The biological passport

August 10, 2011

This has been bugging me for a while, not sure what to do with it. I’ve mentioned it to a few real journalists, and some others have called me with questions. I’ve been quite open with them because I feel it is important for the sport, which seems to be at a cross-road. Here’s what I’ve told these journalists:

I have not heard of a rider being tested for the biological passport between the end of the 2010 Tour and April 2011. After that I am not sure. While it is logical that the frequency of testing might decrease somewhat once profiles are established, the fact remains that the profile in itself is not a deterrent. The deterrent comes from testing current values against those profiles to see if there are clues indicating doping.

If what I have been hearing is indeed the case throughout the sport, then that would be worrisome. It would mean that in a crucial build-up and competition period, only riders who were on teams with independent anti-doping programs (such as HTC and Garmin-Cervelo) have been properly monitored to the extent that science is capable of. And it’s why I tweeted earlier that teams claiming they don’t have to do anything because there is the biological passport are, well, what’s the word?

Apparently defending biological passport cases in court is expensive, and in my eyes it points to a flaw in the set-up. When you come up with a new process, you have to make the riders’ rights the top priority. Only that way can you minimize costly challenges. The simple fact that riders don’t have access to all the data used to convict them risks turning the biological passport into sport’s version of military tribunals. I’ve written about this before.

I don’t think there are necessarily bad intentions here, but if the teams are paying a ton of money to fund the biological passport and all that money goes to defending cases so there is little money left for further testing, then riders, teams and federations have to sit together and figure this out, rather than just letting the biological passport die. It’s in everybody’s best interest to do so. And it gives the sport a chance to not only be the first to set up a revolutionary technology, but to also be the first to integrate it in the sport in a fair, sustainable way.

If you want cycling to continue to lead the way in the anti-doping struggle – no matter how hard – and not give up on the passport, then please spread this story. Thanks.

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16 Responses to “The biological passport”


  1. I find this massively disappointing as the bio passport is such a positive initiative. Wonder if cost savings can be made by linking up with other sports like swimming? True transparency would solve so many issues in cycling!!!


  2. Several riders Tweeted over the winter about early doping controls, but it’s not clear whether or not those were in-team or UCI controls (e.g. Fabian Cancellara on Jan 13 while training in Mallorca).

    It had seemed that, by comparing numbers of tests with the so-called Index of Suspicion, the UCI was using the list backwards, to avoid testing anyone who might test positive, rather than targeting those people.

    The clear message is that testing needs to be done independently of the UCI or the teams, and there needs to be a specific, speedy method of challenging and verifying results.

    I still believe that this Tour was the cleanest we’ve had in a long time. Cycling needs to stay the course.

  3. hermitblogger Says:

    Questions:

    1. What exactly IS the Biological Passport? Is it a serial measurement of a riders’ blood counts, reticulocyte count, and perhaps ferritin & erythropoetin, along with testosterone and its derivatives/metabolites?

    2. Are readings in the Biological Passport done every 2-4 months as a matter of course, along with pre-GT (or pre-World Tour race) checks?

    3. Is the oversight done by a party neutral to cycling (ie, NOT UCI)? And are riders/teams protected legally by lawyers specializing in med malpractice (both prosecution & defense) and the appropriate neutrally-compensated expert witnesses/advisers with medical expertise in the fields involved in the Biological Passport — hematology, endocrinology, lab pathology (I assume)?

    4. If it’s such a great thing, why are HTC & Garmin-Cervélo (and UCI — goes without saying) lacking in transparency of their Biological Passport methodologies so that the information can be scrutinized by the medical literature and then standardized for all teams?

    The questions above betray my opinions on the subject.

    Thanks.


  4. @TheRaceRadio recently pointed out that no biological passport cases have been opened since Anne Gripper left.

    New policies like these need internal champions, particularly in hidebound organizations like the UCI, WADA, etc. It would be a shame to let it die.


  5. Thanks for bringing this up. Its enlightening to know that key sponsors and players in the sport are concerned about this.

    @dnlBenson mentioned it as well, yesterday I think?

    Great reading as always. I I touch on the need for an ironclad biological passport to secure a decent future for the sport in this older post, here: http://cyclosocialmedia.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-to-keep-fixing-cycling.html

    I have been thinking recently, the only way to really make this work is for blood values for every rider to be anonymized and placed online for public consumption, w/ test dates. Power profiles were first to come out of the closet. Why not testing now?

  6. Andrew Says:

    So from August 2010 to April 2011 a period of 9 months NO pro cyclist was tested for the BP? Can this be possible?

    I do not understand the testing systems. When Lance tweets (it seemed dozens of times) that he was being tested were non of those for the BP program?


  7. [...] Qui e qui. L’UCI ha quindi replicato con un comunicato piuttosto duro: [...]

  8. BFeys Says:

    I am very disappointed that allegations are being made in this piece without having checked facts with UCI, especially if claims turn out to be untrue – not in the interest of the sport and the public image. For a more balanced report see http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vroomen-and-ashenden-criticise-lack-of-biological-passport-testing

  9. Vaughn Trevi Says:

    2 tests a year are not enough to be effective.
    Agree system needs to be fairer to riders.
    Appreciate your comments.


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  11. [...] yesterday addressing the musings of Gerard Vroomen from his blog of Wednesday (you may read it here), there were some major flaws in the construction of said [...]


  12. [...] Birnie from Cycling Weekly said on Twitter that the wording of Gerard Vroomen’s recent blog post was irresponsible and that bloggers should be held to the same standards as journalists.  I [...]


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