Quick Question, is the 50% rule still in effect?

Well, since by definition, the passport means that an allowed hematocrit is contextual, depending on previous values of the rider in question, I don't see how a 50% rule could be in play any more. If you're going to take a rider's blood sample periodically, you might as well measure other parameters as well. The only advantage of the 50% rule was that one could very quickly determine whether the rule had been broken. But even then, a violation was only followed by a short suspension, pending other tests, which were basically the precursor of the passport.

So the short answer is that, without even seeing any rules or lack of, I have to assume the 50% rule is no longer enforced, i.e., blood samples are never taken from a rider for the sole purpose of determining his hematocrit. There are two other reasons why I can't imagine its being carried out any more. First, a main purpose of the rule was not just to catch cheaters, but for the safety of the riders, to prevent them from raising their HT to dangerous levels. The passport achieves the same purpose.

Second, the passport has made it difficult if not impossible for riders to raise their natural HT by more than a few points. So the only riders who are likely to have a HT of > 50% are ones with a natural HT close to that value. That's a small minority, and the relatively few riders in that group would be more effectively monitored by passport.
 
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MI is correct I believe, the 50% rule went out with the passport. My understanding though is that hematocrit is one of the values measured. Racers are more likely to get busted on molecular pieces of evidence in their blood than on a slight increase in hematocrit I think.
 
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The rule is also likely gone because the anti-doping and health experts behind the 50 % rule didn't really believe that it was too dangerous to ride if one's Hct was a slightly higher one.

Otherwise the UCI would not've given some riders such as Jonathan Vaughters, Alberto Contador and Charly Wegelius permission to compete with Hct a few points above the limit.
 
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Oct 7, 2019
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The UCI 50 % rule, was abolished in 2008.


"Hayles's chances of selection for Beijing - and his last chance to go for gold - more ore less ended on the opening day of the 2008 World Track Championships in Manchester. The UCI blood testers turned up at the team hotel that first morning and Hayles was found to have a haematocrit 0.3 points above the 50% limit. The rules said that was unhealthy and he was benched. Just about everyone - including his wife and Dave Brailsford - asked him if he'd doped. He maintained his innocence."
"British Cycling presented data to the UCI and at some point later that year the UCI dropped the 50% rule."
 
The rule is also likely gone because the anti-doping and health experts behind the 50 % rule didn't really believe that it was too dangerous to ride if one's Hct was a slightly higher one.

Otherwise the UCI would not've given some riders such as Jonathan Vaughters, Alberto Contador and Charly Wegelius permission to compete with Hct a few points above the limit.
Don't forget Cunego (allegedly his Htc was suddenly always under 50% once the passport got introduced).
I believe that some of the Colombians almost have to be above 50%, I'm around 49.5% while my ferritin levels are on the lower end of what's normal.
 
The rule is also likely gone because the anti-doping and health experts behind the 50 % rule didn't really believe that it was too dangerous to ride if one's Hct was a slightly higher one.
I recall asking JV about the rule eight or nine years ago. He said it had been scrapped because of the ABP, that once that was up to speed it wasn't needed, both from a scientific and a financial point of view.

I'm not sure of the science behind the rule. The Italians looked at the effects of dehydration, but that was Pasquale Bellotti and the guys at CSAD at the 1999 Giro. That was three years after various people had called for the rule to be introduced: Francesco Conconi in June 1996; Daniel Baal, Roger Legeay and Jean-Marie Leblanc in October 1996; in November 1996 it was a group of Italian riders calling for its introduction (Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci, Maurizio Fondriest and Marco Pantani - all visitors to Ferrara).
 
I recall asking JV about the rule eight or nine years ago. He said it had been scrapped because of the ABP, that once that was up to speed it wasn't needed, both from a scientific and a financial point of view.

I'm not sure of the science behind the rule. The Italians looked at the effects of dehydration, but that was Pasquale Bellotti and the guys at CSAD at the 1999 Giro. That was three years after various people had called for the rule to be introduced: Francesco Conconi in June 1996; Daniel Baal, Roger Legeay and Jean-Marie Leblanc in October 1996; in November 1996 it was a group of Italian riders calling for its introduction (Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci, Maurizio Fondriest and Marco Pantani - all visitors to Ferrara).

I'm guessing that in late 1996 someone worked out how to beat the test. The only retro doping story I would be interested in now is Ferrari, Cecchini, Conconi, Fuentes et al telling their story. No need to name names, just how they worked.
 
I think FMK's essay "Tough on doping" gives a good look into the discussion that took place within the cycling community even when in the end it isn't totally evident why it was only 1996 when the "No start rule" was introduced and why the 50 % limit was chosen.

If one looks also into other sports, there could be one clue about the timing. This is because by 1996 it was evident that hemoglobin concentrations of cross-country skiers had increased significantly since the first mandatory tests were implemented in 1989, a trend most evident in the female competitors.

Whereas the highest female value was 14.8 g/dl in 1989 at the World Championships it was 15.7 at the 1994 Olympics. A year later at the Thunder Bay WC the highest value was 16.8 and a year later (likely) at a World Cup race a female competitor measured at 19.7 g/dl which is close to 60 % Hct.

L'Equipe also wrote in January 1997 that XC-skier Manuela di Centa had a "near-death experience" (not sure exactly when, haven't seen the original source). She was known to have been one of Dr. Conconi's clients and some media reports claimed that her Hb level was measured at 22.0 g/dl (Hct ~65-66 %) which could've been far too high for Dr. Conconi's preferences and pushed the professor to favour the "no start rule".

There necessarily was no medical evidence that 50 % was the "right" hematocrit limit, and it has been alleged that cyclists themselves wanted the limit to be lower than the 54 % proposed by Conconi initially. The International Ski Federation had also initially a much higher value of 18.5 g/dl (~55-56 % Hct) but lowered it gradually to 17.0 g/l corresponding roughly to that of cycling.
 
One of those stories needs an edit, it was after they were done that I asked JV about it, so I'm wrong in whichever one it is I say that the rule was still in existence in 2011.

The external factors - as you say, what was happening in skiing - should also be a part of it. That said, my own feeling is that Brisson spooked the horses, then with the Gazzetta and L'Équipe stories it became part of crisis management. Even years after Verbruggen continued to call it an interim measure, maybe he really did believe that to be the case, that an EPO test was just around the corner. See this, part of his response to the CIRC report.
 
The external factors - as you say, what was happening in skiing - should also be a part oft... Even years after Verbruggen continued to call it an interim measure, maybe he really did believe that to be the case, that an EPO test was just around the corner. See this, part of his response to the CIRC report.
Another sports that influenced UCI must've been speed skating, and it had perhaps the strictest blood testing protocol in the late-1990s with its SAFE-program (Safe and Fair Event) with the first biological passport protocol developed mainly by Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen.

I actually do think that Hein Vergburggen and practically the entire sports world believed that "the test" was just around the corner from 1993-1995 onwards when it was announced that many independent teams had different approaches to detect the abuse of the RBC hormone, and they were in some publications very optimistic that their methods would be applicable with just a little extra finetuning (which turned out to be the case with the Swedish method funded initially in 1993 that would be the basis for the Lasne-Ceaurritz EPO-test). It is still interesting why some lines of research are just forgotten with no explanation, just like also in the case of autotransfusion detection when there is really no explanation why the Berglund-Hemmingsson research of the mid-1980s just ended up into the dustbin of history.

The verbruggen.ch - website is interesting website, and the articles are surprisingly thoughtful, original, and informative, and he is spot on occasionally:
The summary of the CIRC’s reasoning is then found on page 118: the health tests “acted as a cataclyst to spread even further the use of EPO in the peloton, because in essence it condoned the use of EPO to a certain limit. The message was basically that ‘you could dope, but not too much’”.
...
If there had been no health tests and no no-start rule, riders could have increased their haematocrit with EPO up to 60 % or more, without risking a no-start. So, in the reasoning of the CIRC, the absence of a no-start rule would then have condoned the use of EPO without limit. In the reasoning of the CIRC, the message would have been: you can dope as you like. Would the CIRC have preferred this then? What a nonsense!
 

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