Bio passport redux

October 7, 2011

Note: if you don’t want to read the whole article, scroll down to the last graph.

After my initial blog posts about the bio passport, there have been some interesting follow-ups from the UCI, Velocast, Cyclingnews and others. This is what the UCI data looks like for the total number of biological passport tests compared to what was originally suggested by Anne Gripper at the ANADO workshop:

Number of Biological Passport total tests vs "ANADO target"

So the achieved number of tests is 70-90% of the original target. Not great, but I’m willing to cut the UCI some slack as it is hard to predict at the start of a completely new project how things will progress and what is exactly needed.

However, it’s important to realize there are two types of tests in the biological passport; urine and blood. Each are used to detect different forms of doping, obviously the blood tests are pretty important to reveal various types of blood boosting).

Urine and blood tests each have their individual targets, which for blood tests is 8720 tests per year (source: ANADO). The number of performed tests is lower (source: UCI). In a graph it looks like this:

Number of Biological Passport blood tests vs "ANADO target"

This shortfall is much more dramatic. But that’s not all. Remember that in the UCI’s response to my original “misleading, irresponsible, mischievous” blog, they provided data about the number of blood tests carried out. Let’s add that data to the chart, but before I do please note:

  • The data in their press release referred to broken years, so I calculated the tests per month to better compare. It’s not perfect as some periods may legitimately see a bit less testing than others, but that effect should be small as out-of-competition testing is a big part of the program.
  • The UCI provided numbers for July-Dec 2010 but excluding the Tour, so covering more than 5 but less than 6 months. I have calculated as if they cover 5 months, so the true Aug-Dec 2010 number is slightly worse than indicated in the graph.
Here we go, blood tests per month:
So in the Fall of 2010, blood tests were 70% below target. Now you can probably start to understand how riders told me they had not been tested for the bio passport. However, it’s good to see that the frequency is on the way up again, let’s hope that trend continues. Please let it be clear that I’m not here to slag the UCI, in fact I have posed a few questions to Enrico Carpani – the UCI spokes person – and he was gracious enough to answer them. I think it’s important to acknowledge the good sides of the UCI.

The UCI information will be part of the next installment (and it will show it’s a rather complex topic). I’m still waiting to write this next piece because although I understand 90% of what the UCI explained to me, I’m still waiting to get the last 10% answered as I prefer not to speculate. To not miss that next installment, you can subscribe here.

10 Responses to “Bio passport redux”

  1. Do you think with the intelligent targeting of some riders, ie the “suspicion index”, that once you’ve tested a group of riders you can cut back and focus on those with curious results?

    In other words perhaps it’s not so much the absolute number of tests but the frequency with which some riders are checked, especially with blood tests, that allows better monitoring.

    • Yes and no. That’s a rather complicated topic, which I will try to cover in one of the next installments.

      However, if in the Aug-Dec 2010 period you barely perform 1 test per rider, targeting some would mean completely ignoring others. That can’t be the intention.

  2. Matt Says:

    Gerard, just so we have proper perspective here of testing, are there any numbers of doping controls performed for the other major sports (ie. soccer, track, rugby, etc)? We know that cycling has a lot of tests performed both in and out of competition. Is it the same for the other sports and if so, what are the ratios? I suspect that cycling has a high ratio of tests to riders, probably higher than the other sports.

    • Hi Matt, a legitimate question but I think the key is not how much other sports do, but rather the number of tests that the experts are happy with for a correct functioning of the biological passport.

      When Michael Ashenden is worried about frequency, that’s a problem. The fact that FIFA has a completely frivolous anti-doping stance doesn’t change that.

      But there is good news on that front too, with WADA going after the Mexican soccer players who were cleared of wrongdoing by their national federation without even an investigation.

  3. Bob Says:

    i’m lookin forward to more cavendish bashing!!

    i dont really give a shit to this doping shit

  4. Anax Says:

    Is it a money problem ? The teams contribute to the cost of the passport or i m wrong ?

    • The teams contribute to most of the costs. The revenue is quite stable over the years, as those fees have remained the same. According to the UCI there is also no money problem. So how the same revenue pays for fewer tests, I don’t know. But here again, the numbers may not be as they seem. More to come no doubt.

  5. Tim H Says:

    Fully support you on this. Great job and keep the white light of truth shining brightly.

  6. Fietsrenner Says:

    Well, “Numbers” do not always equal “Quality” ( I guess its the same in the bike business than in anti doping ;-)). So we cannot make any comments on the quality of the testing as long as we do not know if the UCI has in fact targeted suspicious athletes (with fewer tests overall), which would certainly make sense..

    • True, but as I mentioned in the comment above, if in the Aug-Dec 2010 period you barely perform 1 test per rider, targeting some would mean completely ignoring others. That can’t be the intention.

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