Last week the IAAF, the world governing body for track and field, announced that it was investigating 17 cases of suspected doping on the basis of its biological passport program. That's on top of the 19 athletes the IAAF has already sanctioned through the program, beginning last May with Portuguese long-distance runner Hélder Ornelas (right).
The IAAF began using the biological passport in 2009 after an analysis of 8,000 drug tests since '01 showed abnormalities in 14% of athletes, though the evidence was not enough to support any doping positives. Traditional tests look specifically for prohibited drugs or for substances created by the body as a direct result of the presence of drugs. The biological passport, in contrast, tracks blood and hormone variables over time, creating a personal profile for each athlete. Even if no single test is positive, doping can be detected via unnatural fluctuations in blood and hormone levels.
In 2008 the International Cycling Union became the first sporting body to use the biological passport. Since then, the power output of top riders on the mountain stages of the Tour de France has declined by about 10%, a drop widely attributed by cyclists and drug testers alike to the adoption of the biological passport. (Blood doping has not been eradicated. Paul Scott of Scott Analytics, which provides drug testing services to cycling teams, says that the passport simply means riders "aren't doping as effectively as they were before.") Lance Armstrong has maintained that he did not dope during his comeback in '09 and '10, but blood tests he posted online show, over time, an increase in the proportion of mature red blood cells and a decrease in the production of new red blood cells during the '09 Tour—two telltale signals of doping according to biological passport criteria.
Earlier this month the International Tennis Federation, under pressure from such stars as Roger Federer and Andy Murray, announced it would adopt the biological passport program. None of the major American professional sports have done so. The NFL says it is under consideration. According to Adolpho Birch, the league's VP of Law and Labor Policy, the NFL has used time lines of multiple urine tests to help establish violations for testosterone doping in the past. But the league currently does not have blood testing, on which the passport program relies.
Antidoping experts who spoke with SI said that the influx of positives in track and field is a heartening sign that the passport works, but they also predicted that as time goes on, athletes will learn how to fool this system just as they discovered ways to beat other forms of PED testing in the past. The passport may be the next stage in the fight against doping—but it likely won't be the last.
Match the sports figure with his Twitter exploits last week
The MEDIA Circus
UCLA Football Coach
Texas A&M QB
A. Photograph taken of him in Cabo shows rival team mascot tattooed on his ribcage; gets into spat with detractors, tweeting, "tell your mom I said wassup."
B. Tracked his biggest Twitter troll to his home and forced an apology out of him—and live tweeted the whole affair: "I'm here!!! Someone tell me what number he lives at, or do I have to knock on every door? #itsshowtime."
C. The free agent applied for a job at Chick-fil-A, then tweeted, "Couldn't even get a sammich just asked for a cup of water and an application lol."
D. Conducted an entertaining Q&A with fans on the Twitter feed of his girlfriend, revealing that his favorite snack is Junior Mints.
E. Advised his Twitter followers to "VOTE AUBREY" in the American Idol sing-off between Aubrey Cleland and Charlie Askew.
Answers: Durant, C; Mora, E; Woodhouse, B; Belichick, D; Manziel, A
THEY SAID IT
"I thought we stunk, and I'm not going to give Buffalo any credit.... We sucked, and we sucked at a time that you can't suck."
JOHN TORTORELLA, Rangers coach, ranting after a 3--1 loss to the Sabres
GENE J. PUSKAR/AP (TORTORELLA)
NIC BOTHMA/EPA (ORNELAS)
JOE ROBBINS/GETTY IMAGES (DURANT)
DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (MORA)
ED SYKES/ACTION IMAGES/ZUMAPRESS.COM (WOODHOUSE)
SIMON BRUTY/SI (BELICHICK)
BILL FRAKES/SI (MANZIEL)