Anti-doping agency approves ‘athlete’s passport’

STOCKHOLM: The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) on Wednesday approved its ‘athlete’s passport’ scheme, which allows sporting authorities to detect doping by studying an athlete’s biological profile.“It is a great step forward. It is not the end of all our problems, but it is another tool,” said WADA president John Fahey.

Contrary to traditional anti-doping techniques which involve looking for traces of banned substances in an athlete’s blood or urine, the passport seeks to discover abnormal variations in the athlete’s biological profile.

WADA has also adopted “operational guidelines for the athlete’s biological passport”, which establish rules for the collection, transport, storage and analysis of samples used to create the profiles and explain how to manage the results.

The biological passport will not be mandatory because WADA knows that certain sporting federations do not have the means to put such an expensive procedure into place.

WADA’s legal director Olivier Niggli said that the passport would have two main functions.

“(The passport will be used) to identity the cheats and prosecute them, or, where proof is not sufficient for prosecution, to target athletes by using intelligent anti-doping,” he said.

“The passport is ultimately based on the opinion of three experts, who must be unanimous. We must try to give them as much information as we can so that they can reach the best possible decision.”

Both the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the International Skating Union (ISU) have already pioneered their own biological passport schemes.

Cycling was the first sport to target athletes due to their biological passport readings, with five cyclists placed under investigation on June 17 this year.

German speed skater Claudia Pechstein, a five-time Olympic gold medallist, became the first athlete to face sanctions via the passport system when she was handed a two-year suspension for doping irregularities in June. — AFP

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