This particular war of words makes for good reading. You really get an inside view into the process (or lack thereof) that governs the biological passport. It’s best to google it and read the whole exchange so you can see for yourself which side you choose to believe.
The brazenness of the UCI is staggering. With every strike they receive, they hit back without considering the wider implications of their statements. Take the assertion from the UCI that Lance’s profile was sent to the bio pass expert panel on May 4, 2009 and that the panel didn’t see anything suspicious. It further claims that the bio pass software didn’t pick up any anomalies after May 4, 2009 so that Armstrong’s values were never sent to the experts after that date. This is troubling for two reasons:
- Of course there is nothing suspicious in his tests up to May 4, 2009. That’s before the Giro had even started. Those tests couldn’t have been much more than establishing his bandwidth, so whether the values are regular or suspicious, you would have to be a complete idiot to violate the bio pass constraints that early on. In short; it proves nothing. If I, with my (according to the UCI) “very weak understanding of this very complex subject”, know this, then so does the UCI.To explain in very simplistic terms, the biological passport is an ever narrowing noose, as the test values that are picked up along the way create a profile of what is “normal” for this particular athlete. So if you’re tested the first time, a value for a human may be anywhere form 0 to 100. If you score 75 on that first test, then we can safely say you should never be below 50. So now your bandwidth for the second test goes from 50-100 instead of from 0-100 as it was for the first test. If that second test is 80, then we know the first test was not you are in fact in that 75-80 range. So for test 3, we may accept only a value from 65-90. And so on.
- The claim that the bio pass software didn’t pick up any anomalies after May 4, 2009 is actually very troubling. If that is true, and this is the software by which all samples are judged, then the whole bio pass system is a complete and utter waste because it obviously doesn’t pick up anything. It may explain why there are so few bio pass cases. Ignore whether you think the values from Lance’s 2009 Tour de France prove he doped. What everybody – believers and non-believers – should be able to agree on is that the values are at least suspicious. Or if you insist on an even more benign word: atypical. And the process should be that the software picks out profiles that are suspicious, or atypical, so that the committee can analyze them further. There’s lot to dislike about that process even if it does work properly, but the UCI seems to now state that suspicious profiles don’t even make it to the committee because the software fails to detect them. So in a panicked attempt to explain away their inexplicables, they are now throwing their own biological passport under the USPS team bus.
In the end, there are only two possible conclusions:
- Armstrong’s profile was flagged by the software, a sign the tool may be useful, but the UCI decided not to forward the profile to the expert panel for review.
- Armstrong’s profile was not flagged by the software, which means the software and therefore the whole protocol is useless.
For the people involved it matters little. Either they knowingly withheld a suspicious profile or they have lied about the effectiveness of the biological passport process they use (you remember, the process that proves they are doing a good job and that cycling is getting cleaner). Either way the blame lays with them.
Expect two things from the UCI in the next few days:
- McQuaid will make his trademark switch from “I’m in control, trust me, it’s getting better” to “It’s not my area of expertise, you should ask the experts, the passport is actually the work of WADA”.