Sunday, February 1, 2009

The blood profiles of cyclists are providing evidence of doping

Nicole Jeffery, doping | January 27, 2009

Article from: The Australian

THE first case of a cyclist being charged with doping on the evidence of his blood profile is expected to be prosecuted in the coming months, according to Australian anti-doping expert Robin Parisotto.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been building up blood profiles of its professional cyclists by taking thousands of blood samples over the past year.

Canberra scientist Parisotto, who sits on the UCI panel overseeing the anti-doping program, said yesterday more than 30 suspicious samples had been analysed and there was enough evidence to pursue a handful of riders for doping violations.

"We are only collating the results now but I expect in the next few months the UCI will be taking action against some cyclists," Parisotto said.

The blood profiling is designed to identify any cyclists using banned drugs or methods which manipulate the blood to improve endurance. He said suspicious samples usually contained high haemoglobin levels, or unusually low levels (which would indicate a cyclist was extracting blood to be re-injected during competition).

"There are discussions now about which are the strongest cases to go after," Parisotto said.

"There's only a handful they can confidently follow up. But I believe in some cases the results are fairly strong and the athlete will have a hard time explaining them."

The first cycling case will be a test for this new method of identifying drug cheats.

Parisotto said there was a smaller number of suspicious samples than he would have expected if the program had been in operation three or four years earlier.

"Now there is more of an effort being made to weed out the cheats and I think some of them are getting scared," he said.

"The risk of getting caught is becoming much greater now that they have to worry about what's in their blood."

Parisotto, who developed one of the first tests for the blood booster EPO in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics, is also working on the next weapon in the anti-doping war, genetic profiling.

"The technology is there now to do gene profiling on blood tests," Parisotto said.

He said any use of blood doping would show up in changes to an individual's gene activity.

The laboratories will just have to chart the abnormal changes that the drugs make to the blood and genes of the athlete.

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