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“According to Landis, the coup de grace that made this methodology work was that he and his U.S. Postal Service teammates routinely had advance notice of supposedly unannounced anti-doping controls. "We always knew when the blood testers were going to be there the following morning, so we would know when to have the saline solution bags so we could dilute our blood the night before," he said. He said he did not know how the team staff got wind of the schedule. "It was just nice that they did," he said. "You can use three to four times your body's normal production of EPO if you inject it intravenously and have virtually no chance of testing positive within a matter of hours," Landis told ESPN.com. "So the biological passport is a joke, and I'm fairly certain the UCI knows about it." Landis added that he bought an expensive piece of machinery to measure his own reticulocyte count and also learned to do the analysis manually with a microscope. All that may sound like science fiction, but according to Ashenden, Landis has probably provided a key piece of the puzzle that has vexed him and his peers for a long time: Why some riders' blood values remained within a unusually narrow range, a pattern that was suspicious in and of itself but not generally subject to sanctions. "We've known they're doing something, especially in the last year," Ashenden said. "It's still brazen beyond belief." He believes a small intravenous dose of EPO would remain detectable in a urine sample for at least six hours, even if an athlete is diluting his blood.
You can use three to four times your body's normal production of EPO if you inject it intravenously and have virtually no chance of testing positive within a matter of hours. So the biological passport is a joke, and I'm fairly certain the UCI knows about it.” -- Floyd Landis
“Ashenden recently completed a study in which he injected subjects intravenously twice weekly with microdoses of EPO over a period of three months, then ran their blood values through the biological passport software. "Not one of them failed," he said. Catlin said Landis' account matches anecdotal accounts he has heard through the years, "although I've never had it described as vividly," he said. Catlin said the program required "fairly sophisticated knowledge," and agreed with Ashenden that athletes may have had more confidence in their ability to beat the tests than was warranted. "They'll take those risks because the rewards are so handsome," said Catlin, who currently oversees an independent testing program for two U.S.-based teams, HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions. Both researchers said the only way to completely foil what Landis described would be to ensure that tests are truly unannounced -- or resort to more Draconian measures like 24-hour testing or regularly inspecting riders for needle marks. "[The passport] is still the best thing we've got in terms of targeting athletes," said Ashenden, who added that steroid and human growth hormone markers are about to be included in the passport profiles. HTC-Columbia owner Bob Stapleton said he never regarded the passport as a cure-all and doesn't regret any of the money his organization has invested in the project. "It's resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of tests and the sophistication of tests, and it allows experts to make nonanalytical findings [i.e. doping offenses not based on positive tests]," he said. "The noose gets tighter and tighter." Flawed as it may be, the biological passport has still led to sanctions against at least eight riders -- some of whom have disputed the findings -- in the last two years. In an interview with ESPN.com, World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman defended the passport as a worthwhile project that nonetheless requires continual refining. Several other international sports federations are in the process of implementing it, including those that govern track and field, skating, biathlon and skiing, along with national anti-doping agencies such as USADA. Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com.
We've known they're doing something, especially in the last year. It's still brazen beyond belief.” -- Michael Ashenden, part of independent panel that reviews biological passport data for UCI