Sunday, January 16, 2011

Athlete's Biological Passport

This is a very interesting article I received from AST Sports Science. I am anti-drug, and I especially despise it in competitive sports, it's cheating. I work hard to get where I am and I don't want to compete against a pharmacy, and unfortunately, in many cases, I am doing just that.

As SC once told me "drugs" work!, any idiot can succeed with them"

The Athlete’s Bio-Passport is Here: Drug cheats beware!

 By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS

Competitive athletes take note, testing for banned substances has reached an entirely new level. Late last year the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a document describing the long-awaited "athlete’s biological passport" – a new dimension in drug detection.

Under usual testing procedures, an athlete would provide a urine or blood sample for the direct detection of selected banned substances. However, with the athlete’s biological passport the entire composition of an athlete's blood is under scrutiny for illegal doping, even if no substance is found.

The fundamental principle of the Athlete Biological Passport is based on the monitoring of selected biological variables which indirectly reveal the effects of doping.

Under the guidelines approved by WADA, an athlete provides a series of samples which become a biological ‘fingerprint’ for that individual. Regular updated records of blood measurements for each athlete are obtained, compared and contrasted throughout their entire career.

Biological monitoring throughout an athlete’s sporting career should make any prohibited preparation much harder to implement.

The athlete’s biological passport was first suggested in 2002 and is already being piloted by several major sports federations. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been piloting biological passports for the past two years on 840 cyclists in Italy and Spain. The UCI has already found five athletes whose passports have been deemed suspicious and are awaiting a doping verdict in coming months.

This method is already used by the International Skating Union (ISU) and has resulted in a guilty verdict, a first for this kind of monitoring. After some unusual blood-cell readings, German speed skater Claudia Pechstein has been banned from competing for two years – a very important legal precedent.

The ISU detected spikes in the proportion of Pechstein's blood cells that were reticulocytes, young red blood cells recently released from bone marrow. Normally, about 1% are reticulocytes, but the proportion climbs to 3% following doping with substances such as erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that promotes the development of new red cells.

The ISU accused Pechstein of illegally enriching her blood. Pechstein claimed the abnormal counts were because of a blood disease, and appealed the decision.

There are natural causes for altered reticulocyte count, such as anaemia. However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world authority for adjudication on doping cases, ruled in favour of the ISU, rejecting Pechstein's claim that she had a blood condition after a haematologist (selected by the athlete) was unable to find any signs of disease.

How do you assess blood doping?

Heamatocrit is the proportion of blood volume occupied by red blood cells. Red blood cell count is the number of red blood cells per volume of blood. Changes in these alongside an increase in haemoglobin mass can be indicative of doping.

Other measures such as the mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), which is a measure of the concentration of haemoglobin, can be used to reflect and support these changes in red blood cell count and heamatocrit.

Normally the proportion of reticulocytes in adult blood is about 1% of all red cells. However, use of erythropoietin (EPO – an illegal substance) will characteristically boost this to 3 or 4%.

WADA is hoping for widespread adoption of these biological passports because they have the ability to detect signs of doping without identifying specific substances, which can be elusive. They might also detect doping that doesn't involve illegal substances but produces measurable effects on the body, such as blood transfusions or even gene doping. It may never replace the assessment of banned substances. However, one pertinent aspect, is that every reading is retained, the bio-passport never forgets.
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