Biological passport: 10 years beyond other sports

Cycling's anti-doping measures light years ahead, expert claims

The scientist responsible for the implementation of professional cycling's biological passport system says some sports are 10 years behind cycling when it comes to anti-doping procedures. Major League baseball star Alex Rodriguez recently confessed to using steroids early in his career, and homerun king Barry Bonds saw his career unravel after a legal tussle over alleged steroid use.

Dr Neil Robinson, who works at an anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, said on Monday that the deterrent effect of the passports - which contain a personal record of each cyclist's drug-testing history - was the biggest success of this year.

"What's interesting is that we're able to see certain individuals' statistics change according to the sporting calendar," he said. "We can therefore predict when they're going to dope, and that allows us to provide information to the federation so that they can better adapt their anti-doping tests.

"For example, if one rider concentrates on the Belgian classics while others focus on the Tour de France or the Tour of Spain, we're able to observe any abnormal behaviour from individuals before these competitions," he added.

The passport system was adopted by the International Cycling Union (UCI) in January 2008 and the organisers of the three major Tours - in France, Spain and Italy - have all decided to enforce ownership of a passport as a prerequisite for participation in their events.

"Lots of people (in other sports) have criticised the UCI, but you only find things by looking," Robinson said. "We have profiles (of athletes) in certain sports which correspond to what we saw in cycling 10 years ago. I'm not saying that there's no doping in cycling, but the UCI has put a strategy in place and the results are plain to see."

Last Friday, the UCI and the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) reached an agreement over drug-testing measures in the Paris-Nice stage race.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2009

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