Out-of-competition testing

FULL ARTICLE

On pages 125 – 127 the CIRC deals with out-of-competition testing (OOCT) in the period until 2006.

The CIRC underlines the importance of unannounced OOCT. I have no problem with that; I don’t need to be convinced, although I recall that OOCT, including OOCT by WADA, did not yield more positive results than in-competition testing did.

In 2002, OOCT by WADA in cycling resulted in 0.36% of positive cases. The testing by UCI, both in-competition and out-of-competition (I don’t have split figures, but there was much more in-competition testing than OOCT) resulted in 1.55% of positive cases.

In 2003, the respective figures are 0.40 % and 1.09 %; in 2004, they are 0.78% and 1.34 %; in 2005, they are 0.59% and 0.90 %.

So we can see that the OOCT by WADA in cycling (which in the view of the CIRC must have been more than perfect) was 50% less effective in terms of positive cases than the UCI in-competition testing. (I realize that one reason may be that there were many more UCI tests than WADA tests, but the CIRC says that the UCI tests were worthless because they were predictable, not on the right riders, not at the right time, with many opportunities for riders to cheat etc, etc, – see below – , while by definition this could not possibly apply to WADA tests. One should also, in fact, compare the substances found in tests: not all substances prohibited in-competition are also prohibited out-of-competition, however the most important substances such as EPO are.)

These figures were readily available to the CIRC but of course they don’t fit with the story that the CIRC wanted to tell. They are therefore conveniently ignored.

This is also striking that, while a lot of statistical material is available in the UCI files, the CIRC report does not refer to any data or facts: it is just opinions.

I also refer to the adverse analytical findings at major competitions, such as most recently the major tours of 2015 and the Toronto 2015 PanAm Games with 17 AAF’s from in-competition tests.

So let’s not underestimate the importance of in-competition testing. I wonder whether there are studies on the respective effectiveness of in-competition and out-of-competition testing, taking into account the definition of “in-competition” and “out-of-competition” in each sport and the number of competitions athletes normally participate in.

Whatever, as usual, the CIRC ignores the true story and doesn’t require little things like facts to come to its conclusions and judgments.

 

OOCT in cycling

The possibility to conduct out-of-competition tests (OOCT) was introduced in the UCI anti-doping rules in 1994. (On page 127, the CIRC writes, without any reference to a source, that the UCI introduced OOCT in 2001. UCI conducted OOCT before that: another disturbing inaccuracy of the CIRC’s report.)

However, it is correct that back in those days not so many OOCT’s were conducted in road cycling.

There werere four main reasons for that.

1. Most of the OOCT’s were carried out in track cycling. This should not be a surprise: a track is a fixed place where riders come to train and where you have a fair chance of finding riders to test.

For the same reason, it is relatively easy to conduct OOCT’s in those sports where athletes come to a specific infrastructure for training: a track for athletics, a pool for swimming, a stadium for soccer, a specific stretch of water for rowing, etc.

But it was difficult to know exactly where road riders could be found if they were not competing. At that time, there was no whereabouts system. The obligation to provide whereabouts was introduced with the World Anti-Doping Code in 2004 and the UCI developed its whereabouts system in 2005.

The CIRC “was told” that, up until 2004, there was in fact no obligation imposed on riders to provide whereabouts information (page 127). I can’t help but wonder which sports actually did have an obligatory individual whereabouts system before it was imposed by the Code.

 

2. OOC tests are far more expensive than in-competition tests. Doping control officers had to be sent out to conduct testing in different and sometimes remote places just to test one rider: there is a considerable cost for traveling, hotels, meals, cost allowance for DCO and a medical doctor, transport of samples to the laboratory.

With the money needed for one OOCT, six ICT’s could be carried out.

And, failing a whereabouts system, there was no guarantee that the rider could be found at the time and the place that the doping control officer arrived. So there was also a considerable risk that all of those costs were for nothing. And certainly in the period under consideration (until 2006), budgets were limited.

Regarding EPO, the costs were even higher as samples had to be cooled while being transported.

 

3. Under the UCI’s anti-doping rules, the testing had to be carried out by a medical doctor. This is still the case in some countries and sports.   But certainly back in the 90’s and early 00’s, the need for a medical doctor was widely accepted. Doping control was still considered to be in the medical sphere. The presence of a medical doctor was seen as necessary for various reasons: the need for the athlete to strip and pass the sample while being witnessed; the assesment of the medical condition of any athlete having difficulties providing a sample; and questioning of the athlete about the use of medicines.

It was difficult and expensive to find and mobilize medical doctors on short notice for OOCT.

The reasons for samples being taken by medical doctors are in fact still valid. However, the use of medical doctors had to be given up for practical and financial reasons if the number of OOCT had to be increased. On the other hand, as from the mid 2000s, professional testing service providers emerged, as did well-trained and experienced doping control officers who were not medical doctors. In addition, athletes became used to being tested by such DCOs. This change of culture took some time.

 

4. Specific to cycling was also the fact that road riders were available for testing in competition for 100 days a year, as they participated for approximately 100 days a year in international races.   Athletes in other sports have far fewer in-competition days where the International Federation carries out tests (for example FIFA tests only at the World Cup).   As it was possible to test riders regularly in-competition, it was felt that there was less need to test them out-of-competition, bearing in mind that the concept of intelligent testing and the knowledge of when riders were likely to dope was less developed than it is now. In fact most of the intelligence in this respect was acquired after the introduction of the blood passport, where the passport experts try to identify the most likely doping scenario behind the suspect variations of the blood values. For the CIRC it is easy, but not fair, to look at the 1990s and 2000s with 20:20 hindsight and the experience that has been accumulated worldwide since then.

On the other hand, the large amount of in-competition tests carried out by the UCI (5,363 tests in 2004) resulted inevitably in a relatively small percentage of OOCT’s. For the reasons set out above, it would have been materially impossible to conduct, for example, 50% (or 2,650) OOCT in 2004.

 

The UCI-WADA agreement on OOCT

The arrival of WADA created new possibilities.

WADA started an OOCT program with three NADO’s that formed a consortium for OOCT services. That consortium could group OOCT for different sports, which was much more cost efficient.

The programme was set up for the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, but was kept going afterwards.

The UCI participated in the program and signed a contract with WADA on 4 July 2000 for WADA to conduct OOCT in cycling (the first draft of the contract was received by UCI on 7 June, so UCI acted quickly).

The WADA Interim Report of 1 November 2000 mentions 2,073 OOC tests completed by WADA worldwide for 27 Summer Olympic sports as at 10 September 2000, out of which 175 tests were for cycling. According to the WADA document “Proposed testing program April to September 2000”, a majority of these Summer Olympic sports – which did not include cycling – had no OOC testing at all.

The contract with WADA was renewed up to 31 December 2002, then again until 31 December 2005 and once more until 31 December 2008. If I am not mistaken, there is still such an agreement in place.

The testing agreement between UCI and WADA ran smoothly. This good cooperation is, of course, not mentioned by the CIRC, a commission that, as we know by now, looks exclusively for the negative if it concerns the UCI or Hein Verbruggen.

 

There was an “incident” in October 2002 when the consortium showed up unannounced at the 2002 Road World Championships to conduct OOCT, while UCI was already conducting both OOCT and in-competion testing (ICT) and had learned from WADA that there would be no other agency conducting testing. I raised this issue with WADA in a letter dated 30 October 2002: it was about multiple testing, the avoidance of which was one of the objectives of the Word Anti-Doping Code.

The UCI has had the experience of national anti-doping organizations showing up unannounced at major races with a lot of media attention (by preference the Tour de France), perhaps to show off their testing to the media.  We had one Tour de France that featured four different testing agencies!  This created confusion, tensions between different testing authorities, multiple testing, and did no good at all for the cause of to anti-doping. Another problem was that after a test conducted by a NADO which did not yet test for EPO (back in 2002) a rider might be declared negative, while a test at the same time carried out by the UCI which including an EPO analysis could actually be positive.

Also, some NADOs considered a test taken shortly before the start of the race as an OOCT, which meant that the substances prohibited in-competition only were not being tested for, which made no sense at all.

In my letter to WADA, I announced that the UCI would propose a precise definition of an OOCT.

In its answer dated 20 November 2002 (also ignored by the CIRC) WADA underlined the need for the possibility to test athletes anywhere and anytime, but also recognized that ”As you correctly point out, athletes could be subject to testing on any given day by their International Federation, National Anti-Doping Agency and/or WADA. Not only is this not the most effective means of testing it can also prove to be quite costly”.

On 2 December 2002, the UCI proposed the following definition for an OOCT to WADA:

“Out-of-competition sample collection: sample collection that takes place outside the time period beginning the day and, in case of each of the major tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana) three days before the day to the start of the first competition of the event in which the rider participates or is scheduled to participate, and concluding the day of the last competition of the event at 24 hours.”

This was readily accepted by WADA in the draft agreement it sent to UCI on 5 December 2002 and the same text is part of the final agreement (this is the UCI-WADA agreement for OOCT for the period until 31 December 2005) that was signed on 23 April 2003 by myself and… WADA President Dick Pound!

In the same agreement, it was also agreed that “If the UCI informs WADA on out-of-competition tests scheduled by the UCI, WADA shall use its best endeavours to avoid multiple testing” (article 18)

 

The definition of OOCT as agreed between WADA and UCI revealed that, until then, the WADA testing service provider tested almost exclusively just before a race and at the place where the race took place, as it was there where riders could be found. This shows that WADA was in fact confronted with the same problems for OOCT as the UCI. If the CIRC had looked into this, it certainly would not have written that “Thus, OOCTs in effect were pre-competition tests that were absolutely predictable” (page 127) as it would not have dared to accuse WADA of “absolutely predictable” testing.

Indeed immediately after the agreement was signed, the testing service providers sent a mail to the UCI on 8 May 2003. It underlined the need to develop a method to ensure there was no duplication of testing and added: “I have been receiving the athlete information from both Nadège and Roxanne [from UCI], this is a tremendous effort and I appreciate the efforts they are putting in. Collecting athlete whereabouts information is a vital part of the program, especially for the track athletes from the national teams. This information will ensure testing can move away from pre-event situations. As the UCI-WADA agreement now stipulates that no [out-of-competition] testing can be conducted on rest days of an event or the day before an event it is going to be imperative that we receive as much information on riders movements as possible.”

The CIRC on the other hand writes, on page 127, that “This anti-doping policy (i.e. “no system in place to locate the riders in the OoCT period”) was criticised by WADA”.   The CIRC does not specify what criticism WADA would have voiced, how and when. It is just another CIRC statement that is contradicted by the reality of excellent cooperation between WADA and UCI where OOCTs were concerned.

“Excellent communication existed between WADA and UCI to effectively implement the 2004 WADA OOC Testing Program for cycling”… “UCI were very responsive to requests for specific information on athletes, and always provided promptly and effectively when asked”… “UCI has been very receptive and open to a co-operative approach to tesing throughout this past year. It has been a pleasure to work with UCI on the out-of-competition program”.

These are, of course, not quotes from the CIRC’s report: they are quotes from WADA’s own report about its 2004 OOC testing program for cycling.

This report, which is yet another sign of the excellent operational cooperation between WADA and UCI, is in the UCI files which were available to the CIRC. For the CIRC, however, it is an inconvenient truth – and so, once again, it is conveniently ignored.

But indeed, the experience with OOCT showed also the need for a compulsory and detailed individual whereabouts system that has been introduced with the 2003 World Anti-Doping Code, coming into force in 2004.

 

 

The definition of OOCT

As indicated above, but of course completely ignored by the CIRC, UCI’s definition of out-of-competition testing in relation with the authority for conducting such testing, was meant to avoid multiple testing at races and was explicitly accepted by WADA in December 2002. This was two years before the first World Anti-Doping Code.

The fact that the three days prior to the three big tours were considered as “in-competition” is logical, as riders arrive for these races well in advance, including for prepatory meetings, team presentations and medical check-ups. Other sports have, or had, similar or even wider definitions.

It should be noted also that the Code left the authority to define “out-of-competition” and “in-competition” with each international federation.

The definition of an OOCT is of course crucial for the number of OOC tests. For example, any test during the three days before a big tour would be in-competition under the new UCI definition, but was OOC under the definition that existed before 2003, or under the definition of another sport.   To the extent that the Code leaves the definition of in-competition and out-of-competion to each IF, the number of OOCT in each sport is difficult to compare: the wider the definition of “in-competition” the smaller the number of OOCT.

 

OOCT and EPO

OOCT is useful to detect those prohibited substances that still have a performance enhancing effect during the competition, but that cannot be detected in-competition as there are no remaining traces to be found in the blood or urine.

This applies mainly to EPO.

Before the arrival of EPO, the main substances used in cycling (and other endurance sports) were anabolics. Anabolics, however, remain detectable for weeks or even months and could be found with in-competition testing as road riders compete in international races regularly, for about 100 days a year.

So I will not deny the importance of OOCT for EPO, but the CIRC should also have considered whether these OOCT could have detected the EPO micro doses that apparently were used very quickly in order to avoid detection.

On page 126, the CIRC seems to suggest that Lance Armstrong might have been caught if only more OOCTs had been carried out on him.   This possibility cannot be excluded, but in view of Armstrong’s sophistication as reported in the Reasoned Decision the question is whether his doping would not have still stayed under the radar anyway, as he must have taken into account that he could be tested OOC at any time, especially by WADA under the UCI-WADA OOCT agreement – and also by USADA and by the French authorities when he was in France. It is well known, for example, that the French anti-doping authorities targeted Lance Armstrong, but I don’t know how many OOCTs they conducted on him.

In addition, the CIRC ignores the testing system in the stage races: blood and urine tests are conducted before and during the race. A rider cannot enhance his performance using EPO well before the race without needing further manipulation during the stage race (blood transfusions, EPO doses). These are detected by in-competition testing and, if not, they would not be detected by OOCT either.

 

OOCT and blood passport

In its excessive zeal to paint a negative picture of anti-doping under my presidency, the CIRC stresses that, later on, the number of OOCT increased considerably.

That is correct.

However, an (if not ‘the’) important factor for that is the introduction of the blood passport. After blood testing for the UCI blood passport started at the end of 2007, about 75% of the OOCT were tests carried out for the blood passport that is financed by the teams which are part of the blood passport programme.

Also, a blood sample for the blood passport is not a stand-alone doping test: it is not analysed to detect the presence of a prohibited substance, but rather for measuring blood values to build up a blood profile of the athlete. In this respect, blood samples taken for the blood passport can be compared with the blood samples taken for UCI’s health tests. As explained in the article on the health tests, these were not anti-doping tests and were not counted as such.

Similar to the definition of OOCT being different from sport to sport, the CIRC has shown no zeal to compare what is comparable.

 

Conclusion

The short OOCT section in the CIRC report is typical of the sloppiness, incompleteness and bias of the entire CIRC report.

The CIRC ignored the reasons behind the numbers of OOCTs.

The CIRC ignored the important element of the UCI-WADA agreement on OOCT.

The CIRC ignored the reasons for the definition of OOCT in cycling.

The CIRC ignored WADA’s acceptance of the definition of OOCT in cycling.

The CIRC ignored WADA’s and the testing providers’ often stated appreciation of the efforts of the UCI and its staff.

The CIRC failed to look for exact figures.

The CIRC failed to compare like with like.

And, as always, the CIRC failed to ask the opinions of those people (Schattenberg, or myself) whom they hold responsible for any alleged shortcomings.

Were it not about people’s reputations and life’s work (and here I mean other people rather than me), the CIRC’s report should be ignored – something, in fact, that the media and the public opinion have done.

It remains totally incomprehensible that people such as Messrs Haas and Marty, with their professional reputations, have been able (and willing) to deliver a report that is so shoddy.

What happened? I must have been right when I let them know in my correspondence that they were not in a position to conduct an independent and neutral investigation: see my article “No independence from WADA” and my correspondence with the CIRC under the tab “Correspondence”.

But this does not explain the many mistakes, gaps and sloppinesses.   It is clear that various junior assistants have written entire sections of the report and that there was no supervision and final editing.   Quality was simply not a concern.   The CIRC’s only concern was to be as negative as possible about me and those who worked with me when I was UCI president.

And that must have been a condition that was imposed upon Messr Marty and Haas in one way or another, which includes the absence of any investigation into WADA.   I can see no other explanation.

 

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