Athlete Biological Passport FAQ
The athlete biological passport (ABP) is an innovative advancement in the fight against doping. In close cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and our Canadian sport partners, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) has begun implementing the ABP in Canada.
The passport is a turning point in the fight against doping. It is part of the continuous effort to eliminate doping from Canadian sport.
What is new about this approach to anti-doping is that:
- It draws upon important new scientific methods of indirect detection.
- It uses sophisticated statistical tools to interpret results.
- It uses a sequence of tests to provide a longitudinal profile thus creating for each athlete a specific reference range for biological variables in urine and blood.
What is an Athlete Biological Passport (ABP)?
The fundamental principle of the ABP is the monitoring of selected biological variables which indirectly reveal the effects of doping, as opposed to the traditional direct detection of doping. Biological monitoring throughout an athlete’s sporting career should make any prohibited preparation far harder to implement as the variables unique to that athlete would indicate the potential use of a prohibited substance or method.
The ABP is an electronic record of an individual athlete's biological attributes, developed over time from multiple sample collections. Rather than typical one-off testing approaches, which look for unnatural ratios between biological constituents in a single sample or for direct chemical evidence of known doping agents, the ABP allows anti-doping experts to see the big picture—any deviations from the athlete’s test-established norm that might result from doping, even if the specific drug or tactic remains unknown.
The ABP will be used to meet the two-fold objective of pursuing possible anti-doping rule violations under the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP) and supporting more intelligent target testing of athletes for conventional doping control.
Is the biological passport concept currently being used?
The passport concept is not new. However, its implementation in accordance with harmonized standards for sample collection, transportation, analysis and results management has been achieved with the publication of the WADA Athlete Biological Passport Guidelines. A number of international sport federations have been implementing their own versions of the passport program over the last number of years.
Does this mean I will be tested more often?
Yes and no. CCES’ focus is on intelligent testing. By closely analyzing the blood and urine sample data collected, we’ll be more efficient at focusing on the sports and the athletes deemed at higher risk. More tests will be conducted in these sports and on these athletes. CCES will also work to collaborate closely with other international sport federations and national anti-doping organizations to more effectively plan testing missions.
When will samples be collected? By whom?
Athletes should expect to be asked to provide a blood or urine sample at any time of the year and in any place. Blood and urine samples may be collected before or after a competition, during preparation/training periods or during the non-competitive periods. If the athlete has exercised, trained or competed within the last two hours, they will have to wait until the two-hour period has elapsed to provide a blood sample for the purposes of the ABP program. This will ensure the highest level of consistency in blood variable values collected over time.
All samples will be collected by authorized CCES doping control officers. Blood collection officers will have appropriate qualifications approved by the CCES.
Will the Athlete Biological Passport replace traditional anti-doping testing?
No. However, if the standard urine and blood tests, which are essentially toxicology tests, are to be maintained and improved through increasingly sophisticated analytical methods, these will be combined with effective new tools such as biological monitoring. The fight against doping relies on several strategies, including the direct testing of athletes as well as evidence gathered in the context of non-analytical doping violations. By combining these strategies, and seeking new ones to address emerging threats, the global fight against doping is more effective.
How does this fit with current provisions of the CADP?
The traditional approach of most anti-doping organizations places considerable (but not exclusive) emphasis on Adverse Analytical Findings (under Articles 7.23-7.27 of the CADP). This direct approach is reliant on the identification of new prohibited substances, and the development of analytical methods to detect them. An indirect approach, such as the ABP program, while still subject to the same scientific rigour, would reduce the urgency for new analytical tests, allow for doping to be detected while these new tests are being developed, and increase the deterrent effect of testing.
Under the ABP program, once evidence is gathered to an agreed level of certainty (the sufficient nature of the data will be decided following consultation with scientific experts), it is possible to commence disciplinary proceedings against an athlete for an asserted anti-doping rule violation under Article 7.28-7.30 of the CADP (Use or Attempted Use).
How are individual reference ranges established and reviewed?
The statistical thinking behind the ABP program is that the data from previous samples will predict the likely profile limits for future samples. In other words, as more tests are conducted on an athlete, the biological results that are generated will confirm an athlete’s reference range.
If the analytical data for a sample differs significantly from the athlete’s reference range, this abnormal value may be indicative of doping or a pathological condition.
What is being profiled in my blood?
A full blood count can be taken on the samples with the following markers being considered for the blood profiling:
- HCT: Hematocrit
- HGB: Hemoglobin
- RBC: Red blood cells count
- RET%: The percentage of reticulocyte
- RET#: Reticulocytes count
- MCV: Mean corpuscular volume
- MCH: Mean corpuscular hemoglobin
- MCHC: Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration
- OFF-hr Score: Index of stimulation Blood profile score
What impact does this have on the whereabouts regulations?
All whereabouts regulations and related consequences remain exactly the same as for any other anti-doping sample collection.
What is the reason for the two-hour waiting period? How will this impact the athlete?
This is a WADA requirement following their consultation with a variety of experts. It ensures athletes are in a physiological ‘steady state’ at the time of sample collection. We intend to avoid two-hour waits as much as possible by using athlete whereabouts information. Keeping your whereabouts information updated including your training activities will allow us to plan sample collections that, where possible, avoids such scenarios and therefore any waiting time. The volume of blood being taken (6ml) should not impinge on any training. Athletes are not training continuously so opportunities for ABP testing should regularly exist.
Does sample collection have to be at no advanced notice?
The CADP permits both no-notice and advance notice testing. Either could occur related to blood collection. However, the majority of ABP program tests will be no-notice.
Who will have access to the profiles?
CCES will have access to the profiles through ADAMS. CCES will only be sharing this information with its specifically created expert panel in accordance with the WADA requirements, and in special cases, with international sport federations who also operate in accordance with the ABP program and WADA Privacy Standards. We will not be sharing the profiles with national sport organizations.
Athletes will also have access to their own data through ADAMS. If athletes do not see their data in ADAMS immediately they should not be concerned as there may be delays . If athletes wish to share this data with others then this is their choice and will not pose a problem.
How will CCES ensure medical confidentiality?
The confidentiality of this data will be handled in the exact same way as confidential data from any other anti-doping test or therapeutic use exemption application.
Will CCES always collect a blood sample and a urine sample from me now that the ABP program has started?
No. The choice of which sample is to be provided will remain with CCES and could be any combination of blood, urine or both.