UCI insists financial constraints and 2010/2011 testing reduction didn’t compromise biological passport
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Monday, February 4, 2013

UCI insists financial constraints and 2010/2011 testing reduction didn’t compromise biological passport

by Shane Stokes at 2:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Spekenbrink states some Argos Shimano riders were only tested twice out of competition last season

UCIResponding to last week’s release of minutes from the UCI’s Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (‘CADF’) meeting in June 2010 plus the statement by Michael Ashenden that this proves testing was cut back, the UCI has insisted that the financial constraints mentioned in those minutes had ‘no detrimental effect’ on the biological passport.

It also added that it was, ‘entirely satisfied that more than enough tests were conducted in 2010 in order to maintain a robust blood passport programme,’ and said that certain facts had been taken out of context.

The CADF document was circulated last Wednesday by the Change Cycling Now pressure group, of which Ashenden was a member until last week.

That document reported a CADF loss of 640,000 Swiss francs in 2009, and said that the foundation would make up the difference via a reduction to the 2010 budget for testing.

In that document, it was noted that the CADF director Dr Francesca Rossi had told the meeting that cutbacks would be implemented as a result. “Following the budget cuts, the testing program for 2010 has been reduced especially for the ‘older’ riders with also a reduction in the number of tests until later this year,” she stated then.

In August 2011 Vroomen said on his online blog that he had not heard of any biological passport samples being collected from riders between July 2010 and April 2011. The UCI denied this at the time, and blasted him for ‘allegations’ which it said were ‘misleading, irresponsible, mischievous and clearly show a very weak understanding of this complex subject.’

It released data which showed that testing had been done, although the figures did reflect a significant drop compared to previous periods.

Last week Ashenden said that when he was serving on the biological passport board, that it became increasingly obviously that the testing programme had been slashed.

“The gap in passports was a sense that grew over time. One or two instances might have been pure chance, but eventually it became so prevalent that it left a clear impression on me,” the Australian told VeloNation.

Asked if he could approximate what reductions were made, he said it was a very difficult task. “I'm not sure how to estimate how many tests were cut - and the problem is we cannot rely on what the UCI tells us so we may never know,” he stated. “They colluded with Armstrong when he lied about being tested more than 500 times, so I would find any explanation the UCI gives now about test statistics very difficult to believe.”

The UCI responded to that today, saying that it wanted to ‘correct some misinterpretations which have resulted from certain facts being taken out of context.’

It said that it wanted to make clear the reasons why the number of tests were lower in 2010 than in 2009, and to explain the context that the financial constraints were taken into account.

“Firstly, the UCI conducted more tests in 2008 and 2009 than the numbers required to maintain a robust blood passport,” it said.

“In 2010 the number of tests for riders who were in the passport for more than a year could be reduced without impairing the validity of their passport because their profile had been established as a result of the high number of tests conducted in 2008 and 2009 when the passport was first introduced. The definition of the term “older riders” has been taken out of context. It is not based on age. It refers to riders that have been in the passport programme and therefore have been tested for a longer period of time as opposed to riders who are newly introduced to the programme.

“A sufficiently high number of tests were conducted on riders who were new to the programme in 2010 in order to establish their profile.

The UCI is entirely satisfied that more than enough tests were conducted in 2010 in order to maintain a robust blood passport programme. No decision was ever taken to suspend testing.”

The governing body insisted that the budgetary cutbacks had no detrimental effect on the passport.

“Put simply, these financial constraints obliged the UCI to cut back on the number of tests that it had conducted in 2009, considering that it had conducted more tests than were required that year, and that reducing the number of tests in 2010 would not impair the validity of any passport.”

Does reduced testing have a negative impact?

Following the CADF document release by Change Cycling Now last week, the NOS.nl website gave further statistics on testing. It pointed out that when blood passports started in late 2007, 406 out of competition blood samples were taken. This ramped up to 4,649 in 2008 and 6,711 in 2009.

It reported that the 2010 number dropped by more than half to 2,947 tests [a figure representing 43% of the 2009 figure].

The following year, the number of biological passport controls was very similar, with 3014 tests being carried out. The UCI has not yet released the figures for 2012.

These figures are borne out by the CADF Business report for the period 2010-2011, which lists out of competition blood testing figures of 2948 and 3039 respectively.

That document also details the number of riders from WorldTour and Pro Continental teams who were part of the testing programme in those years; in 2010, there were 848 riders on board, with that number rising to 955 in 2011.

The total sum being paid to the UCI presumably also increased as the total number of teams involved increased from 35 to 41. Both WorldTour and Pro Continental teams pay substantial amounts to be part of the biological passport.

However despite that gain in teams, the number of UCI tests were relatively static.

Looking at out of competition blood controls per rider, the figures mean that an average of just 3.5 [2010] and 3.2 [2011] UCI tests were carried out per year on the riders in the testing pool [note: additional tests take place in competition]. The big name competitors will be tested more frequently than that, meaning that other riders will fall below that average.

Despite that, the UCI’s statement today insists that enough testing is being done to effectively police the sport. It said that last week’s Change Cycling Now release is misleading, and that the governing body should also be recognised as having brought in the testing in the first place.

“The issue raised by Mr Vroomen and the UCI response to that has also been conveniently taken out of context,” it stated. “It is also worth remembering that it was the UCI that led the way as the first organisation worldwide to introduce the blood passport.”


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