Ashenden releases Armstrong's bio passport code, he and UCI at loggerheads over Texan's test results
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ashenden releases Armstrong's bio passport code, he and UCI at loggerheads over Texan's test results

by Shane Stokes at 8:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Australian anti-doping expert calls on other bio passport scientists to verify if they assessed suspicious Tour data

Michael AshendenThe tension apparent between the UCI and one of its former biological passport experts Michael Ashenden has continued with a release of statements from each yesterday setting out opposing positions.

The governing body has disputed the suggestion that the Australian didn’t see Armstrong’s test results and has claimed he has an ‘astonishingly inaccurate knowledge’ of the system, while Ashenden counters that the UCI is playing with language and that it has effectively proven itself that he was never in a position to review his suspicions 2009 Tour de France and 2010 test results.

He has also released Armstrong's biological passport code number and called on the other bio passport experts to verify if they were given the opportunity to study the data deemed highly suspicious in the USADA reasoned decision.

The exchange originates as a result of an interview given by UCI president Pat McQuaid to VeloNews at the world cyclo cross championships in Louisville in early February.

In it he said that Armstrong had approximately thirty tests during his comeback to cycling between autumn 2008 and January 2011. “I’m not sure if all 30 were blood tests for the passport, I’m not sure of the proportions, but anyway, all of the tests were evaluated by independent experts, including, I think, Michael Ashenden. But they would be evaluated as anonymous; they don’t know who the athletes are. And none of them, when we went back and looked at the Armstrong tests, none of them at no time did the experts say to the UCI there was suspicion, and that he should be targeted. His passport was normal.”

Responding to that, Ashenden told the same site that he felt that Armstrong’s 2009 blood profile was suspicious and disputed that he had the chance to weigh it up as part of his role on the biological passport panel.

“With regard to McQuaid’s slippery assertion that I had reviewed Armstrong’s blood profile, I lay London to a brick that I did not. If in fact I’m wrong, and I did review the profile, I hereby give the UCI full permission to publish whatever opinion that I gave on that profile. The ball is now in the UCI’s court on that one,” he stated.

The UCI hit that ball back yesterday when it issued a statement on the matter and said that the Australian did indeed review the profile.

“Michael Ashenden’s assertion that he never had the opportunity to review Lance Armstrong’s profile is very surprising,” said UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani.

“First of all, I would like to point out that Dr Ashenden’s claims that the UCI never submitted Lance Armstrong’s profile is not only untrue, but it shows that he would appear to have little knowledge or an astonishingly inaccurate knowledge of how the whole system works.

“As everyone should know, the APMU (Athletes Passport Management Unit, which is an independent unit established in Lausanne) regularly submits profiles to the experts of the panel . This procedure is strictly anonymous, which means that neither Dr Ashenden nor any other expert would ever have known when or how many times the profile of one rider or another was submitted to him. Having said that, the UCI wishes to confirm that on May 4, 2009 Dr Ashenden and two other experts on the Biological Passport panel received the profiles of eight riders. These profiles were selected randomly and included that of Lance Armstrong.”

Carpani specified that the profile included nine separate test results, with five of them carried out in 2008 on October 16, November 26, December 3, December 11 and December 18 respectively, and the remaining four on January 16, February 4, February 13 and March 11 2009.

“In their responses (in the case of Dr Ashenden, on May 5 2009), it is interesting to note that of the three experts, Dr Ashenden was the only one to have defined this profile as “normal” without making any other remarks, comments or reservations (of the eight profiles submitted, Dr Ashenden was the expert who most often used the definition “normal” with no further comment),” he continued.

“The UCI is, once again, concerned by the inaccurate and flimsy manner in which Dr Ashenden comments on this case. Although we obviously cannot make the relevant documents public, they are available for inspection by Dr Ashenden at any time should he wish to come and verify the truth of the above information.”

Ashenden speaks in response:

Ashenden responded to that statement with comments of his own, accepting that while it appeared he had reviewed Armstrong’s profile up to March 11th, that the later readings which provoked his suspicion plus accusations of doping in the USADA reasoned decision were not included.

By cross referencing the athlete code, he added that it proved he didn’t receive any later results to review, including the contested 2009 Tour de France samples.

“Amidst their evident haste to disparage me, the UCI have confirmed that I did not review Armstrong's suspicious blood results.

“During Pat McQuaid's interview, he specifically referred to Armstrong's 2009 and 2010 blood values. Those are the results that USADA found were consistent with blood transfusion. McQuaid said that those suspicious tests were evaluated by independent experts including me. Now that the UCI have volunteered the date they sent me Armstrong's anonymous profile, I have been able to cross match with my archives. I confirm that I did receive the passport profile denoted 'BPT374F23' [on May 4th 2009 – ed.] and those results do correspond with Armstrong's blood values published along with the Reasoned Decision on the USADA website.

“I would also like to add some clarity. The haemoglobin concentration and reticulocyte percentage of the nine test results I was sent on 4 May 2009 were as follows: 16 Oct 143g/L & 0.99%; 26 Nov 150g/L & 1.08%; 3 Dec 144g/L & 0.83%; 11 Dec 143g/L & 1.29%; 18 Dec 154g/L & 1.49%; 16 Jan 141g/L & 1.03%; 4 Feb 152g/L & 0.90%; 13 Feb 150g/L & 0.99%; 11 Mar 145 g/L & 0.88%. Those nine values coincide exactly with the results published on the USADA site. Interestingly, USADA's results also contain an additional sample collected on 30 April that was not included in the profile sent to me on 4 May. I have no explanation why that result was missing in the UCI profile.”

Ashenden added that two additional results from December 3rd and December 11th were voided as they were not analysed within the 36 hour timeframe required by WADA but, whether or not these were included, he accepted that any variation in the results up to March 2009 ‘could be due to nothing more than natural variation.’

It seems clear that the two positions differ in their interpretation of language. The UCI picks up on Ashenden’s statement that he didn’t get to review Armstrong’s blood passport, saying that this is not accurate. Ashenden maintains that his assertion related to the period identified as suspicious by the USADA report, with the context being that the 2009 Tour values were too unusual for him to have not redflagged them if he had the opportunity.

Whatever about the results up to March 2009, the Australian states that the information proves that he didn’t get a chance to study those later results.

“I have checked my archives and I cannot find any trace of the profile BPT374F23 having been sent to me again after May 2009. Whereas I had suspected this previously, it has now been confirmed that I was never asked to review Armstrong's suspicious blood results from the 2009 Tour de France.”

When a profile is sent forward for examination, three members of the nine-member UCI biological passport panel are provided the data and asked to make an assessment. However the UCI – or, more recently, the Athlete Passport Management Unit in Lausanne – makes the initial decision about which passport profiles are sent to the experts.

Ashenden wants the release of this code to be used by the other biological passport experts to verify if they were themselves given the opportunity to review the Tour data.

“Given Armstrong's blood results have been published and are public record, and given we now know that the anonymous code assigned to Armstrong's results is BPT374F23, it may be possible for the remaining experts to check their own records to confirm whether they ever saw Armstrong's suspicious results,” he stated.

“Since both the UCI and the Lausanne laboratory who enforced an 8-year confidentiality clause on the experts both have an interest in dismissing any hint of collusion with Armstrong, I hope and expect they will both now authorise the remaining experts to make public comment.”

The tactic puts the ball back in the UCI's court, enabling the governing body to show if the other bio passport experts did indeed clear Armstrong of suspicion.

If those experts are given a green light to speak and verify this, it backs the UCI's position that there were no grounds to open a biological passport case in 2009 or 2010. In contrast, if the experts say they were not given the chance to assess the data in question, it will raise questions about the policing of the sport's biggest name during his comeback.

Either way, clarification is possible if those experts are permitted to comment.

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