In the News: Biological passport produces results but raises questions

As the biological passport has become commonplace in sport, some cases, like that of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke raise questions

Photo: Tim De Waele

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BBC News reports that, while the biological passport has been an effective way to catch cheats, it has also resulted in cases that fall into a gray area.

The case of former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is one of them. He became the first British athlete to be sanctioned in a biological passport case that hinged on his explanation for a single abnormal test taken a week after winning the 2012 Tour of Britain.

That test, the first he would take as part of the passport program, produced blood values that did not match four samples he provided over the course of 2013. This accumulation of data is how the experts establish what is “normal” for each athlete. In Tiernan-Locke’s case, the anomaly came first.

Specifically, the test appeared to show he had either been using the blood-boosting drug EPO in the weeks before the British race, or had had a transfusion to achieve the same effect. There was, however, no “positive.”

Tiernan-Locke denies any wrongdoing, saying his blood values were skewed that morning because he was recovering from a bottle of wine, half a dozen double gins and a few vodkas for the road: a night on the tiles with his girlfriend.

He says he felt so ill the following day he did not eat or drink, for fear of vomiting, which left him dehydrated when he was randomly tested the following morning.

Dr Kingsley Hampton, a consultant hematologist, told a tribunal this summer that a binge-drinking session could result in “wildly abnormal” readings. UK Anti-Doping put up two of the UCI’s biological passport experts to say otherwise.

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