The UCI has revealed information on the new rider ?biological passport? that will be introduced in 2008 but has left several key issue unanswered, including how riders will be disciplined.
The constant control of rider’s blood values is supposed to help avoid the doping scandals that have rocked the sport in recent years but it is clear the system still requires a lot of work before it can be trusted.
In a press release that is also published on the UCI website (www.uci.ch), the world governing body said the keys to the system were: a reliable whereabouts system, a secure procedure for collecting and testing riders? blood samples, the financing for the planned 7,000 out of competition tests and finally who will decide if a rider should be suspended due to unusual blood values. Unfortunately, it offered few details on any of these key points.
The organisers of the Giro d?Italia and Tour de France have said they want the passports in place for their races in May and July but the UCI does not specify when the passport will be active and admits that several key parts of the tests have yet to begin.
For example, according to the UCI, the new electronic ADAMS whereabouts system ?should? be fully active from March, with the UCI forced to use the fax-based system that created so many problems in 2007, still in use. The UCI also admits it currently only knows the whereabouts of 500 out of the 660 riders who will have a biological passport, meaning that 160 riders are currently under the UCI radar and perhaps able to take banned performance enhancing drugs without being caught.
The UCI says each rider will be tested as many times as necessary but fails to give any further details or reveal who will collect the samples and where the tests will carried out.
It says the tests will measure haemoglobin, free plasma haemoglobin, reticulocytes, stimulation index and haematocrit and use a statistical model, developed by the Lausanne Laboratory, to decide if riders have abnormal blood profiles. The results will be studied by a group of independent scientific experts but these have still to be appointed.
More importantly the UCI failed to confirm if a rider caught with abnormal blood profiles will be banned for two-years or just temporarily suspended for two weeks as in the past. Worryingly, the UCI also revealed that negotiations are still underway to find all the needed finances for the tests.
If cycling is to regain its credibility it needs a testing system that works perfectly. The 2008 season is already underway and riders are training hard all over the world, but it seems the new tests create more questions and raise more doubts than they will catch riders who are doping.