It is called the “Biological Passport”. Introduced in 2009, it is a detailed, tracked over time, blood marker monitoring program that has promised to put an end to doping in sport. The old method of doping detection was to look for specific drug metabolites in the urine. These can often be difficult to detect, especially if the drug(s) clear the body quickly. You also need to know what you are looking for first, which made unknown “designer” drugs very valuable in the past. This new system works very differently. Instead, the testing officials keep a close eye on key markers within the athletes, which are often influenced directly or indirectly by performance enhancing drugs. This is done periodically and consistently. With anabolic steroids, for example, the sports authorities look at a variety of steroid hormones and stimulatory hormones. If there are notable deviations at any interval of examination, something out of place for the individual, doping may be suspected. But is biological passport all its cracked up to be? A new report says a resounding, “no”.
I’ve been asked about the passport system myself a few times. I typically would comment that while it appears to be leaps and bounds ahead of old methods, it is not infallible. Doping is still known to take place in sport, without detection. This liklihood was confirmed in a new story by Mark Daly, just published by BBC. Non-competitive athlete and reporter, Mr. Daily used the drug EPO (erythropoietin) to increase his red blood cell count and oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This type of doping has historically been very common in endurance sports, such as cycling. Lance Armstrong, of course, famously admitted to using EPO and other drugs during the Tour de France, the sport of cycling’s highest profile event. Lance did not get caught during his years of competing though. The biological passport system was not in place then. Would it have prevented this doping? Perhaps not.
Mr. Daily used the same drug for 7 weeks, followed by a 4 week washout period. He carefully administered the EPO in periodic micro-doses, as many athleteis are now recommending, to avoid detection. According to the report, the drug increased hemoglobin and hematocrit (and thus oxygen transport capacity of the blood) reliably, as to be expected. It was also stated to have provided Mr. Daily obvious performance benefits. The result at the doping test? Clean. Had Mr. Daly done this leading up to an actual competition, he would have tested negative for doping drugs, and been granted any medal or trophy he won. A full report and video are available at the following link. While this is one a single case report, it underlines just what we’ve understood for decades now, and it hasn’t changed. When there is a will to win and outperform others, and great incentive to do so, there will also be great incentive to dope. So far, no program is 100% reliable. Doping continues in sport.
Full Story here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-32983932
Video (UK Only): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05zhqvk