After two days of talks on anti-doping at France?s Ministry of Sport in Paris this week, all parties came out singing from the same hymn sheet. It was a rare moment of harmony between cycling?s key stakeholders that until now have been at constant loggerheads over the issue of doping.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), national federations, team bosses and riders have at last agreed on how to move forward cycling?s clean-up.
As of January 2008, the UCI will pioneer the set-up, implementation and management of biological passports for riders; a trial run that could be rolled out to all other Olympic sports within the next few years.
Although the exact details are still to be thrashed out, each passport will bring together test data from all blood samples that a rider provides either to the UCI or their national federation, be it in our out of competition.
This data is then used to produce a profile for that rider which, over time, will give an accurate physiological baseline, fluctuations from which will clearly indicate a doping offence.
?The biological passport is a big step forward in being able to detect riders who are more likely to be doping,? the UCI?s Anti-Doping manager Anne Gripper said. ?We believe it?s a much more sensitive way of conducting a doping control programme.”
The initiative means thousands more tests will be carried out, most of which will be done by the teams themselves. ?Some things have come together just at the right time for us. Over the last two months we?ve had the professional teams agreeing to fund and conduct much more out of competition testing, and we?ve had the scientists coming together and saying, yes, we?re ready to go with this.?
Another giant leap to a clean sport is expected to be taken at next month?s world anti-doping conference in Madrid. ?The code is likely to be strengthened as far as using indirect evidence to prosecute anti doping violations,? Gripper explained. ?We?re moving away from a piece paper from the lab saying ?this has been detected,? to looking at a whole range of numbers and saying that that person has done something.
?We may not actually know what they?ve done. We may not know if they?ve taken EPO or if they?ve done a blood transfusion, but we know that they?ve manipulated their blood.?
In the past, this monitoring technique has allowed the UCI to focus their attention on certain riders. Using it to sanction a rider on a ?burden of proof? style ruling would go a long way to restoring cycling?s credibility.