Ashenden stands over biological passport comments, says gap in testing damages programme
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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ashenden stands over biological passport comments, says gap in testing damages programme

by Shane Stokes at 6:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Australian says winter testing is crucial to nab riders withdrawing blood

Michael AshendenResponding to yesterday’s UCI statement saying that the drop in biological passport testing in 2010 and 2011 had no detrimental effect on the ability of the programme to pinpoint those doping, anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden has said he considers that the claim is inaccurate.

“The UCI have continued to mislead cycling fans and the public by attempting to pretend that a cut in the number of passport tests at the end of season does not impair the passport programme,” he told VeloNation today. “In fact, that out of season testing is absolutely vital, perhaps the most valuable data of all, because it is during that period that the highly sophisticated dopers are most vulnerable. To cut back testing during that crucial period does, without question, limit the effectiveness of the passport.”

In yesterday’s statement the UCI accepted that it had budgetary limitations in 2010 after its Cycling Anti Doping Foundation ran up a loss of 640,000 Swiss francs in 2009, and that tests were reduced.

However it said that an initial higher volume of testing was needed to build up the initial profiles and once this was done in 2008 and 2009, it was possible to scale back on the number of controls.

“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 financial constraints that existed in 2010 had no detrimental effect on the blood passport,” it stated.

“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.”

Ashenden argues otherwise, maintaining his own position on the matter. “Cyclists have learned how to mask their blood during the race season. For example, to mask doping they know how to dilute blood levels with saline and stimulate the bone marrow with microdoses of EPO,” he told VeloNation. “However, once the season is over they take blood out to store in readiness for the following year. But there is simply no way to mask that you've withdrawn blood. The blood levels are already abnormally low so dilution makes it worse. The bone marrow is already hyper-activated so EPO would make that worse too.

“Quite simply, it is the one time of the year where we know what riders are doing, we know the blood signature to look for, and we know they cannot hide that signature. So for the UCI to pretend that a cut back of testing during out of season does not impede the passport is bordering on delusional.”

Ashenden was previously part of the UCI’s panel of experts assessing biological passports, but resigned last April over the confidentiality clause requested by the Athlete Passport Management Unit, which had taken over management of the programme.

It demanded that the experts working for it would observe an eight year silence about anti-doping matters, something that Ashenden said was unacceptable.

Since then he has been outspoken against the UCI, and was one of the core members of the Change Cycling Now pressure group. He resigned from that last week in protest after another member, Antoine Vayer, approached Lance Armstrong on behalf of CCN without informing the other members.

The UCI was the first governing body to introduce biological passport testing and said yesterday that it deserved credit for that. Many other sporting groups lack a similar programme, making it possible for athletes to blood dope without fear of detection.

 

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