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Editorial:Blood Passport "Judgment Day"
By Guest Contributor
Date: 6/15/2009
Editorial:Blood Passport "Judgment Day"

Editorial:Blood Passport "Judgment Day"
"Judgment day is upon us. Judgment Day not only for the ‘Fraudulent 50’ but also for the UCI. A lot of money has been spent and the time for more transparency in professional cycling is here... "

By Myles Mc Corry

Ag2R/La Mondiale team doctor Eric Bouvat was very angry last week when convicted doper, turned informer, Bernard Kohl, allegedly accused many other riders of using performance-enhancing substances.

"In doping himself, he put a terrible pressure on clean riders, who represent 95 percent of the peloton,” Mr Bouvat said in an interview with L'Equipe. So there we have an arbitrary starting point from a UCI Pro Tour team doctor: An estimated 5% of the riders still dope and by these actions, threaten to destroy our sport.

The governing body recognized this threat long ago and in 2007, after the celebrated Paris Summit on Doping, launched the ‘Biological Passport Program’. A biological passport is an individual, electronic record for each rider, in which, the results of all doping (blood and urine) tests over a period of time are collated. The tabulated results, building hematological and natural steroid parameters for each rider. This information will let the UCI know if anyone has been cheating- should their results sit outside these regular parameters.

So in January 2008 (We presume, as no information has ever been disclosed), all riders registered with a UCI Pro Team, most Professional Continental teams and a few other ‘Wild Card’ teams began to be tested. Samples were collected (we assume) during racing, but mostly out-of-competition, for the purposes of establishing a hematological profile. And there you have it.

Our governing body were on the case. After a torrid recent past: the Landis case, the Rasmussen scandal, I was just delighted to see the generals and chiefs of cycle sport actively combating cheating. With my own eyes I witnessed Vino’s gravity deifying assent of the Col Du Galibier, his subsequent positive testing and thus welcomed the fact that the newest element on the UCI's anti-doping program was a go in Jan One, ‘08.

“Indirect" detection would flush out those who could mask the drugs or blood dope, with such skill that the conventional tests were unable to detect. A control, statistical model, developed by the Lausanne Laboratory, would be used to determine an abnormal blood profile score. We had the dopers on the run.

And so it went on; the cheats that marred the early 2008 season, were caught conventionally. I was delighted, yet wished they had been prevented from racing in the first place through the passport program. The racing and testing continued through out May and June and nothing. Lots of questions to the UCI the passport progression: Few answers and no depth, no facts, no timeframe, more importantly- NO convictions.

Lots of tests. Really lots and lots of testing. They were gathering information by the truckload. Factual accounts of a young Mountain Biker tested 3 times in 24 hours. Even one very famous top pro tested 18 times in 24 days! Lots of test- costing lots of money and not WADA- but nada- nothing.

Never once was Article 15.2 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules - "the use or attempted use of a prohibited method” implemented to ban or discipline a rider. So we waited. Schumacher and Kohl destroyed the Tour de France, ably assisted by two Italians (who also cast a shadow over the 2008 Giro)- Still nothing.

We entered the winter of discontent; where more questions were unanswered. Then David Rebellin was charged in late spring 2009 for killing the memory of the biggest race of 2008 and the world wide cycling fraternity got fed up waiting. A

rticles were written not just in the cycling media, but the mainstream press; wondered when cycling would get it’s own house in order. Shouts of corruption- still nothing. No results published. No sanctions offered. Just bigger and bigger rider profiles being collected, costing more and more money.

This forensic approach to fight against doping cost € 5.3 million in 2008 alone.

Cost effective?

Well, we may finally find out this week… the wait is over! The head of the UCI, Mr Pat McQuaid hinted that 'Judgment Day' is upon us. Last week he said 50 riders were suspected of cheating and this week he will release the results. 18 months of waiting, we will find out whom the 50 riders are - about the 5 % estimated by Bouvat.

The 18 months delay has left me excited and sad.

Delighted that a highly lauded element in our anti doping arsenal may finally produce a root and branch clear out of the dopers; and sad that the results will once again bury cycling in scandal.

Today, many questions remain.

-But why the secrecy? All the passport information is stored electronically.

  • Why not publish it in line? If it has proven more difficult to work out, tell us. Be open.
  • Ten tests in a row will provide a ‘normal average for each rider - Why has it taken 100?
  • Will the UCI release the mysterious science behind the results with the names?
  • Will the dates of the irregular blood spikes be correlated, to see if races were won by these doping riders and affirmative action taken (i.e. prize money returned to the worthy and titles stripped.)?

We hope ‘fraudulent 50’ days are numbered and it is the start of the passport program producing actual results. What will also be interesting is ‘which’ 50 riders. If the 'named' riders will be big team leaders, or just a bunch of sacrificial domestiques, to 'show the UCI is doing something'.

Judgment day is upon us. Judgment day not only for the ‘Fraudulent 50’ but also for the UCI. A lot of money has been spent and the time for more transparency in professional cycling is here. I for one hope that as judgment day dawns a new era for our beautiful sport is on the horizon and not a wasteland.

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