June 23, 2011 (Ottawa, Ontario) – The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport has begun to monitor athletes’ sample analysis results over time. This innovative development, known as a biological passport, is recognized as the most promising way forward for anti-doping organizations in the fight against doping.
Known formally as the Athlete Biological Passport program or ABP, the guidelines for this program have now been standardized by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). These guidelines, covering blood sample collection, transportation, analysis and results management, were incorporated into the Canadian Anti-Doping Program rules in 2010. While other sport organizations such as the International Cycling Union (UCI) have been collecting this information for some time, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport is among the first anti-doping organizations to implement WADA’s new harmonized protocols. Canada’s program was presented at the WADA Anti-Doping Organization Symposium in March 2011 in Lausanne, Switzerland as a world-leading national program.
Biological passport results have been used to successfully assert anti-doping rule violations in several international cases. Claudia Pechstein, a German speed skater, is serving a two-year ban imposed by the International Skating Union for blood doping in February 2009. Two completed cases involving the ABP program and UCI athletes have recently proven it can withstand legal and scientific challenges.
The biological passport is considered a valid and reliable method for indirectly detecting doping. In essence, it is an electronic record that anti-doping agencies can use to monitor specific parameters drawn from blood and urine tests – haematological and steroid profiling respectively. It allows experts to detect physiological markers of doping, and infer that doping has occurred even if there is no direct presence of a particular substance or method in a sample. Some substances, such as the proliferation of variations of the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO), are increasingly difficult to detect. Some methods, like a transfusion of an athlete’s own stored blood, can only be detected through secondary markers. The biological passport is a direct response to the dopers’ latest techniques.
This technique is part of the move to more intelligent testing. Testing can be focused on higher-risk sports, and passport results can be used to better target individual athletes for closer monitoring. The biological passport will allow for more effective allocation of resources, and a better coordinated effort among anti-doping organizations and international sport federations. In fact, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport has signed an agreement with UCI for the sharing of passport data which will help us test more Canadian cyclists in all areas of the world, year round, with less duplication of effort.
Canadian athletes will not see any significant changes to our program. The first athletes were selected for the biological passport program in November 2010 and samples will be taken on a regular basis throughout the course of their career. Canadian athletes selected for doping control may be asked to provide blood samples in addition to urine samples, and to complete a new five-question form declaring factors such as altitude training and blood donation which may have a specific effect on their blood variables.
All test results will become part of a data set that can be further evaluated in the future as new analysis techniques are developed. According to WADA rules, data can be saved for up to eight years. Athletes who are clean can use the consistency of their profiles to demonstrate conclusively that they are not cheating; athletes who are cheating should expect the signs of their doping to become evident sooner or later.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport is an independent, national, not-for profit organization. We recognize that true sport can make a great difference for individuals, communities and our country. We are committed to working collaboratively to activate a values-based and principle-driven sport system; protecting the integrity of sport from the negative forces of doping and other unethical threats; and advocating for sport that is fair, safe and open to everyone.