PtG Article 08.09.2006

Blood profiles and anti-doping expert to clean up cycling

The beleaguered cycling sport is breaking new paths in its attempts to combat doping and restore public trust. The German Cycling Federation, BDR, has decided that all professional cyclists riding for German teams must submit to a control system using blood profiles by 2007. Meanwhile Team CSC has signed up a Danish anti-doping expert to set up a new anti-doping regime.

In the future all cyclists riding for professional German teams or representing Germany internationally must submit a blood profile to a databank administered by doctors independent of the cycling teams.

Amongst other things, a blood profile measures the level of immature red blood corpuscles, and it is possible to screen the athlete over time to look for variations that may indicate use of doping. Blood profiles have been used successfully by the International Skiing Federation but obviously requires frequent controls.

However, the German cycling teams have already accepted to take part in regular testing during periods of training, and sponsors and race organisers are ready to provide the money for enlarging the capacity of laboratories to undertake more tests, Rudolf Scharping, President of the German Cycling Federation, told

”Cycling is facing an enormous crisis, and the credibility of the sport depends on the degree to which this decision is implemented,” said Scharping.

CSC hires outspoken anti-doping researcher

Meanwhile Team CSC has asked the well-known Danish doctor and anti-doping researcher, Rasmus Damsgaard, to be a consultant for their anti-doping strategy.

Damsgaard is already in charge of the anti-doping programme in the International Skiiing Federation and has decided to accept the new post provided that Team CSC pays money into a research foundation which in turn employs Damsgaard. That way he aims to preserve his independence.

The details have not been finalised in the agreement between Team CSC and Damsgaard, but he has told the Danish newspaper, Dagens Medicin, that he would like to take methods developed in the International Skiing Federation and use them on the cycling team.

”Cyclists have been using old-fashioned methods of doping so we will use the methods we already know but do it in a new way. Today most cyclists are tested during races but very cyclists would dope themselves during a race. It is much better to test during periods of training, do it unannounced and use different tests each time so the athletes does not know what he is being tested for,” Damsgaard told Dagens Medicin.

Damsgaard has a high media profile especially in Denmark and has been very critical of Danish anti-doping efforts. After the offer from Team CSC, doubts have emerged in Danish media that Damsgaard is in the process of selling his professional integrity.

”But everything I have said in the media would sound extremely hollow if I do not take this opportunity. I have said that there are many ways to tackle this problem, and I think it is my duty to work with a very good cycling team who is facing a major problem. I owe it to the cyclists,” is Damsgaard’s response to his critics.

He hopes that he can develop a new form of doping control which is better than the sysems operated by the the International Cycling Federation, UCI, and national anti-doping agencies.

Pat McQuaid, President of UCI, told that he welcomes Team CSC’s decision to appoint ”that doping expert”.

”The teams have to accept responsibilities for their riders now, and, fortunately, they are now starting to do that. They can not just stand there anymore and say we can not control them 100 per cent of the time,” McQuaid said.