Parisotto believes new anti-doping structure could do much to restore cycling’s credibility
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Parisotto believes new anti-doping structure could do much to restore cycling’s credibility

by Shane Stokes at 12:08 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Anti-doping expert encouraged by Cookson’s win in presidency battle, says new leadership is crucial for UCI and the sport

UCIRobin Parisotto has said that he believes that Brian Cookson’s planned independent anti-doping body will be a major step forward for the sport, and one which should help in restoring credibility to cycling.

The Australian anti-doping expert has been part of the UCI/APMU biological panel since it was introduced in 2008 and said that he is reassured by Cookson’s pledge to increase the independence of anti-doping.

“I think if the previous leadership had said that, I would have probably booted it out the window, given that everything else that happened,” he told VeloNation, making it clear that he had doubts about how the UCI was run before.

“But now with not only new leadership, but also a whole host of new deputies, I am hoping that the past can be buried. It certainly shouldn’t be forgotten but it certainly is, as far as I am concerned, the start of a new era.”

Prior to his election, Cookson spoke about the importance of a fully independent anti-doping body. While the previous president Pat McQuaid said that he wanted to modify the existing CADF, Cookson pointed out that McQuaid had been president of that and that its offices were located ‘just down the corridor.’

The suggestion was that even if steps were made to modify the setup and location of that, that there was a historical tie to the UCI.

Cookson said that he would work with WADA and others to come up with a better system, ensuring that the promotion and the policing of the sport are kept at arms length from each other. This is something that Parisotto is in favour of.

“I think once they get all of the administrative and regulatory things in order in their own house, that they can then seriously look at their anti-doping programme,” he stated. ‘They can say, ‘okay, what do we need to do here to make this really credible, and to win back the trust of not only the public but also the cyclists themselves?’

Asked if he believed that Brian Cookson’s election victory over the previous president Pat McQuaid represented a step forward for the sport, Parisotto was clear in his response. “Yeah, absolutely,” he answered. “I am in favour of the change in leadership.”

He had previously voiced his concerns about the UCI’s treatment of Lance Armstrong’s biological passport, and the fact that experts did not get to review any sample data taken after March 2009.

States that biological passports appear more ‘normal’ than before:

Parisotto has a long history in anti-doping, acting as principal researcher of the EPO 2000 Project to develop the first-ever blood tests for EPO. He has worked on several other anti-doping projects, has published numerous peer-reviewed papers on the subject and has spoken around the globe at conferences.

Last week he voiced unease about Chris Horner’s biological passport, telling VeloNation that he had concerns about some of the values. While he said he was not in a position to make a clear ruling, he said that he believed further scrutiny was warranted

“If this was something that came across my desk for evaluation [as part of cycling’s biological passport panel – ed], I would certainly be putting a question mark on it,” he stated. “I’d at least request that further samples to be taken, particularly just before and during competitions, in order to see if the pattern was a one-off or if it persists.”

Asked how he felt about cycling in general now, Parisotto feels that there are clear differences than when the bio passport panel was formed in 2008.

“For me, I am seeing two things. I am seeing less abnormal profiles and the abnormal ones that I am seeing are certainly less perturbed than they used to be,” he said, confirming that things appeared to have toned down.

“So the ones that are still blood doping or using EPO or CERA or whatever, they are certainly doing it at a level which for me is going to be difficult for me to make a call one way or another, and therefore needs to go for a second or third review.”

This is encouraging for him, as he feels that even if riders are manipulating things so that their passports appear normal, that the gains are relatively minor and that the benefits are much less than before.

“I think it is also getting to the point where the changes are now so small, so subtle, that the athletes must have to question if this is worth pursuing,” he said. “Unless they are getting a benefit from all of this, there is no point in doing it.

“That is one of the beauties of the passport…it is not the be all and end all, but it certainly has made it a lot harder for someone to get a benefit from putting in such elaborate practices and dangerous practices into their kit, so to speak.”

He does however highlight a concern. The UCI acknowledged before that Lance Armstrong’s bio passport was never passed on to the experts after early 2009, explaining this by saying that his values never triggered alarm bells with the screening software used.

Parisotto is clear that relying on a computer programme has a serious drawback. “The problem with this approach is that it is not always about crossing these lower and higher thresholds [which the software red-flags – ed.]…it is about someone looking and seeing a pattern,” he said.

“I for one hope that all of that has changed and that the people who are reviewing which profiles need to be evaluated by the panel are actually looking at the data rather than just running it through the programme.

“The reason is that a lot of suspect profiles might not actually trigger those thresholds. However if you look at them, you think, ‘there is something not quite right here.’ I have seen quite a few.”

As a result, while he is optimistic that an independent anti-doping body will be a significant step forward, he believes that existing practices need to be carried out properly and expert scrutiny needs to be applied in order to correctly police the sport.
 

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