The International Cycling Union (UCI) is facing a logistical race against the clock to implement the new ‘biological passport’ in time for the 2008 season.
The passport is an individual electronic record for each rider, in which the results of all doping tests over a period of time are collated. It will also contain results of individual urine and blood tests aimed principally at measuring blood and steroid parameters.
Tests throughout the season will monitor any irregular biological changes occurring in the cyclist’s organism, and thus signal possible doping violations.
In October the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Tour de France organisers ASO agreed on the application of the passport and set an introduction date of January 1, with all cyclists obliged to carry the passport if they are to race in the Tour de France.
But it now seems the UCI faces an uphill struggle to meet the dealine with experts also raising doubts over the logistics needed to cope with an operation of such magnitude.
Their primary concerns are with the constant analysis of the blood levels and the number of tests involved.
Before the 2008 Tour, which begins on July 5, the UCI is expecting to gather, analyse and chart 4,200 blood samples – six for each of the 500 riders of the ProTour and 200 continental teams that qualify for wildcards in UCI ProTour events.
The UCI will significantly increase the number of tests carried out on the peloton in the 2008 season with each rider facing 12 tests, resulting in 8,400 tests in total.
In order to carry out these tests in the right conditions the UCI will have to be in possession of all the imformation concerning the whereabouts and training schedules of all the riders.
Once the 700 riders have been located the UCI will have to find and pay analysts to follow and monitor the riders around the world.
Managing the results from the tests will seriously increase the workload at the antidoping laboratory in Lausane but the UCI’s anti-doping chief Anne Gripper believes there will be no problem.
“The groups working together are to name a panel of seven experts to decipher the possible variations of the riders haematological levels,” said Gripper.
The financial costs for the passport remains unclear, despite estimates of 6 million euros, 5 million euros more than the antidoping programme of 2007.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007