A little over a year ago, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS) ruled that the Burgos-BH cyclist Ibai Salas had committed an anti-doping rule violation in his biological passport. The TAS is the referee of world sport, an independent body that was created in its day by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and that is in charge of resolving legal-sporting disputes through an arbitration system. It is made up of 300 independent jurists from 87 different countries, all of them specialized in arbitration and sports law. It is based in Lausanne (Switzerland) and branches in Sydney (Australia) and New York (United States). And it is governed by a code (‘Code of Sports-related arbitration’), which, among other things, forces
renew TAS jurists for four-year terms. This body, whose decisions are binding, ruled that the values of Ibai Salas detected in his biological passport were highly abnormal and indicated a high probability of doping. One year and two months after this award, anti-doping in Spain continues in a black hole with regard to this method of fighting cheating. The biological passport was deactivated by the Spanish courts, after the TAS had ruled in favor of sanctioning the cyclist. In that emptiness that remains waiting for what the National Court decides, our country is the only one in its normative and social environment that cannot sanction any athlete with this system.
The biological passport began to be used in 2008 and its function is to detect possible cases of blood doping. It is an individualized record of professional athletes in which their biological values are compiled. A kind of health chart in which these markers are tracked for weeks, months or years. If there are very substantial variations in the athlete’s blood values (up to eleven are quantified), far from the usual limits, a tribunal of three specialized and internationally accredited doctors can determine that there is a positive result, called adverse in the soft jargon of language in anti-doping.
“The main utility of the biological passport is to detect these anomalous values because it allows us to design a program of targeted and individualized doping controls. Only in exceptional cases and when the anomalies are very specific and very large ”, explains Dr. José Luis Terreros, director of the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency, officially called the Spanish Agency for the protection of Health in Sport (AEPSAD).
Although the term biological passport is of recent creation, the use of biological markers to determine positive cases it has a long history in the history of anti-doping. As explained, it is not based on the detection of a doping substance in urine or blood controls, but on deviations from biological parameters. The Testosterone on Epitestosterone Test was already used in the 1980s to try to detect anabolic steroids in urine. And in the late 1990s, when EPO (erythropoietin) was rampant, some federations introduced blood doping markers to deter the use of EPO, which was then undetectable in laboratories. Many athletes have seen the biological passport as an attempt to guarantee fairness in elite sports.
It was not what he considered the Administrative Court of Sport (TAD), a Spanish collegiate body that resolves the review functions of the different federations in matters of doping, sports discipline and legality in electoral processes. The TAD agreed with Ibai Salas and interpreted that the biological passport could not be a method of proof to sanction.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) then intervened. Hand in hand with the Spanish agency, he appealed the sentence to the Spanish courts. The Contentious-Administrative Court number 7 of Madrid concluded that Salas should not be punished for four years for irregularities in the passport. “The value of proof would violate the fundamental right to the presumption of innocence, which must govern the administrative sanctioning procedure … and would even go against Article 24 of the Constitution,” the Spanish judge decided.
“But Article 39.5 of the Spanish anti-doping law says that the biological passport can be used as a means of proof, but the judge considered that it can generate defenselessness in the athlete. In Europe, more than a hundred athletes have already been sanctioned with the biological passport method ”, comment sources from the Spanish Agency.
The situation has led to an appeal by the AMA before the National Court that is pending resolution. At various international meetings, WADA has already shown its skepticism regarding doping in Spain. Remember the question of several members of the IOC in Buenos Aires in the election of Madrid as the Olympic venue in 2020, taking an interest in the Puerto operation and the destruction of Eufemiano Fuentes’s blood bags.
Also the fiery defense of former president Rodríguez Zapatero regarding the positive of Alberto Contador, finally sanctioned. Or the designation as Senator for the Popular Party of Marta Domínguez, axis of the Galgo operation related to doping and drug trafficking in athletics developed by the Civil Guard. Or the two-year sanction for Alejandro Valverde, promoted in Italy by crossing the cyclist’s blood bag with an analysis carried out in the Tour de France …
Meanwhile, at the Spanish anti-doping headquarters It is prayed that there is no case like that of Ibai Salas from Bilbao. That there is no flagrant anomaly in the hematological values of a biological passport, which requires declaring a result as positive / adverse and there is no regulatory support to support it. What exists at the moment is a black hole, an unclear void regarding the most valuable tool of international anti-doping.