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Ashenden on Passport

Dr. Maserati

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Ferminal said:
http://nyvelocity.com/content/features/2010/bio-passport-5-questions-michael-ashenden

Not much to see here.

Seems as though he's backing up the passport with the usual PR speak, but subtly dropping hints that doping is still rife.

Ya - as I said before the Bio-Passport is a drug test done by committee.

I am not doubting Dr. Ashenden's professionalism or enthusiasm but after 'suspicious' profiles are identified then it is subject to legal scrutiny and then it arrives on Pat's desk...

"A large part of this is due to the margins of tolerance we must allow to ensure that riders are not wrongly accused of doping".
This is my difficulty on the BP - the margins are wide enough for 60+ riders to dope last year.

While I accept that the Bio-passport was never going to be 'the magic solution', one of the reasons for the Bio-Passport in the first place was to detect substances that remain undetectable - so using it to target riders for more 'traditional' testing is a futile exercise.
 
Yes, that's the line that stood out for me too.

"Wrongly accused of doping" must mean, accusing of doping without testing positive to a banned substance. There's no "look at this rider's HcT rise in two days, he must have had a transfusion, lets ban him". To an extent I think that is being held back by legal certainty. Trying to ban based on that would end up in the courtroom.

So is it actually reasonable that only the small guys are getting busted? The big names are on air tight programs which genuinely don't return positives for any banned substances? I guess time will tell with the GH Marker.
 
Michael Ashenden said:

Yes. This has always been the case - the most sophisticated dopers use cutting-edge products that aren't detectable (i.e., autologous transfusion), and/or learn ways to avoid testing positive by masking strategies (i.e., adding proteases to urine, or dodging the DCO for 20 minutes).

What did he mean by DCO?

Was he referring to taking long showers to delay the testers?
 
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On the whole, what is being raced past is the purpose of the bio-passport.

It is simply a qualifying tool to assist in target testing. It is the same as gaining the higher ground.

The bio-passport does not deliver "positives", it delivers data to the testers so they can apply more testing to the questionable data sets.

If the application of greater testing scrutiny becomes the deterrent for doping, ie, they are testing the ******s out of me so "I better stay off the sauce", then that is enough of a value to make the program worthwhile.

The downside is it takes quite a long runway to get the data sets established with any confidence.

Either way, it is the best tool they have to slow down the proliferation of doping, even if it does not outright stop the practice.
 
Colm.Murphy said:
It is simply a qualifying tool to assist in target testing. It is the same as gaining the higher ground.

The bio-passport does not deliver "positives", it delivers data to the testers so they can apply more testing to the questionable data sets.

This is the problem with the UCI's passport. They have given up what should be the largest benefit of longitudinal tracking, which is to identify the effects of doping rather than the dope itself. With proper longitudinal testing, use of a new drug should be stopped long before there is a test for the drug or the testers even know that the drug exists. By only using the passport for targeted testing the UCI has formed an insiders club where the riders who are successful enough or on big enough teams are free to transfuse their own blood and the poor bastards at the bottom of the sport are used as scapegoats.

There is nothing to stop a GT rider from transfusing four units of his own blood during a race. The graph of his blood profile can look like the Teton mountain range and the UCI can't/won't do a thing about it.
 

Dr. Maserati

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Colm.Murphy said:
On the whole, what is being raced past is the purpose of the bio-passport.

It is simply a qualifying tool to assist in target testing. It is the same as gaining the higher ground.

The bio-passport does not deliver "positives", it delivers data to the testers so they can apply more testing to the questionable data sets.

If the application of greater testing scrutiny becomes the deterrent for doping, ie, they are testing the ******s out of me so "I better stay off the sauce", then that is enough of a value to make the program worthwhile.

The downside is it takes quite a long runway to get the data sets established with any confidence.

Either way, it is the best tool they have to slow down the proliferation of doping, even if it does not outright stop the practice.
While I agree - that is not what the UCI are 'selling' the Bio-Passport as.
From their website on the Biological Passport.
Is the passport a turning point in the UCI’s anti-doping methods?

The biological passport is a great step forward. It is part of the continuous efforts already undertaken by the UCI to eliminate doping from cycling. The UCI has been a pioneer in the use of haematological parameters for the detection and prevention of doping activities since 1998.

What is new about this approach to anti-doping is that:
• it draws upon important new scientific methods of indirect detection,
• it uses sophisticated statistical tools to interpret results,
• it uses a sequence of tests to provide greater sensitivity in testing.

One thing is certain - this new approach will enable the detection of riders who use blood doping methods or endogenous steroids such as testosterone. Once a rider is included in the biological passport program, it will become impossible for him to escape detection if he uses blood or steroid manipulations to enhance performance.

We are closing the gap on cheaters. Those who dope will be caught.
.
 
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Dr. Maserati said:
While I agree - that is not what the UCI are 'selling' the Bio-Passport as.
From their website on the Bioligical Passport.

Precisely, and there you have, in all its glory, the gaping hole left open by the bio passport.

The basic idea at one point, was to establish stringent individual limits based on longitudinal testing of blood parameters, steroid profiles and others. Riders could have been found doping if any of these limits are exceeded, without actually testing positive to any particular substance. The idea was to win the eternal race against newer and newer doping products; not by creating and establishing new tests (which typically takes years), but by looking at the effect of doping. That hope has gone the way of the dodo. The only thing we have is two very general limits on blood parameters (crit and off score) which are so generous, you could drive a truck through and still pass. One of those limits, the 50% crit rule, was in effect long before the bio passport saw the light of day.

The original idea of the bio passport is pretty much dead if it's only used for target testing. I think anti-doping has lost this round. There were a couple of years where it looked like the doping fight could be won, but sadly the wrong people took over at ASO, and the UCI has been cleansed as well. I expect a return of mid 1990 to mid 2000 style cycling.
 
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false positive rate

It seems to me the reason people aren't getting busted by the BP is that the false positive rate is either unknown or too high.

Disclaimer: The following may sound like the comments of a troll. That is not the intention.

When Ashenden published the method for detecting homologous blood doping (the test that caught Vino and Hamilton) there was no false positive rate published. And I haven't found a follow up study with a false positive rate for that assay.

In other papers I've read about other topics by Ashenden, he makes sure to publish the rate of false positives.

This is important because IIRC Tyler Hamilton's lawyers bemoaned this flaw in the testing...albeit unsuccessfully. I didn't follow the case closely enough to see if WADA produced a false positive rate in those hearings.

Any decent analytical assay used to catch a doper should have a known false positive rate, and it should obviously be very close to zero.
 
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biokemguy said:
It seems to me the reason people aren't getting busted by the BP is that the false positive rate is either unknown or too high.

Disclaimer: The following may sound like the comments of a troll. That is not the intention.

When Ashenden published the method for detecting homologous blood doping (the test that caught Vino and Hamilton) there was no false positive rate published. And I haven't found a follow up study with a false positive rate for that assay.

In other papers I've read about other topics by Ashenden, he makes sure to publish the rate of false positives.

This is important because IIRC Tyler Hamilton's lawyers bemoaned this flaw in the testing...albeit unsuccessfully. I didn't follow the case closely enough to see if WADA produced a false positive rate in those hearings.

Any decent analytical assay used to catch a doper should have a known false positive rate, and it should obviously be very close to zero.

Ah, thanks for bringing this up because I noted this is something I've left out of the previous post. There is, of course the possibility of a false positive using the bio passport. In principle, you can calculate this using some assumptions about the statistics of data points. Now, you can challenge these assumptions which might make the finding more or less significant. Say, using one set of assumptions, you might find that you can exclude statistical variations as source for abnormal parameters on a 99.95% level level, with another set of assumptions, you're only good up to 95%. The question is where to draw the limit (at 95%, 90%, 99.99%) or wherever? The second question is, which set of assumptions should be used to convince CAS (for instance).

The only case to my knowledge which was ever tried solely based on the bio passport was the Pechstein affaire (discussed in this forum). In short, it's a mess. Her retic count was way beyond any reasonably expected statistical variation under 'normal' assumption. Turns out, there might be a physiological explanation, a rare condition (ETA: spherocytosis) which might or might not explain the retic counts. Experts are in doubt. I don't remember exactly if her ban was upheld, at least it wasn't lifted in time for Vancouver. ETA: I just checked her Wikipedia page, and the decision on her appeal is apparently still pending.
 
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Cobblestones said:
.... There is, of course the possibility of a false positive using the bio passport. In principle, you can calculate this using some assumptions about the statistics of data points.... Say, using one set of assumptions, you might find that you can exclude statistical variations as source for abnormal parameters on a 99.95% level level, with another set of assumptions, you're only good up to 95%....

This is where I think they might have problems. Where is the data on the statistical variations in blood parameters for clean pro cyclist undergoing varied conditions of training, rest, racing and altitude coming from?

The only data set available that is large enough to usefully narrow down the statistical variations, is probably the passport data itself. But these data will be contaminated by profiles of riders who are doping and haven't been busted. See where this is heading?........
 
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it’s quite amusing to see the same disappointments with bio passport every time some rider gets caught for blood doping. but the goals and methods hardly changed since the programme inception. the same can be said about the gaps and holes in the programme. they were are and always will remain there. the only thing that will change is their size because the whole concept is evolutionary and it is in constant flux depending on the multiple complexities of anti-doping realities and misconceptions about bio passport. which are:

(i) 'it’s an expensive ‘hematocrit limit' equivalent instead of a tool to bring an ad violation charge''
no, from the beginning wada intended it as a dual-purpose tool both to bring up charges (when sufficient evidence exists) and to support intelligent targeted testing. a bp test is cheap costing only 10% of the epo test.

(ii) 'why the passport is not catching big fish ?'
several reasons. some were mentioned above.

-advanced micro dosing is ahead of blood passport. simple as that. i remarked on micro dosing here
http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showpost.php?p=195397&postcount=15

- legal standard of proof is still out of step with the current level of confidence in physiological data. (btw, it is a mistake to assume it’s not known. it’s always been - 95% confidence level for a 'traditional test' or bp)
- those examining charts and tables (science) are separated by the vast ocean from those responsible for the results management (sports politics)

- inherent contradiction in the declared goals of the antidoping fight (zero tolerance) and the sharpness of the tools to achieve it (largely a philosophical legal point but it comes down to ‘punishment does not fit the crime’ forcing legal advisers to go very conservative). Example: people want life sentences for the first-time offenders whilst spare doping in many cases we can’t even be sure if haemoglobin changed due to altitude or dehydration.

(iii) 'pethstein case was a pioneering case/flood gate opener'.
no it was not. it is still contradictory and was decided on only one out of whack blood parameter (% rets) whereas wada mandates at least 8 direct markers.

but in several days with a new positive the mess and confusion will continue…
 
I Watch Cycling In July said:
This is where I think they might have problems. Where is the data on the statistical variations in blood parameters for clean pro cyclist undergoing varied conditions of training, rest, racing and altitude coming from?

The only data set available that is large enough to usefully narrow down the statistical variations, is probably the passport data itself. But these data will be contaminated by profiles of riders who are doping and haven't been busted. See where this is heading?........
They are not telling us but they are calibrating the results against the French Bio Passport.:D
 
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BroDeal said:
This is the problem with the UCI's passport. They have given up what should be the largest benefit of longitudinal tracking, which is to identify the effects of doping rather than the dope itself. With proper longitudinal testing, use of a new drug should be stopped long before there is a test for the drug or the testers even know that the drug exists. By only using the passport for targeted testing the UCI has formed an insiders club where the riders who are successful enough or on big enough teams are free to transfuse their own blood and the poor bastards at the bottom of the sport are used as scapegoats.

There is nothing to stop a GT rider from transfusing four units of his own blood during a race. The graph of his blood profile can look like the Teton mountain range and the UCI can't/won't do a thing about it.


How do you know and why did they give up longitudinal tracking?

Maybe they just need more time to really have confidence in where the cut of for variability is.

Are there published details on the program anywhere or just the PR crap?
 
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I Watch Cycling In July said:
This is where I think they might have problems. Where is the data on the statistical variations in blood parameters for clean pro cyclist undergoing varied conditions of training, rest, racing and altitude coming from?

The only data set available that is large enough to usefully narrow down the statistical variations, is probably the passport data itself. But these data will be contaminated by profiles of riders who are doping and haven't been busted. See where this is heading?........


Well said.

Doping is always a confounding variable!

How could you have a control group that you were sure didn't dope, but still under went the extreme racing/training treatments?
 
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I Watch Cycling In July said:
This is where I think they might have problems. Where is the data on the statistical variations in blood parameters for clean pro cyclist undergoing varied conditions of training, rest, racing and altitude coming from?

The only data set available that is large enough to usefully narrow down the statistical variations, is probably the passport data itself. But these data will be contaminated by profiles of riders who are doping and haven't been busted. See where this is heading?........

Actually this is not as bad as you think. Each rider will be his own control group which is the essence of longitudinal testing. The only way around this is obviously year-round doping during the season and the off season (since testing should be done throughout the year). That would be really, really hard to maintain since you want some recovery phases. In practice, the late off season would be the time where you start squirreling away blood bags, which you then want to put back during some major event. It's hard to pull this off without some weird looking variations in the profile. It would stand out even more if we had the total volume test using CO2. I wonder when that's ready. We talked a lot about it last year. Haven't heard much since.
 
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Thanks for the response. I understand what you're saying, but I disagree on some of the conclusions.

python said:
(i) 'it’s an expensive ‘hematocrit limit' equivalent instead of a tool to bring an ad violation charge''
no, from the beginning wada intended it as a dual-purpose tool both to bring up charges (when sufficient evidence exists) and to support intelligent targeted testing. a bp test is cheap costing only 10% of the epo test.

Thing is, the first part hasn't panned out so far. The second part has been quite successful, so I would not call the blood passport a total failure, but the glass is at best half full (half empty from my perspective)

(ii) 'why the passport is not catching big fish ?'
several reasons. some were mentioned above.

agree

-advanced micro dosing is ahead of blood passport. simple as that. i remarked on micro dosing here
http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showpost.php?p=195397&postcount=15

agree. In particular mixing of different EPO-like products

- legal standard of proof is still out of step with the current level of confidence in physiological data. (btw, it is a mistake to assume it’s not known. it’s always been - 95% confidence level for a 'traditional test' or bp)

This is dicey. If you really want to calibrate the false positive (and false negative), you have to use at one point real high-performance athletes which have a somewhat special physiology. That's always been a bit of a problem. Also, the number would be based on statistics alone. What about systematic uncertainties? Certain athletes might have certain, special conditions (see Pechstein's claims).

- those examining charts and tables (science) are separated by the vast ocean from those responsible for the results management (sports politics)

obviously an important point

- inherent contradiction in the declared goals of the antidoping fight (zero tolerance) and the sharpness of the tools to achieve it (largely a philosophical legal point but it comes down to ‘punishment does not fit the crime’ forcing legal advisers to go very conservative). Example: people want life sentences for the first-time offenders whilst spare doping in many cases we can’t even be sure if haemoglobin changed due to altitude or dehydration.

That's probably the most confounding issue. How can you claim zero tolerance when you can't enforce it?

(iii) 'pethstein case was a pioneering case/flood gate opener'.
no it was not. it is still contradictory and was decided on only one out of whack blood parameter (% rets) whereas wada mandates at least 8 direct markers.

I brought this up, so I guess this is directed at me. Yes, the case is a mess, so it's not pioneering anything right now. However, it was the first case based solely on longitudinal testing without any conventional positive (say direct proof of EPO use or whatever)

but in several days with a new positive the mess and confusion will continue…
 
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The legal aspect - to get a conviction based on proof/evidence - is always hard to achieve but, or better, therefore, is not necessarily an impediment to catching violators. There is no ideal forensic world either, in other words, there is no CSI-like certainty. Labs can only aspire to do the best job possible, which will not eliminate everything exculpatory/damaging; it just changes the percentages. With the blood passport, at most they will be able to indicate, with a degree of certainty expressed as a percentage, is whether his blood parameters show signs of manipulation.

The jury/judges will decide whether 55%, 66%, 75%, 80%, 95% likelihood of manipulation is enough to convict a defendant. In addition, besides the BP there might be other evidence, that can determine which side the pendulum swings.

Even if all skaters or cyclists suddenly discover that they have diseases, which no doubt will be increasingly diagnosed in the near future, I still believe legitimate accusations and convictions will be reached.

IMO the legal aspect is not the biggest obstacle, although cases could potentially take a long time before a decision has been reached. I am also inclined to believe that sports tribunals will err on the side of caution.

This is not to say that any manipulation (micro-dosing) will be picked up.
 
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Bala Verde said:
Even if all skaters or cyclists suddenly discover that they have diseases, which no doubt will be increasingly diagnosed in the near future, I still believe legitimate accusations and convictions will be reached.

Epstein-Barr virus evidence of doping?
 
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pro atheletes aren't healthy

Just the extreme training regimens, and low body fat are enough to weaken the immune system. These guys and gals have no 'reserves' for their body to use when under attack by various bacteria and viruses. They are practically under starvation conditions for most of the season.
 
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Cobblestones said:
Actually this is not as bad as you think. Each rider will be his own control group which is the essence of longitudinal testing.... In practice, the late off season would be the time where you start squirreling away blood bags, which you then want to put back during some major event. It's hard to pull this off without some weird looking variations in the profile....

Longitudinal testing might well be a good way to define absolute upper and lower limits for the blood values of a given rider. For most riders, I don't believe it's a feasible way to determine what their natural short term variation in blood values is, because testing is too infrequent. So, surely an understanding of natural variations over a week or so, has to come from the passport data as a whole.

Just speculating here. If you know that acceptable variations over a range of time frames are calculated individually for each rider, feel free to enlighten me.