profile could be implemented in 2011.

 

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.

For the provision of whereabouts information, riders are using ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System) or the system implemented by their National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO).

All the teams participating in the biological passport are also using ADAMS to provide races their programme of races and training camps. ADAMS is a worldwide database maintained by WADA which ensures rider confidentiality and minimum duplication of effort.

 

What is the cost of the biological passport?

The total cost of creating passports for applicable riders is 4.2 million Swiss Francs in 2010.

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

Is the UCI biological passport a success?

Yes. The biological passport has been a great step forward. It’s been 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 haematological parameters for the detection and prevention of doping activities since 1998.

This approach to anti-doping:

•      draws upon important new scientific methods of indirect detection,

•      uses sophisticated statistical tools to interpret results,

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

It has enabled the detection of riders who use blood doping methods or endogenous steroids such as testosterone. Since 2009, disciplinary proceedings were opened against 9 riders. Other adverse findings were the direct result of a targeted urine test conducted immediately after a blood test triggered an unusual blood profile within the biological passport programme.

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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