Anti-doping expert resigns

2012-04-04 08:42

Melbourne - A leading anti-doping expert has quit cycling's biological passport project because of attempts to stop him from speaking publicly about drugs in sport.

Australian scientist Michael Ashenden said on Wednesday that since the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland took over the management of cycling's anti-doping efforts, new confidentiality clauses had been put in place that he found "unreasonable."

Ashenden was quoted by the BBC on Tuesday as saying he was effectively being silenced by the lab.

"Lausanne is imposing its own 'Omerta,'" Ashenden was quoted as saying, using the term meaning a mafia code of silence. "There should be nothing to hide, so why stop the experts from talking?"

Ashenden has been involved in the biological passport since the International Cycling Union worked with WADA to launch the project in 2008.

He has been an occasionally outspoken member of an expert panel that analyses cyclists' blood values for potential signs of doping, and whose advice helps the UCI decide which riders to prosecute.

The Lausanne laboratory took over running the biological passport project this year and insisted on a new confidentiality clause in the experts' contracts.

"When Lausanne convened the panel of experts, they approached the same group of experts who have been looking after cycling for the last three years, but they inserted into their contract a clause which said we aren't allowed to discuss anything about our role on the panel now, or even for eight years after we cease being on the panel," Ashenden said.

"I refused to sign that contract, which means I can't be on the APMU (Athlete Passport Management Unit) at Lausanne, and because they're looking after cycling, it means I can no longer serve as an expert reviewing cycling profiles."

Ashenden said he was comfortable being prohibited from disclosing confidential information he obtains through individual passports; "Of course that's the case. I signed that contract with WADA. But Lausanne went further than that and said 'you can't talk about anything to do with the passports.'"

"That's unreasonable. I've been looking at these blood results before the APMU was invented. I mean this is what I do for a living, so to prevent me from speaking about that when I'm completely independent of them is just unreasonable."

Ashenden said he still intends to remain on the WADA Athlete Biological Passport panel and on the APMU at the WADA accredited lab at Salt Lake City.

"I continue with my involvement with the passport, it's just that I won't be interpreting either athletics or cycling profiles because both of those sports go through Lausanne," he said.

Officials from Lausanne and WADA's headquarters in Montreal, Canada, did not return messages seeking comment.

The UCI said it is no longer involved in dealing with the independent experts who evaluate biological passport results.

"The International Cycling Union acknowledges the comments of Michael Ashenden and thanks him for his contribution to the UCI Biological Passport Program," the governing body said in a statement.

Ashenden's break from cycling was announced barely four months after he was called by WADA as an expert witness in the doping case involving 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.

At the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November, some of what Ashenden wanted to testify about regarding blood-transfusion issues was blocked by the judging panel.

Contador was later stripped of his third Tour title and is serving a two-year ban after testing positive for clenbuterol during the race.